Behind the glass counters of Urbann Turbann stand smiling servers, ready to customize wraps and rice bowls with a slate of traditional Indian dishes. They start with naan and roti breads, made fresh in-house, before wrapping them around tandoori chicken, spicy beef kabobs, pork vindaloo, or karahi paneer—fresh cubes of cheese stir-fried with onions and peppers. Then, they add organic produce to the mix, sprinkling on options such as masala potatoes, lettuce, and jalapenos. Finally, chutneys—such as sweet tamarind, spicy tomato and habanero, or mint and cilantro—are drizzled on top. Customers can opt for white or brown rice instead of wraps, and add chai or mango lassis to their meals.
Within Mount Everest Restaurant’s clay tandoori oven, proteins such as lamb, catfish, and chicken slowly simmer in yogurt marinades, releasing the aromas of ginger and garlic into the saffron-walled dining room. In addition to the tandoori-cooked meats and veggies, chefs douse Nepali specials, such as steamed dumplings and goat meat, in piquant curry sauces. On the sunny upstairs balcony, breezes brush away wisps of steam from cups of piping-hot chai and the irons servers use to touch up naan marred by a crease.
Northern Indian cuisine, such as dishes of tandoori lamb chops, lobster-papaya curry, and vegetable masala, dots the various tables stacked inside Khana Peena Indian Cuisine, an eatery reminiscent of not only an Indian curry house, but also a French bistro and American brasserie. Diners devour tandoori platters at linen-topped tables in the formal dining room or keep an eye on the open kitchen while seated at the curved copper bar. They can also enjoy a meal tucked away with a loved one inside a curtained-off, private room that boasts pillow seating and complete control over the land of Oz.
The walls at Currylicious exude the same orange and yellow hues as saffron and turmeric, which flavor its traditional Indian dishes. Appetizers include hearty veggie samosas and the kachumar salad, an intermingling of fresh garden veggies, herbs, and lime juice. Entrees such as chicken shahi korma and lamb karahi cool down spice with infusions of yogurt sauce and side helpings of naan. During pleasant weather, diners can sit outside, where they take in Oakland’s scenic landscape, or season their meals with crushed sunshine.
Passersby might be surprised to smell the aroma of curry drifting past the Corinthian columns and looming, arched windows of the former Citibank building, which now houses Namaste Madras Indian Cuisine. Although the restaurant’s owners have updated the building’s 1926 architecture with cherry-wood accents, a tandoor clay oven, and distinctly Indian decor, including bronze elephants and other statuary, the building still retains some of its original charm. While feasting on a fusion of Northern and Southern Indian cuisine, visitors can crane their necks upward to view the building’s original ceiling, whose ornate beams still display quotes by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Paul Bunyan, and other founding fathers.
At Namaste Madras Indian Cuisine’s daytime buffet, diners load their plates with piping-hot helpings before the dinnertime rush, when guests order from a menu of vegetarian and nonvegetarian specialties. Among the restaurant’s culinary gems native to the city of Madras, dosa conquers appetites with crepes fashioned out of fermented lentils and rice flour. Taste buds also awaken to the symphony of spices in traditional curries, biryani rice platters, and boneless lamb cooked in the restaurant’s tandoor clay oven.