As guests step past the pink silk curtains that hang in the entryway, the first thing they notice is the unmistakable aroma of charcoal. The source is the restaurant's clay tandoor, where chicken and fish cop grill flavoring that completes their yogurt, herb, and spice marinades. Like an all-in-one print/fax/clone-an-army machine, this clay oven can handle multiple tasks at once, as it also yields such fresh-baked breads as the potato-and-pea-stuffed aloo paratha. Diners feast on these dishes at tables covered in white linens in a dining room that stretches back to a full bar.
Nestled inside the northwest quadrant of Washington DC, this neighborhood gem houses an atmosphere swirling with pleasantries and pixie dust. Attentive servers promptly deliver well-portioned plates like devastating rhymes in a rap battle. Menu options lean toward the Indian side of the edible fence with an infusion of American flair in their preparation.
At both of Himalayan Heritage’s locations, chefs pull marinated chicken and lamb from charcoal clay ovens. The tandoori dishes are a staple of Indian cuisine, but Indian is only half the story here. Much of the menu is dedicated to Nepalese food, which, as Tom Sietsema explains in his glowing Washington Post review, is similar, but not the same. For an introduction, he recommends the momo—dumplings made of spiced minced chicken or vegetables that are steamed inside flour dough and served with aachar or chutney sauce.
Diners enjoy their meals at white-linen covered tables in a dining room with bright orange walls and a golden ceiling from which intricate lanterns hang. The space is flush with cultural artwork, including a large thangka painting that acts as a blimp in an emergency if you add enough balloons.
Taj Mahal's menu is stocked with classic Indian fare at unbeatable prices, such as Tandoori chicken ($14.95), chicken tikka masala ($14.95), and the vegetarian chana masala (chickpeas blended with herbs and spices, $12.95). If you're unfamiliar with Indian food, the appetizer platter ($10.95) will introduce you to the world of vegetable samosas, crisp pappars, and chicken fried in chickpea batter. Seafarers, on the other hand, will find that the shrimp vindaloo ($16.95) pairs well with a side of kashmiri pulao (basmati rice, saffron, nuts, and dried fruit, $6.50) or mango chutney ($2.50). Bookend your meal with some fresh naan bread ($2.95) and a dessert of gulab-jamun ($5.95). Many dishes at Taj Mahal are vegetarian, in accordance with India's uneasy treaty with its herds of man-eating livestock.