India Kitchen?deemed Hartford County's Best Indian Restaurant in 2011 by readers of Connecticut Magazine?piles family-style offerings from North and South India onto its menu, concocting entrees with imported ingredients and an authentic tandoor oven. Patrons can play games of solitaire with 11 types of traditional breads, such as the raisin- and nut-filled khandari kulcha ($3.95). Jumbo shrimp slip into robes of lemon juice, yogurt, and spices before sizzling in the clay oven, only to emerge as tandoori shrimp ($15.95) or, in rare cases, a single giant shrimp with crime-fighting ambitions and mastery over fire. The chicken chutney wala surrounds poultry morsels with tangy pools of curried mango and mint sauce ($12.95), whereas cashew-and-almond sauce varnishes vegetable-and-cheese dumplings in the vegetarian malai kofta ($11.95).
In addition to its classic menu offerings, India Kitchen hosts a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet seven days a week as well as a Wednesday and Sunday night dinner buffet. Featuring a catering menu for larger groups, the restaurant's chefs portion out party-sized servings from a limited menu that includes naan ($32+) and vegetable biryani ($40+). For heartier mealtimes, they also simmer orders of lamb or fish curry ($90) that can either feed 30?40 people or one insatiable garbage disposal.
The chefs at Masala rain Indian and Nepali seasonings down upon succulent meats slow-cooked inside a tandoor clay oven and simmered veggies flooded with sauce. Divided into two, Masala’s menu features Indian favorites such as curries, skewered lamb cubes, and 13 types of Indian bread, including hand-stretched garlic naan, as well as Nepali dishes such as mo-mo cha steamed dumplings filled with veggies or chicken. Within the eatery’s yellow-hued walls, a full bar cohabitates with a daily lunch buffet, which arranges tasty eats in a row, like a police lineup of the California Raisins.
The chefs at Saffron Place take spices seriously. Drawing on shelves of cumin, curry, fresh ginger, and garlic, they craft each dish individually to account for each person's preferred level of spiciness, be it mild to smoking hot. The individual preparation of each order ensures that their traditional north Indian and Bengali dishes arrive at tables still steaming from the stove or easily startled dragons. Servers carry goat curry, chicken tikka masala, and vegetarian platters to tables or customers waiting for takeout orders.
Glowing sconces line the crimson and cream walls inside Namaste India, where traditional Indian dishes adorn linen-topped tables and fill the air with spiced aromas. Marinated lamb, chicken, and seafood slumber inside a clay tandoor oven until they're mildly smoky and tender throughout, while other proteins and vegetables steep in rich curry sauces, aptly scooped up with fresh-baked naan bread or ladled over delicate basmati rice. Patrons can wash down meals with sweet, salted, or mango-flavored lassi drinks, or snatch a classic dessert such as gulab jamun—deep-fried milk dumplings that are soaked in syrup and delivered to tables via an air gun.
Inside Maharaja Indian Restaurant, the air is heady with the scents of traditional Tandoor-grilled Indian meats and flavorful curries, all served in a dining room done in striking hues of royal blue and canary. It's easy to feel like you've been whisked away to somewhere in Bombay, but if you look outside, you can see sweeping views of Rhode Island's Narragansett Beach. The restaurant occupies an upper floor of the Village Inn, a stone's throw from the shoreline. Beach views provide a temporary distraction, but the menu commands most of the attention, with spicy lamb vindaloo, Halal goat biryani, vegan channa masala, and ten different types of naan bread.
India Restaurant's chefs modify iconic South Asian staples to eliminate excess fat, cholesterol, and calories while still ensuring that the dishes are delicious enough to win various accolades. The chefs craft each authentic dish with locally sourced seafood and produce, and they avoid frying any dish, eschew butter entirely, and only cook with canola oil. Yet their nacho-like papri chaat appetizer has been called "truly addictive" by the Providence Phoenix, which also called the restaurant’s biryani “a veritable feast for the senses.” To make their cuisine even more inclusive, the chefs prepare an array of vegan-friendly and gluten-free dishes.
The decor strives to be similarly accommodating, presenting diners with numerous seating options, each with a distinctive ambience. A projection screen playing subtitled Bollywood films dominates the main dining area, smaller tables surround each of the three roaring fireplaces, and more than 200 flickering candles line the bar area. During the warmer months, the garden courtyard tempts patrons with its swings for seats, lush gardens, and bubbling water fountains. The sidewalk seating allows guests to dine alongside their dogs and pet lobsters; a doggie menu offers hamburger-and-rice dishes and yogurt pops for canine companions.
Traditional belly dancers drift throughout the space on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the restaurant's global jazz ensemble entertains diners with its contemporary melodic stylings.