Diners at Blue Lotus can immerse their taste buds in flavors from all the main regions in India. The eatery's chefs have mastered popular dishes from the diverse country, everything from Mumbai-style chaats to tandoori recipes from the north to chicken chettinad?a Tamilnadu entree of chicken in a spicy black-pepper-and-roasted-coconut sauce. They also blend Indian flavors with those from other countries, creating hybrid Indo-Chinese eats such as gobi Manchurian and Anglo-Indian eats such as lamb mirchiwala with green chilis, ginger, and coriander.
Unified by their love of skillfully spiced Indian cuisine, the chefs at Amiya craft distinctive menus for their two locations. The Jersey City location's menu features traditional elements such as spicy curries, homemade paneer, and tandoor-roasted lamb and lobster, as well as a selection of Indian-Chinese fusion dishes. The classics from the Parsippany location's menu are joined by creative flavors such as pomegranate-tequila shrimp and wasabi-crusted crab cakes.
Though their cuisine differs, the two spots are linked by an ultralong zipline and their upscale contemporary decor. In Jersey City, crisp white tablecloths pop against warm mango and persimmon walls, and a cushy, curvaceous booth spans two walls. Golden statuettes watch over the Parsippany dining room from small nooks in the walls, and an attached bar and lounge glows bright yellow and blue. Patrons sample cocktails and tapas plates, and on Friday nights hop up to the mic for Bollywood karaoke.
Though Mantra Head Chef Purvesh Patel is known for his creative takes on Indian cuisine—including chaat, or snack food, garnished with tender lobster meat—his careful, French-inspired cooking also leaves its mark on the menu’s traditional entrees. "Each ingredient seemed to have bathed for just the right number of hours in its yogurt marinade; each was precisely cooked; and each carried a heady overtone of spices," a New York Times food writer recalled of a tandoori dish in 2008. In contrast to these subtle flavors, Mantra’s presentation often has theatrical flair; chefs chop chaat dishes tableside and set a banana flambé dessert ablaze with rum.
Both locations’ sleek dining rooms also go for drama with bold, modern decor. In Jersey City, red accents simmer against warm-toned walls. Next to the Paramus spot's mosaic-tiled bar, live flames dance on the low wall between the dining room and lounge, upping the “amazement factor” for Cody Kendall of the Star-Ledger.
Traditional recipes meet contemporary inventiveness at Hoboken Dhaba, where seafood, chicken, lamb, goat, and veggies meet vibrant spices and house-baked breads. Tandoori dishes, which are cooked in the traditional clay oven called a tandoor, include lobster, chicken, and Afghani-style lamb. Curries include fish, chicken, and goat, whereas vegetarian and vegan dishes incorporate saffron-cheese dumplings, tandoori beans and lentils, and roasted eggplant, which sprout from egg hunts' unfound prizes.
Critically praised, India on the Hudson is one of Hoboken's flagship Indian restaurants, serving traditional Indian cuisine in an elegant environment since 1994. Wake up napping taste buds with lamb samosas ($7) or veggie pakoras ($5) before diving thumbs first into one of the menu's myriad entrees. Challenge a dinner mate to a fencing match with the tandoori ginger shrimp ($18) or chicken tikka kabab ($13), both marinated in yogurt and cooked in a charcoal-fired clay oven. Street-food-inspired kathi wraps nestle your choice of lamb, chicken, or vegetables in a cozy blanket of Naan and are served alongside basmati rice, mango chutney, and soothing cucumber raita ($10–$14). Curry options abound, such as bhuna mutton, a mélange of slow-cooked goat and herbs ($15), and paneer makhani, cubes of fresh cheese swimming laps in tomato and bell pepper sauce ($10). For dessert, gulab jamuns combine the doughy sweetness of dumplings with the syrupy sweetness of cardamom syrup ($4). The restaurant's ambience is luxurious but relaxed, with pale green and ivory walls, embroidered silk art, and white table linens.
"Fresh, fragrant, precisely seasoned regional dishes," along with "expertly rendered" Indian favorites, are at the heart of Salaam Bombay's appeal, according to the New York Times. Complex flavors abound as chefs ladle cashew sauce over the spice-stuffed eggplants of the baghare baingan, and season Kashmiri rogan josh's tender lamb with cardamom, cloves, and other spices. South Indian dishes, such as the savory stuffed crepes known as dosas, also appear alongside Indian-Chinese fusion dishes, such as sweet-and-sour prawns.
As by its "exceptional seafood and vegetarian dishes," New York magazine was also "charmed by Salaam Bombay’s upscale yet relaxed atmosphere." The dining room evokes an Indian ceremonial hall with carved wooden artwork, a twinkling chandelier, and traditional mirror-studded fabric draped from the ceiling. During the weekend, a live sitar player often fills the dining room with intricate melodies while seated on a cushion of roti.