Tiffin infuses drab dishes with a plethora of Indian spices imported straight from the subcontinent itself by peripatetic purveyors. Shrimp and chicken absorb flavors of orange and chile de arbol after a bathing in the mango-chile marinade ($10), and curry finds its savory soul mate in the complementing haldi turmeric powder ($5.59). Elaichi whole green cardamom ($6.59), a staple of Indian desserts, leaves its native India, bidding a tearful farewell to its ginger family in search of a starring role in pungent dishes. Customers can pick up dish dustings or have them delivered ($25 minimum) to their home, office, or underground solarium for no additional delivery charge.
Executive chef and owner Bharat Luthra named his restaurant Khajuraho after a town in Madhya Pradesh, India—a town famous for a series of Hindu and Jain temples filled with erotic monuments. Like those iconic statues, the sights, smells, and tastes of Luthra’s Indian cuisine create a vivid statement in support of sensuality and the enjoyment of life. His restaurant's elegant white-clothed tables, great enough in number to seat up to 120, stage feasts fit for mild to spicy palates and carnivorous to vegetarian appetites. Luthra bakes succulent marinated chicken inside a tandoori clay oven, spikes fresh seafood with garlic and ginger, and keeps vegetable balls from rolling off the plate with a smooth cream sauce and repurposed bowling-alley bumpers.
Voted top five in the Best Indian category of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CityVoter awards, Laxmi's Indian Grille serves a range of dishes—from spicy meats to subtle vegetable stews—designed to please all palates. A perfume of fresh ginger, rose water, and house-made cottage cheese drifts from the bustling kitchen out into the dining room of the Main Street location, where vibrant paintings provide an elegant contrast to walls of rustic exposed stone. At both Main Street and the newly minted Tilden Street eatery, a clay tandoor oven is kept aflame throughout the day, enabling chefs to bake breads, meats, and underripe bananas to a golden patina.
Inside the tandoor ovens at Taj-India, sizzling morsels of paneer melt to a crisp yet tender finish, rows of vegetables on a shish kabob receive intense flavor, and naan stuffed with a range of savory fillings emerges fluffy and ready for the table. The one thing you won't find, however, is meat. That's because the chefs at Taj-India decided to focus on vegetarian culinary traditions of India. They use recipes from numerous regions of India, from the tandoor tradition of the North to the South Indian dosas served with a coconut chutney. To pare down their menu's spiciness without offering replacement taste buds, they also create a range of cooling desserts such as kulfi—an Indian ice cream. More unique flavors can be found as well, such as rose-flavored milk drink made with basil seeds, rice vermicelli, and ice cream.
The masala maestros at Cafe Spice Express prepare an expansive and omnivorous menu of upscale Indian takeout. Rumbly tummies can be hushed by arsenal of appetizers, including a trio of potato-packed samosas ($4), boneless chili chicken ($7.50), and the yogurt-coated salmon of saloni machi ($8). The lamb madras marries the sweetness of coconut and tanginess of mustard ($13), and the shrimp vindaloo dips tiger prawns in a hot-and-spicy sauce ($14). Crop-based eats from the vegetarian menu include bhindi masala, a sautéed okra dish with julienned ginger and cumin ($9.95), and malai kofta, featuring vegetable dumplings steeped in cashew-almond gravy ($10.50) until as rich and tender as hug from Bill Gates.
Tendrils of smoke curl slowly up from the ornate waterpipes at Eclipse Hookah Lounge, filling the air with the sweet smell of flavored tobacco. Sourced from the shisha experts at Starbuzz and Al Fakher, the tobacco is the cornerstone of the lounge's laid-back vibe, but the experience goes far beyond a little smoke. Here, overstuffed couches cast in the invitingly dim light of lantern-style wall sconces invite guests to settle in. Although the lounge is a suitable spot for a night of conversation, there are other distractions available; two 60" televisions flicker with lively highlights, and a professional audio system often fills the room with the chilled-out sounds from around the world. Guests can also take advantage of the lounge's affiliation with Kabobeesh, ordering beef tikkah roll sandwiches or chicken gyros from the restaurant ranked number 11 on Forbes magazine's Top 20 Best Eats for the Buck in America list.