“Mela” means “gathering” or “fiesta” in Sanskrit, a fitting name since those are the kind of events that the restaurant facilitates with its traditional and very sharable feasts. The housemade breads, which range from flat naan to balloon-like poori, whet appetites for seasoned-to-order entrees, ranging from mild to spicy depending on the diner’s palate and how convincing they want to be when fake-crying. The eatery’s tandoor, a traditional clay oven, roasts dishes such as chicken tikka masala and tandoori shrimp; alternatively, curry dishes such as the spicy lamb vindaloo complement kebabs and succulent chunks of meat or veggies sitting atop beds of basmati rice infused with cashews, raisins, and saffron. A full bar rounds out the menu with domestic and imported beer, wine, and liquor that can wash down à la carte meals, buffet-style lunches served seven days a week, or buffet-style dinners that delight palates Sunday–Wednesday.
As an arm of the popular Mustafa Asian & Middle Eastern Grocery, Mustafa Restaurant plies patrons with deliciously authentic dishes of South Asian cuisine from all regions of the subcontinent. Siblings Syed Riyaz Siddiqui and Mohammed Fayaz charm visitors with an expansive bill of fare filled with nutty roasted basmati rice, tender hyderabadi chicken curry, and sweet, creamy Indian yogurt desserts. The menu takes visitors on a culinary journey of India and Pakistan, from the stir-fried noodle dishes that originate from Kolkata's Chinatown to the paper-thin dosas and gram flour donuts that grow from the trees of South India.
As guests savor the spices and fragrances of goan fish curry or fluffy, buttery naan, an elegant atmosphere envelops them. Beaded crimson cloth and sheer white curtains frame a room full of velvety pillows, embroidered wall decorations, and a buffet full of curries, basmati rice, and desserts.
Simi's centerpiece is a large hanging stained-glass art piece––a woman in full Sari playing a sitar amid a field of blossoming flowers. Zooming out, the restaurant complements the art with verdant flowing vines and a rustic gray stone partition. Amid these striking accents, tables line with dinner entrees of lamb curry, zesty seafood masala, and boneless chicken fired in a traditional clay-oven tandoor. Diners may also grab a bite during Simi's popular lunch buffet, which has been dazzling San Antonio for more than 20 years.
Pavani Express waters fledgling belly gardens with a veggie-centric menu of delectable Indian cuisine. Fill metaphorical breadbaskets with the literal flatbread of chapati korma (two pieces, $4.99) or grow walrus tusks of flame with hot and spicy noodles ($6.99). Garlic fried rice ($5.99) wards off any vegan vampires prowling the restaurant while the cheese and spinach-loaded saag paneer ($7.99) bestows diners with faded anchor tattoos and disproportionately muscled forearms.
A marigold façade with window cutouts that mirror the Taj Mahal's distinguished silhouette welcomes guests to Indian Palace, whose interior is equally lavish and vibrant. Golden elephant statuettes, paintings of traditional Indian scenes, and deep red tapestries enliven the decor, and aromas of sweet curries and meats roasting in the clay oven add excitement to the air. Inside the kitchen, chefs channel the culture of northern India into traditional meals, then deliver the cuisine à la carte to tables or arrange it at the self-serve buffet. The sweeping buffet enables diners to hop from dish to dish like garden gnomes playing hopscotch on lily pads. A cornucopia of naan breads cushions plates against flying forks and provides a pillowy field for the spicy notes of such dishes as lamb biryani and chicken tikka masala to caper across. The spread always contains an extensive selection of vegetarian options, such as saag aloo, which dispatches a duo of cheese and potato to thwart dastardly hunger pangs.
Chefs Rakesh Menhdiratta and Prem Singh Jayara together have more than six decades of experience cooking Indian fare. While Rakesh was working at a state banquet to honor Bill Clinton in New Delhi, Prem was publishing his own Indian cookbook and teaching at culinary schools throughout New York City. Now, the two Indian-borne chefs have united to bring their culinary skills to the menu at Bombay Bistro.
In the eatery, stained-glass lights dangle over booths, casting a pastel blush on exposed-brick walls. The bar is lit from behind with neon orange, hinting at the smoldering flames of the bistro's clay oven. As the kitchen doors open, dark hardwood tables fill with shrimp, lamb, and goan fish curry, accented by tamarind and sweet coconut milk. Warm baked naan sops up sauce from tandoori shrimp and salmon steeped in garlic, ginger, and lemon juice. While perusing the bistro's cocktail menu, guests can question servers about the lunch buffet or the best novel they’ve ever found written on a napkin.