Byzantio Cafe & Bar
Every Thursday night, belly dancers swivel their hips to the beat of Mediterranean music at Byzantio Cafe & Bar. Live DJs spin on weekends while patrons puff smoke rings of apple-, melon-, and mint-infused tobacco from hookahs. To fuel the revelry, chefs whip up classic Mediterranean cuisine such as sliced gyros with warm pita bread and a lamb souvlaki plate. After dinner, patrons may sip signature cocktails or grab a quick snack from the menu of bar bites and Greek coffee served until 2 a.m. The restaurant, a renovated bungalow, is composed of several rooms filled with sofas and cushioned chairs. The space’s centerpiece is the elaborate bar adorned with a stone mosaic and surrounded by antique fixtures. A patio offers additional seating for outdoors junkies during nice weather.
Sitting inside Bombay Pizza Company, owner Viral Patel watched the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, waiting alongside family and friends for a mention of his Slumdog pizza, a fusion of Indian and Italian flavors. After the 30-second spot, the restaurant erupted into a standing ovation.
Patel's journey to that moment first began when he quit his job in restaurant management to travel around India learning how to cook. Hoping to one day open a restaurant of his own, Patel returned to the United States and became interested in pizza, buying his own pizza stone and experimenting with new recipes, which fused Indian flavors with the traditionally Italian pies. He opened Bombay Pizza Company with the help of his mother, Sonali, who also inspired the Sonu's Rita pizza, which combines house-made cilantro-mint chutney with a margarita pizza. Soon after the restaurant opened, it was awarded Houston Press's Best Pizza in 2010. In addition to pizza, the menu features Indian street fare such as the kati roll with tandoori chicken and paneer and traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna and chicken parmagiana.
Today, Bombay Pizza Company has two locations, the original in Houston and a second, larger location in Sugar Land. Both eateries feature saffron-hued walls, the soft glow of Thomas Edison–style filament light bulbs, and photos of Bombay residents performing daily activities including washing clothes, fishing, and playing chess. The Sugar Land location also features an outdoor patio, microbrews on tap, and a private dining area.
The Korma Sutra’s chefs build elegant traditional and fusion-style meals from South Asian spices and small batches of fresh ingredients. Sweet and spicy flavors converge in a range of homemade pickles and chutneys, which include candied jalapeños, medleys of carrots, and chili peppers. Like a debate team made entirely of dragons, a traditional tandoori oven uses the power of hot air and flames, sealing in flavors as it cooks meat and from-scratch flatbreads. Unexpected French influences enrich several dishes, such as the chevre- and brie-stuffed chicken roulade and a chicken tikka served on herb brioche. Traditionalists can indulge in classic Indian specialties such as creamy spinach saag and cashew-studded korma that can be customized with seven types of protein, including tilapia, goat, and lamb. Upon request, the kitchen tailors meals for vegans, gluten-free diners, and bamboo-dependent panda dignitaries.
Owner Narin Sehgal and chef-in-chief Gary Grewal channel the culinary traditions of their Punjabi hometowns to craft delicately spiced dishes for a menu that was rated "excellent" by Zagat. Chicken tikka and tandoori prawns soak up a savory marinade before warming up in the same clay oven that gives a flame-kissed crust to breads stuffed with paneer, nuts, lamb, or mint. The black-lentil base of dal makhani spends an entire night slowly absorbing the essence of distinctive herbs, much like a college student cramming for a big botany exam. Abundant subcontinental flair outfits the dining rooms, including arched doorways set into clay-colored walls, rich prints, and tasseled chandeliers.
Indian Sizzler prepares a delectable menu of traditional Indian dishes, many of which are healthy. Garlic naan or paratha rolls sop up the sauces of popular dishes such as chicken curry—boneless chicken breasts marinated in garlic, yogurt, and ginger and swimming in curry sauce. Patrons hungry for a larger meal can combine their curry or kabob with a side of halwa, a dessert with milk, coconut, pistachio, and almonds. Sips from spicy soda give heat-loving tongues a kick and gulps of mango lassi or salt lassi—a salty blend of housemade yogurt and herbs—cool tongues more pleasantly than a bag of frozen peas.
The icy blue walls that surround patrons at Shri Balaji Bhavan may soothe the mind, but they stand in sharp contrast to the vegetarian restaurant's fiery South Indian fare. Dosas, chaats, madras thali, and puri feature a mix of fresh ingredients and bold spices that enliven palates and heat taste buds with every bite. The authentic seasonings and steaming dishes have certainly impressed Voice Places, who awarded Shri Balaji Bhavan "Best Indian Restaurant" in 2008, 2010, and 2012.