Inside Rani Mahal is something of a cultural adventure, with vivid Indian artwork lining watermelon-hued walls. The elegant, well-lit dining room sits visitors at white-clothed tables, where they dig into such traditional Indian dishes as lamb tikka: cubes of lamb marinated in yogurt, garlic, and spices, and roasted in a clay oven. Rani Mahal also curates a vast spread of vegetarian options, such as palak paneer, which pairs homemade cheese cubes with lightly spiced spinach gravy.
Upon stepping up to the counter at Masala Kraft Cafe—two-time winner of a Best of Westchester award, diners feast their eyes on a host of vegetarian options bathed in traditional Indian spices and herbs. Owner Bela Mehta strives to serve the kind of quick, healthy food that is found on every corner in Mumbai, the city from which she hails. The entirely vegetarian menu features the Masala Kraft sandwich, a homemade veggie cutlet and cilantro chutney on grilled focaccia, and palak with onion kulcha, an authentic Indian spinach curry served with stuffed bread. One of their most popular delicacies is the dosa—crispy rice crepes wrapped around fillings such as spiced mashed potatoes—a street-food staple whose folded shape allows diners to eat on the go or burst into an epic Bollywood dance routine without spilling.
In Royal Palace's spacious banquet-hall-style dining room, diners pore over a lengthy menu of Punjabi cuisine that draws fragrant flavors from the tandoori oven and aromatic simmered sauces. Paneer tikka masala features cubes of cheese under spiced tomato cream sauce, and a similar tomato sauce, with butter instead of cream, flavors hunks of tandoori chicken in a chicken makhani dish. At tables draped in salmon-colored tablecloths, patrons tear into tender chunks of lamb vindaloo, accented with vinegar-based masala and red chilis, or seafood specialties including fish madras curry. Crimson valances frame the windows, balanced by elephant statues, which occasionally snag bites of paneer when diners aren't looking.
Kokum takes its name from a berry that's specific to South India, a nod to the regional cuisine that stands out as this restaurant's specialty. The recently opened space may be new, but the cooking traditions are time honored, drawing specific inspiration from India's Kerala region. Favorites include spicy chicken masala kalumbu and vegetarian-friendly theeyal, which features a mix of green bananas, yam, and coconut. Top off your meal with one of the bar's craft cocktails, which include the signature Kokum, a mingling of vermouth, pineapple juice, and lime. The dining room keeps things simple, with exposed light bulbs and natural wood accents alongside paintings of boats with hulls colorful enough to rival the stains on the sauce chef's apron. Kokum is a member of the Fine Indian Dining Group.
Chefs at Neha Palace grind traditional indian spices themselves before sprinkling them over lamb cooked in curry sauce and skewers of minced chicken. During lunch hours, chefs prepare meals at buffet tables, hiding shrimp bites in piles of long-grain basmati rice and ladling tomato sauce over platefuls of cottage cheese or the mouth of any patron who yawns too loudly. A small collection of Indian-Chinese fusion meals includes egg fried rice and chicken noodles.
The aroma of mint never fails to take Navjot Arora back to his childhood in Jalandhar, Punjab, when he'd spend mornings scouring his family garden for fresh mint leaves. Navjot would triumphantly bring his findings back to the kitchen, where he was allowed to grind the leaves with a pestle for the mint chutney—the most important condiment. He worked alongside his parents, marveling as they nimbly sliced tender goat meat, throwing it against the wall to test for doneness, and thoughtfully tasted spoonfuls of creamy curry from simmering pots.
Though Navjot would go on to study under master Indian chefs at the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels and work for top restaurants in New York, he never forgot the culinary lessons he learned in his family's kitchen. At Chutney Masala, he still hand grinds fresh herbs and spices to bring out their intricate flavors, adding them to sauces lauded by reporters from the New York Times as "superbly complex." The expert chef then folds free-range meat, wild seafood, and local produce into a variety of contemporary and traditional Indian dishes, from spicy lamb curries to fragrant biryani rice.
Navjot's dining room is nearly as intriguing as the flavors in his dishes, with brick walls speckled with photographs from India's mid-19th century Raj era and rustic antique accents. A mounted deer head overlooks the rows of wooden tabletops and cushy green booths, sometimes sneezing when a waft of cumin floats to his nostrils.