Temptations' accomplished founders and chefs are striving to create the first national Indian food chain in an effort to make fresh, all-natural Indian fare accessible everywhere in the country. The chefs prepare vegan and vegetarian options nightly, such as the bhindi dopiaza's tomato-smattered okra, and clay ovens churn out grilled dishes, such as murg tikka masala or tandoori chicken. Temptations also fills environmentally friendly boxes with portions of its food on college campuses, and the chefs spread their knowledge of Indian cuisine in cooking classes.
Sunlight streaks through large windows in Temptations' dining room as diners scarf down healthy Indian feasts beneath exposed-ductwork ceilings and soft orange lights. Live music fills the air on weekend nights, with sitars, world music, and kazoo symphonies typifying the sounds. Belly dancers have been known to take to the floors as well, captivating patrons with their hypnotizing hip undulations.
Since his cooking days at his East Hyde Park restaurant, Cumin, Chef Yajan (Yaj) Upadhyaya has been enamored with creating both traditional and new Indian dishes, as highlighted by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer. In his latest culinary venture, Mantra on the Hill, Chef Yaj continues to make authentic Indian food pop by pairing it with his take on other culinary elements such as spicy southern plates and Indochinese dishes. And the Indian cuisine itself derives not from one region of the subcontinent, but many. This melding of old and new, East and West, means during lunch and dinner hours, the head chef seasons chicken and shrimp with traditional Indian spices before baking fresh in the kitchen’s tandoor, which also cooks several vegetarian meals and fresh naan described as "buttery and very pleasant” by CityBeat.
To attract a crowd after most children have gone to bed and most children on the other side of the world have woken up, Chef Yaj also curates a late-night menu. With it, he showcases the same ability to unify disparate inspirations, from masala fries topped with a curry sauce to lamb sliders. And it’s not just food that might draw diners in at the end of a long day—10 signature cocktails quell thirst, and the name of one of them, the New Old Fashioned, perfectly characterizes the restaurant’s theme as a whole. Of course, the staff also pours domestic and imported beer and enough wine to float a cruise ship.
Mantra on the Hill’s decor is as elegant as the food is flavorful. Exposed brick and tan-colored walls create a neutral backdrop to the vibrant artwork displayed on them. On the outdoor patio, string light-festooned trees wrap around umbrella-covered tables—where guests enjoy their meals while listening to live music—and a light-green picket fence provides a winsome bookend to the pastel pink brick that defines the façade of the building.
Cuisine of India floods palates with vegetarian dishes and meat entrees roasted in a tandoor, a traditional clay oven from Asia's heart-shaped country. Vegetarian curry concoctions such as the potato-and-cauliflower aloogobi coat patrons' innards with a warm layer of onions, tomatoes, and indian spices ($7.99), increasing the bloodstream's spiciness to a level too potent for man-eating yetis. The kebab house is home to many clay-oven-cooked dishes including the specialty, tandoori chicken, spring poultry marinated in punjabi spices and yogurt sauce ($8.99), and fish tikka banjara, boneless mahi-mahi marinated and broiled on a skewer ($11.99). Sop up leftover sauce with an accompaniment of plain naan ($1.50), whole-wheat tandoori roti ($1.95), or vampire-thwarting garlic naan ($2.50).
In a dining space with rose-red banquettes and polished hardwood floors, servers at Charkha Exotic Indian Cuisine fold delicate pink linen napkins into blooming flowers. To pair with these subtle decorative accents, the kitchen staff whips up fish-laden curries, rice biryani dishes, and 16 distinct vegetarian dishes, releasing aromas of cumin, garlic, and coriander. These waft past the dining room's rustic wooden beams, and the less-rustic robo-monkeys that swing from them, to tables piled with housemade cheese paneer and yogurt-marinated shrimp tandoori.
The talented chefs at Dakshin Indian Bistro dish out tantalizing plates of authentic Indian fare. The appetizer menu promises delightful starters in the rich tradition of Indian street fare, such as the prawn mirchiwala, a piquant sauté of shrimp, chilies, onions, and curry, or the crispy samosa, a portable pastry stuffed with potato and green peas. Like locker combinations or launch codes, the delicious entrees beg to be shared, with poultry- or veggie-based treats including the lentil and tomato dahl tadka or the saucy Hyderabadi chicken curry.
The epicurean alchemists at Swades mingle cumin, tomatoes, and coconut milk to create vegetarian Indo-fusion curries and dals that combine into healthy meals easily picked up at the restaurant’s drive-thru. The menu, which changes daily, beckons tongues with dry curries studded with green beans and okra, gravy curries simmering with tofu and kidney beans, and dal dishes that send lentils on speed dates with mango, spinach, or cucumbers. An overwhelming majority of Swades’ dishes are vegan, and one chef draws on a background in raw-food preparation, entertaining taste buds with nuts and spices that have never known the malicious tickle of a nefarious stovetop flame.