Amid the golden glow of orange hanging lights, Manas Indian Cuisine celebrates India’s rich cultural heritage with a menu of exotically spiced traditional dishes. Chefs stir up house-made chutneys and yogurts, yielding savory sauces easily sopped up with sides of fresh-baked naan and poori bread. Crispy starters sizzle in 100% vegetable oil devoid of cholesterol or trans-fat, and the spiciness of curry-laden lamb, seafood, and chickpea dishes can be customized to each diner’s request. A selection of beers, cocktails, and wines by the glass or bottle cools tongues without flash-freezing dessert in liquid nitrogen.
The founders of Annapurna Southbay chose to name their restaurant after a Sanskrit title for the goddess of the harvest, and it's easy to see why they chose that name for the Annapurna special dosa. Measuring four feet in length and spanning almost an entire table, this is just one example of the chefs' dedication to hearty, bountiful meals. Most of the menu focuses on cuisine from India's four southern states— Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, and Karnataka—uniting the coconut, tamarind, and dried red chilies that characterize so many of the region's dishes. These ingredients add their distinctive flavor and spice to orders of tandoor-roasted chicken, fiery lamb curry, and slow-cooked lentils.
Echoing the restaurant's pastoral inspiration, the dining room boasts a verdant, leaf-like wall pattern above the line of burgundy-hued booths. Blooming flowers adorn the buffet area, and stone tiles from the backyard quarry line a wall near the storefront windows.
Using traditional ingredients, Mughal Halal Tandoori has created an extensive menu of authentic Indian entrees bursting with a variety of flavors. Send taste buds down a culinary river with a range of Indian breads, including garlic naan (stuffed with freshly diced garlic, $1.50) and aloo kulcha (paratha filled with mildly spiced mashed potatoes and peas, $2.50), before docking at curry port, which is occupied by the likes of murgh makhni (butter chicken curry, $7.95) and tala ghost (lamb curry, $8.95). In addition to specialty dishes cooked in the tandoori, Mughal Halal Tandoori serves up a variety of vegetarian options, such as the bhindi masala (mildly seasoned okra, onion, ginger, and garlic, $6.95) and the bagara baigan (Indian eggplant cooked Hydrabadi style, $6.95). Cleanse a spice-soaked palate with the mango lassi, a traditional Indian drink churned with yogurt and milk and flavored with mango ($2).
At Tava Grill and Lounge, owner and chef Punita Patel infuses her seasonal menu with Indian flavors and fresh, local ingredients. The paneer fajita tacos, for instance, ooze authenticity along with housemade cilantro mint chutney that can double as smelling salts for a food-comatose date. The seafood biryani paella evokes both India and Spain with a blend of shrimp, mussels, squid, and crab in a creamy curry sauce.
A separate menu in the lounge marries the food of India and California, as the atmosphere fuses nightclub and fine-dining establishment. Beside a softly lit bar, benches and ottomans are scattered around low tables, which break up regular tables and booths without the staff having to dig trenches around each.
Named one of the top 10 South Bay ethnic restaurants by the Daily Breeze, Al Watan has served up authentic Indian and Pakistani fare for more than 25 years. Much of the menu is cooked in a traditional clay oven, bringing intense heat to meaty specialties such as the tandoori chicken, expertly spiced to the rich orange hue of a dying sun ($6.99). Lamb, goat, and beef are also offered, cooked in a variety of regional spices and sauces. The naan, also cooked in the clay oven, includes plain ($1), garlic ($1.99), and butter ($2.25) varieties to mop up the savory leavings of the entrees. An extensive vegetable selection ensures that noncarnivores will find something to put in their bellies. Tongues stung by spice can seek succor in the cool sanctuary of the lassis or mango shakes ($2 each).