Ornate lanterns bask the dining room of India Palace Restaurant in a warm glow, illuminating the classical Indian portraits and dark wood pillars surrounding the tables. Among these authentic confines—India Palace's second location, after spending 22 years at the original locale—the friendly staff helps guests choose the right dishes from a vibrant menu of fine Indian cuisine. Manning a clay oven fired by charcoal, visible to diners, chefs bake fresh bread, ground-lamb seekh kebabs, salmon tikka, and marinated tandoori chicken. A selection of 18 vegetarian specialties sates the hunger of plant hunters, whereas a variety of curries gives all diners the ability to roar cartoon flames. Indulgent beverages, such as an Indian chai latte or a mango milk shake, can be paired with any dish to sweeten palates.
Cooks at Gourmet India sling health-conscious, regional Indian recipes that have garnered praise from the Boston Globe. The casual eatery packs its menu with North Indian fare and serves South Indian specials on weekends, representing the subcontinent better than one grain of rice from each state. Each combo meal rounds up two to three servings from a rotating list of entrees, flanking the savory morsels with basmati rice or naan. Combo meals always include at least one vegetarian entree so diners can pick between vegetable-based gobhi aloo, a dish of cauliflower cooked with ginger; the palak paneer, a blend of spinach and homemade cheese; or a platter of cumin seeds arranged into a pleasing, vegetable shape. Meatier fare includes chicken tikka masala, tender poultry cooked in a tomato-cream sauce, and lamb korma with cashews and raisins. Dishes emerge steaming from the kitchen with fresh-cooked flavor, unlike entrees at other eateries that import their fare from India so it typically arrives cold. Combo meal 2 includes one appetizer, which could include either potato-filled samosas or aromatic onion bhaju.
Inside Cafe India?s kitchen, chefs fire up their clay ovens to cook tandoori chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and bake tender cubes of lamb lined up on skewers. The restaurant?s menu spotlights dishes from all over India, such as the coconut-accented South Indian curry, from the Kerala region, and the spicy, chili-flavored vindaloo, originated in the western region of Goa. The caf??s special vegetarian or non-vegetarian dinners for two feed duos, with entrees complemented with samosas, soups, fresh-baked naan, and basmati rice. Cocktails from the full bar wash down meals and bring out long-forgotten Bollywood dance routines as diners relax in the dining area, painted in warm hues of yellow, orange, and red.
Aromatic spices blend with hearty meats and veggies on Madras Grill's extensive menu, which is filled with traditional Indian cuisine. A house blend of coriander, red chilies, cumin, and turmeric joins chicken for a dip in a pool of light onion-and-tomato sauce in the Madras chicken curry, which is finished with a refreshing splash of coconut milk ($13.95). Artisan Indian breads ($2.50–$8.95) soak up runaway sauces and bake in a range of styles, from unleavened and deep-fried to stuffed or invisible. The smoked-eggplant punjab specialty, baigan bharta ($12.95), sates vegetarians, while a meat-filled trio of chicken tikkas, lamb kebabs, and shrimp cooked in a tandoor oven pairs with protein seekers in the Madras mixed grill ($17.95). Warm yellow tones surround wooden tables and chairs cushioned with burnt-orange cushioned seats. Decorative lighting illuminates entrees, and a wall-mounted wooden wheel stares unblinkingly at a large TV flickering behind the sleek bar.
The clay oven is the centerpiece of the Indian kitchen. It's where most of the country's most iconic dishes?from naan flatbread to tandoori chicken?get their signature flavors. The chefs at Shalimar Indian Restaurant should know; they have their own clay oven, which they use to cook chicken, shrimp, and lamb in traditional Indian spices. In fact, each of their dishes celebrates a unique flavor from the subcontinent, bet it the saffron found in bowls of biryani or the spicy ginger that simmers alongside okra.
For centuries, the long arm of The Mughal Empire reached across a huge area of India. Though the Empire has long since disintegrated, the cuisine lives on in fragrant kitchens and dining rooms like that of The Mughals. Here, owners Mohinder and Dharmesh oversee a menu of dishes rendered flavorful by rich, spicy sauces and cooked in traditional clay ovens. Led by Chef Mohinder Pal—who has honed his skills in Indian restaurants for the last 20 years—the kitchen churns out piles of tandoori-baked naan, simmering bowls of goat curry, and sweet mango chutney. The team also has domestic and imported beer on tap and in bottles, which is why genies hide in bottles in the first place.