The cornerstone of Tandoor E India’s kitchen is a traditional clay oven. It burns all day long, cooking potato-stuffed breads, marinated chicken, and skewered pieces of lamb. Chefs make their own cottage cheese, which is then simmered in a creamy gravy or paired with green peas and a handful of spices. Shareable samosas—deep-fried crispy patties stuffed with spiced veggies—also make an appearance on the menu.
Masala Kitchen’s chefs use a bevy of spices to craft an authentic Indian menu of vegetarian and meat dishes. Kick things off with a sizzling appetizer, such as assorted veg pakoras—seasonal vegetables fried into fritters—or chicken tikka kathi, which features shredded chicken sautéed and stuffed in thin bread. Forks or pocket-size augers then dig through entrees piled on mounds of rice, scooping herbivore-friendly fare such as yellow tadka dal—a heaping of lentils loaded with garlic, chopped onion, and cumin seeds. Meaty dishes include kadhai chicken that’s seasoned with curry pepper, cumin, and garlic, and kashmiri lamb roganjosh, a boneless slab of lamb dressed to the nines in decadent onion sauce. Alternatively, the buffet grants all-you-can-eat access to patrons looking to sample everything or simply indulge endlessly in a favorite, and allows them to marvel at bottomless soda glasses yet to be explained by man’s limited understanding of physics.
A union of Middle Eastern and Western cultures, Fire N Ice Hookah Bar combines the laid-back charm of a hookah lounge with the music and swank of a nightclub. Customers roam through the electric bi-level space flooded by soft colorful lighting before picking their poison—hookah, drinks, food, or all three.
In the hookah lounge, they curl up on plush sofas cushioned by satiny pillows and reach out every so often to grasp the hookah pipe as it’s passed around, inhaling any one of 25 exotic hookah flavors. The smoke spirals up toward Middle Eastern tapestries hanging overhead or snakes around the top-shelf cocktails perched beside the pipe. It even intermingles briefly with the aromas wafting from Middle Eastern dishes—such as chicken tikka, korma sliders, and kebabs—before vanishing into the air as quickly as a magician at a science fair.
As the night lingers on, Fire N Ice begins its transformation into a full-blown nightclub. Belly dancers take to the stage first, twisting and shimmying across the spacious dance floor. By 11 p.m., the club's three DJs begin spinning top R & B and hip-hop hits intermixed with a few Arabian jams, signaling to guests that it's their turn to hit the floor.
Rakesh Aggarwal left India for America in 1980 and his culinary talents soon earned him permanent gigs at New York mainstays such as Club 21 and the Oak Room. It wasn’t until 1994, however, that he set the cornerstone for his very own New York mainstay, though he may not have known it at the time. Baluchi’s, which is reminiscent of Rakesh’s childhood nickname, Balu, became an instant hit both for its Zagat-rated Indian cuisine and its exotic decor. Today, Baluchi’s has expanded to five locations throughout the city and received a fair share of ink from New York magazine and the New York Times, whose writer noted that the potato cakes were “among the best” he had eaten. Baluchi’s in Murray Hill sticks to the traditional Indian fare that has brought this chain such widespread success. The menu alternates nicely between meat and vegetarian options, with options such as minced-lamb kebabs with mango salsa and sweet-potato chaats baked in a tandoor and tossed with spices. The tandoori menus teem with robust options such as racks of lamb and whole fish, as well as curries prepared with seafood, lamb, and vegetables that carry just enough spice and heat to melt the heart of a curmudgeonly businessman.
Bombay Masala's chefs draw inspiration from the familiar spices and sauces that characterize Indian cuisine and create an eclectic spread of aromatic and flavorful recipes. Brooklyn Magazine heaped praise onto the chicken tikka masala⎯an Indian-style entree historically co-opted by the British⎯by naming Bombay Masala's version one of The 10 Best British Bites in Brooklyn. This particular dish, along with several others, begins cooking in the kitchen's clay tandoor oven, which roasts skewered meats and vegetables over a pile of smoldering charcoal and old love letters. As the skewers bake, the chefs whisk together curries and cream sauces that they spoon over everything from lobster to housemade cheese.
Behind its nondescript storefront and kelly-green vinyl awning on a tree-lined stretch of Flatbush Avenue, King of Tandoor conceals lavish feasts of fine Indian cuisine. A warm, homey space of linen-covered tables, smartly dressed servers, and warm light from wall sconces awaits those who enter to enjoy mulligatawny soups full of earthy spices, ponir makhanee made with creamy homemade cheese, and Madras curry made with spicy tomato sauce. As the name implies, King of Tandoor prides itself on its clay-oven dishes: boneless chicken tikka and marinated leg of lamb emerge from the traditional oven piping hot, their sizzling sounds elevating full meals or adding informed points of view to quarrels between clock radios.