Indian cuisine made with seasonal ingredients and an American flair.
When to Go: Swing by on a Thursday night if you fancy live sitar and tabla music, but go any other night if you prefer humming your own tunes while you chew.
Inside Tip: The restaurant is BYOB, so pick up your favorite bottle of wine or six-pack of beer before dinner.
Chaat: savory Indian snack food made of potatoes, fried bread, and a spice medley that typically includes dried mango powder, cumin seeds, and black salt.
Paneer: a fresh cheese made from boiling cow's milk or water buffalo's milk and curdling it with whey—the dish dates back to at least 6,000 BC.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Test your crafting skills at All Fired Up (602 Haddon Avenue), a studio devoted to paint-your-own pottery.
After: See what's happening at the Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike), a historic 1930s venue that hosts musical acts and theater performances.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: If you're in Philly for the evening, head to Indeblue's sister location (205 S. 13th Street).
Bombay Local Pizza's chefs put a twist on Italy's beloved dish by adding Indian ingredients like paneer. The restaurant's selection of more than 20 pies includes a pizza topped with samosa filling and the Bombay Masala?seasoned with Indian spices used in traditional street foods?along with more traditional options such as tomato basil and white pizzas. Indian ingredients like mint-coriander chutney also show up on the eatery's sub sandwiches, which include the masala eggplant and the barbecue cheddar melt.
Voted top five in the Best Indian category of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CityVoter awards, Laxmi's Indian Grille serves a range of dishes?from spicy meats to subtle vegetable stews?designed to please all palates. A perfume of fresh ginger, rose water, and house-made cottage cheese drifts from the bustling kitchen out into the dining room of the Main Street location, where vibrant paintings provide an elegant contrast to walls of rustic exposed stone. At both Main Street and the newly minted Tilden Street eatery, a clay tandoor oven is kept aflame throughout the day, enabling chefs to bake breads, meats, and underripe bananas to a golden patina.
Every morning at Jazmin Restaurant, chefs load morsels of freshly kneaded naan dough into the tandoor oven. The aroma of baking bread soon fills the dining room, mingling with the heady scents of curry and cumin that waft from grills sizzling with halal chicken and lamb. Chefs also flaunt seven vegetarian entrees that swap meat for lighter ingredients such as homemade cheese and lentils. To contrast the savory dishes, dining companions can share traditional Indian desserts of mango ice cream and mango custard, which stand as evidence of the mango’s worth beyond its inclusion in fruit hats.
"Pretty damn incredible"—the first words that Philadelphia Weekly's Brian Freedman chose to sum up the cuisine at Tashan. Philadelphia magazine's Trey Popp was also wowed by the restaurant's unique culinary balancing act, stating that the food was " …a potential minefield, but executive chef Sylva Senat dances through it without dropping much more than a teaspoon’s worth of his 51-spice arsenal." The Haitian-born chef—who was a James Beard Award semi-finalist in 2012 and 2013 and who is beloved by area food critics and his mother—certainly does his best to help Tashan redefine Philadelphia's Indian food scene.
Drawing from extensive culinary experience—time spent in the kitchens of Trump Hotel Central Park and Buddakan—and traditional Indian cooking methods, chef Senat melds classically Indian flavors with culinary styles from around the globe. His small-plates-focused menus feature inventive takes on familiar dishes, such as organic chicken-vindaloo sausage, tandoori free-range butter chicken, and masala-dusted lobster. The food pairs well with cocktails that also incorporate Indian spices and fruits.
Though chef Senat's cuisine is the star, Tashan's decor has also garnered praise. Designed by New York-based architect and interior designer Winka Dubbeldam, the dining room surrounds visitors with tables made from hand-carved wood, as well as with statues and furnishings from India, Spain, and Mexico. Ebony wood takes on a subtle dark glow, and polished steel accents reflect the low, sensual lighting. The result is a physical space that, according to Brian Freedman, takes on an air of “crepuscular sexiness."
Tendrils of smoke curl slowly up from the ornate waterpipes at Eclipse Hookah Lounge, filling the air with the sweet smell of flavored tobacco. Sourced from the shisha experts at Starbuzz and Al Fakher, the tobacco is the cornerstone of the lounge's laid-back vibe, but the experience goes far beyond a little smoke. Here, overstuffed couches cast in the invitingly dim light of lantern-style wall sconces invite guests to settle in. Although the lounge is a suitable spot for a night of conversation, there are other distractions available; two 60" televisions flicker with lively highlights, and a professional audio system often fills the room with the chilled-out sounds from around the world. Guests can also take advantage of the lounge's affiliation with Kabobeesh, ordering beef tikkah roll sandwiches or chicken gyros from the restaurant ranked number 11 on Forbes magazine's Top 20 Best Eats for the Buck in America list.