Bamian Restaurant gained the attention of The Washington Post in 2006 when its traditional Afghan cuisine drew in an Afghan ambassador and embassy staff from Kuwait and Qatar. Plates teem with housemade flatbread prepared in a tandoor oven and kebabs grilled over open flames, earning the restaurant a "very good to excellent" Zagat rating. Vegetarian items include the sautéed pumpkin with yogurt and mint and hummus dusted with paprika.
The interior of Bamian Restaurant is elegantly decorated with leopard-print chairs in the foyer and sparkling chandeliers in the dining room. Gayot describes the restaurant as "large-as-a-barn and gussied up like a deb ready for a coming-out party." The large space includes a full dance floor, which lends itself to hosting large parties, wedding receptions, and rehearsal lunches to practice for dinner.
If Cafe Taj’s large stone fountain could talk, the rippling waters would still keep mum, because the restaurant’s authentic Indian cuisine can speak for itself. Warm naan and whole-wheat roti sop up creamy curry sauce from main dishes, and the black tables are loaded down with charcoal-roasted tandoori dishes for pairing with both wine and beer from a fully stocked bar. After sating sugar cravings with rose- and cardamom-scented sweets, patrons can question servers about their catering services or use the dining room’s Romanesque columns to kick off a backflip in honor of an evening well spent.
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.
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.
You might momentarily forget your hunger when you step into Curry Mantra's striking, newly expanded dining room, where vivid Indian artwork speckles the warm orange and yellow walls. Your appetite is reawakened, however, when you peer into the large kitchen window and catch sight of juicy morsels of lamb, salmon, and chicken waiting to be cooked in tandoori ovens. When discussing his decision to install a kitchen window with a food critic Tom Sietsema from the Washington Post, owner Asad Sheikh explained, "I want my customers to see what's going on in the tandoor." He's proud of the work that goes on in his kitchen, which earned Curry Mantra a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2011 and 2012, and Washingtonian Magazine's Best of Fairfax 2013. His chefs pull culinary inspiration from all four corners of India, folding lamb, chicken, and seafood into a wide variety of flavorful curries and fiery vindaloos. To craft their goat biryani rice dish, the chefs use a generations-old recipe passed down to Sheikh from his grandmother, peppering aromatic basmati rice and tender goat meat with saffron and nuts.
Silverware clinks against glass tabletops in the dining room, where diners sip on glasses of wine and creamy mango lassi. Come lunchtime, a buffet table will stretch across the room, lined with silver trays of freshly made dishes. On the weekends, the eatery hosts live music, as traditional flutists and drummers play classical Indian music and the theme from Three's Company upon request.