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.
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.
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.
The chefs at Savoring Indian Cuisine have a couple different tricks for imparting every dish with a burst of flavor. The first involves their spices, which they grind in-house before sprinkling them onto coal-roasted eggplants and various flavored naans. The second's in their tandoor oven, which gives meat a smoky flavor and a light, juicy texture. This makes the resulting cuts of lamb, chicken, and salmon perfect for the house kebabs. The chefs don't only craft meat entrees, however. They also have a full menu of vegetarian entrees, which showcase vegetables like the invite list to a scarecrow's retirement party.
Bombay Mahal Restaurant's executive chef fuses traditional Indian flavors with contemporary twists to create a menu of truly innovative Indian fare. He harnesses the slow, steady heat of a traditional clay tandoor oven to seal in meaty juices, bake naan, and scare away thieving snowmen. The bustling kitchen whips up fresh creations such as curries, tikka masalas, and the specialty seafood masala with pan-seared scallops and shrimp. Thin, flaky crepes called dosai pay homage to southern India, and a vegetarian menu doles out dishes from the western and northern regions. The dining space emulates an exotic setting, swathed in a soft red glow that washes over exposed wooden beams and a divider carved with ornate designs, which are usually reserved for picnic tables vandalized by art students.