In India's capital of New Delhi, there sits a small chunk of space called Delhi 6, where the region's food lovers congregate for the abundance of authentic Indian cuisine. So, when Seema Sharma and her husband, Ajay Kasana, made good on their dream and opened a restaurant in Frederick County, naming it Delhi6 was a no-brainer. "I grew up all my childhood eating that food," Sharma once told the Town Courier, "it's engrained in my mind."
Inside Delhi6, amber-colored walls mix with dark hardwood floors to create a warm, rich contrast. Through glass windows, visitors can peer into the kitchen, where chefs are busy grinding the restaurant's spices and cooking up daily-baked Indian breads. On the walls, Sharma made sure to feature decorative reminders of Delhi6's roots, including more than 8,000 Indian bangle bracelets, which hang as a nod to the vendors who line New Delhi streets doling out artisan goods.
Foods from throughout the subcontinent can be found on plates at India Palace Bar & Tandoor. Chefs specialize in dishes from many of India's culinary traditions, from Northern India's charred chicken straight from the tandoor oven to Central India's biryani rice dishes. Using techniques from these varied regions, they cook up a range of dishes that incorporate vegetarian-friendly ingredients, as well as unique meat offerings such as goat and lamb. Chefs cook these meats in sauces that range from the super-spicy masala to the rich and creamy korma. During the lunch hour, they take a spread of their best dishes and create a Pan-Indian buffet. Though dishes change regularly, they always include vegetarian, meat, and dessert options so that guests can indulge in a full meal or pretend they didn't just eat four plates of rice pudding.
The chefs at Swagath Indian Restaurant assemble a menu of meatless Indian specialties cooked with healthy ingredients and robust, exotic flavors. Reaching for organic and seasonal items whenever possible, chefs roll up crepe-like dosas made from a variety of grains and top them with anything from chutney to curry to onions sliced as thin as sitar strings. Thicker South Indian pancakes, or uthappam, come studded with cheese, chilies, or veggies, and rice dishes arrive seasoned with tamarind, raw coconut, or fresh homemade yogurt. More than a dozen entrees showcase stars of the crisper draw, such as cauliflower, eggplant, okra, or peas, and a trio of garlic- and onion-free dishes cater kindly to kissing-booth employees.
Traditional spices and culinary techniques from both the northern and southern regions in India guide chefs as they craft more than 100 dishes. They skewer prawns marinated in an almond cream and sprinkle spices atop roasted eggplant. In the kitchen, a clay oven heartily bakes ginger lamb chops and bread stuffed with dried fruits. The chefs also cook up their own phaal curry dish, described as “excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor,” on the menu. As a reward for taking on the phaal, they offer a free bottle of beer or fire extinguisher to any diner that finishes it.
A charcoal clay oven roars to life every morning in Angeethi’s kitchen in preparation for a day full of roasting meats and vegetables and baking fresh breads including roti and naan. The authentic tandoor prepares a menu rich in traditional flavors derived from spices imported from all over India. A dash of pure saffron, wild black cardamom, and cinnamon enhances platters of long-grain basmati rice, a standard side dish that enhances lamb, seafood, chicken, and vegetarian dishes alike. Waiters shuttle chosen plates out to a regal dining room full of carved, throne-like dining chairs, gilded statues of deities, and napkins fancifully folded into fork-size saris.
Masala Wok's expansive menu features an assortment of Asian and Indian culinary concoctions crafted with fresh veggies, meats, and spices. Journeys down the Spice Road can embark with an appetizer of zesty battered chicken lollipops, an Indian take on wings ($4.99 for four, $8.49 for eight). Palates access subcontinental delicacies such as the spicy southern curry with red-pepper-bedecked fish, shrimp, chicken, lamb, or paneer in a mustard-coconut sauce ($8.99) or head for steamy Southeast Asian environs with the Thai-influenced spicy basil plate ($8.50 for chicken, $8.35 for paneer, $9.50 for shrimp or fish). Chefs stir-fry orange chicken with scallions and carrots in orange sauce ($8.50) and whittle skewers from stolen sorcerers' wands for the enchanting chicken malai kebab—yogurt-marinated boneless chicken kebabs grilled with cheese, spices, and cilantro and served with rice and naan ($8.99).