Growing up, Chakra Café’s owner Monisha lived two different lives. At school, she was known by her given name and spent lunch hours twirling spaghetti on a fork. But at home, Monisha’s Bengali parents only referred to her by her nickname, Hashi–or laughter–and mealtimes meant scooping up lamb curry with a piece of luchi. The duality of Monisha’s two worlds–and the food she was exposed to–left a lasting impression and is the driving force behind the Café’s menu.
Inside Chakra Café’s kitchen, chefs marry Indian flavors with culinary traditions from around the world, using recipes adapted from Monisha’s mother, according to a Patch.com article. Traditional Bengali dishes such as begun bhartha–roasted eggplant flavored with green mango–are served solo or stuffed inside quesadillas with smoked fontina cheese, roasted pine nuts, and raitha yogurt sauce. Other Indian staples are also Americanized, from the tandoori chicken that tops flatbread pizzas to spaghetti paired with lamb meatballs and a whisper of ghee. Each item on the menu is clearly marked as halal, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, making it easy to decipher the dishes without meat and the ones that require each bite to be chewed 32 times.
The blend of spices that defines Pan-Indian cuisine is on delectable display throughout Sangam Restaurant's multitudinous menu, filled with fresh fruits, savory meats, and satisfying lentils. Pair selections of 12 Indian-style breads (from $2) with first-course fare such as the aloo papri chat, a mouth-enticing blend of garbanzo peas, potatoes, savory crisps, taramind chutney, and rock salt ($4.50), or the pan-fried shami kebab, comprised of ground lamb, lentils, onions, and spices ($7.95). Extensive vegetarian-friendly selections (up to $9.95) delight eaters of meatless fare, while reactionary epicureans can set traps to ensnare traditional Indian fare, such as the madras chicken curry ($12.95) or the spicy lamb vindaloo ($14.95), both served lounging atop a decadent bed of basmati rice. A daily lunch buffet ($11.95) awaits daytime diners with tongue cravings that are torn between options due to stamp-licking accidents.
Two floors can accommodate 36 basketball teams—180 diners—at Zaika. But there’s an elegance that belies the size of the restaurant. Crimson and orange permeate the scene, with flowing, red curtains canopying booths. A high-sheen black bar points to a flat-screen TV, and much of the seating adjacent to that bar has enough cushioning to withstand being trod by a tank. Sprawling murals depicting starry skies suggest there might be even more space than seating capacity states. Named after a Hindi word meaning “taste” or “sense of taste,” Zaika unites aesthetic splendor with culinary splendor: it holds its chefs to high standards of both tradition and innovation, presented on a menu of creative Indian cuisine.
Toward the lavish dining room, which has hardwood accents as glossy as a freshly licked mirror, the complex aromas of Indian spices emerge from the kitchen. Those scents waft from a Calcutta specialty of raj kachori, filled with chickpeas, tamarind vermicelli, chutney, and yogurt, as well as chicken 65—spicy diced chicken tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. The chef’s special bakes in the traditional tandoori oven and features a whole red snapper, marinated and grilled, alongside malai kebab—cubed chicken breast marinated in a combination of yogurt, cream cheese, ginger, and mild spices.
IndAroma's inventive chefs ferry flavors across culinary borders, regaling tongues with francophilicly enlivened Indian classics. The menu teems with curries, kebabs, naan pizzas, and succulent wraps, such as the marinated, tandoori-baked lamb kebab in cucumber sauce ($7.50), which provides the portable edibility of a laptop made of toffee. Rummage through the samosa chaat ($4.90), a treasure chest of chickpea curry, onions, mint, and spicy garlic-and-tamarind sauce or seek the comfort of boneless chicken biryani's flavorful warmth ($8.99). Petit fours and éclairs bask alongside a profusion of cakes each as sweet and unique as the fingerprint of an Oompa Loompa and served by the slice in flavors such as black forest, mango, and pistachio.
A palate-friendly palace in gold and green, Heritage India is the latest outpost of owner Sanjeev Tuli’s globe-spanning career in the hospitality business. Past ornate artwork and an elegant dining room, head chef Dawa Tamang draws on the culinary styles of his birthplace. The influence shows in menus of flavorful fusion cuisine, including calamari sautéed with curry leaves and coconut milk, and hyderabadi murgh haleem, a dish of chicken, barley, lentils, and spices. Smaller plates also abound, and Heritage India’s rendition of golgappas—a popular street food made of puffed wheat, potato, and chickpeas—inspired Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post to dream of a life overseas.