Every day, the aroma of smoky spices wafts from the imported, wood-fired tandoor ovens at Tandoori Oven’s locations. To a soundtrack of upbeat techno, reggae, and bhangra music imported from UK clubs, servers deliver plates of lamb biryani loaded with basmati rice, bell peppers, cashews, and secret spices alongside mango lassis blended with housemade yogurt. The healthful signature wrap is stuffed with chicken or lamb that’s been marinated for 24 hours in yogurt and spices and then baked in the tandoor oven and wrapped in soft naan with mint chutney and tamarind. Local athletes dine at Tandoori Oven, a sponsor of the TRIbe Triathlon Club, after workouts for meals made to order with lean meats and served in participation trophies.
With three food trucks and a brick-and-mortar locale, CurryUpNow dishes up the street fare of India with creatively presented, colorful dishes. The restaurant menu comprises traditional street fare and creative takes on classics. Chefs turn the fillings of the deconstructed samosa—a popular original dish—inside out before topping it with garbanzo-bean curry and chutney-tamarind sauce to be scooped up by four mini samosas. They craft fusion dishes, folding chicken tikka masala made with 100 percent organic white chicken into burritos, and piling two- and three-item thali platters with curried eats. The menu's offerings include vegan options, and most can be made with a choice of chicken, ground halal beef or vegetarian options: paneer—a traditional farmers' cheese—and aloo, or potatoes. The entire repertoire is medium spiced, and brave-tongued people can request it spicy, or kick it up all the way to Desi hot, which infuses dishes with ghost peppers, habanero, and volcano tears.
Michelin-Starred Restaurant | California-Indian Fusion | Located in a Victorian House | Small-Batch Wines | Artistic Presentations
What to Drink: The wine list spotlights small producers from around the globe. One of those producers is the restaurant’s co-owner Shoshana Wolff, who helps her dad run Wolff & Father wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
While You’re Waiting: Feast your eyes on the vintage surroundings. The restaurant is located in a Victorian house built in 1906, and each of its three dining rooms is decorated with vibrant touches such as bright turquoise walls, abstract art, and glittering chandeliers.
The Chef: Sachin Chopra draws on his Indian heritage and French training while cooking his eclectic cuisine, which he doesn’t consider limited to one global style. All Spice is his first restaurant, making its Michelin star all the more impressive.
Chaat: savory Indian snack food made of potatoes, fried bread, and a spice medley that typically includes dried mango powder and cumin seeds.
Madras: a spicy curry that’s red in color due to a heavy dose of chili powder.
Bombay Garden's ties to authentic Indian cuisine run deep. Originally born in the small Indian town of Khanoor, owner Balkar Tamber grew up learning how to cook alongside his mother. That knowledge especially came in handy when he embarked on his first professional culinary foray, a roadside eatery in the Punjab region of India. Once he immigrated to the US in 1990, he brought along more than a handful of those family recipes and opened his first Bombay Garden restaurant fueled by a deep love for the rich and diverse culinary traditions of his homeland.
The menu features a selection of iconic Indian dishes from virtually every corner of India. On one page of the menu, delicate crepe-like dosas made from fermented lentil and rice flour evoke the flavors of India’s southern regions. And when it comes to northern Indian recipes, the chefs bake skewers of yogurt-marinated chicken and other meats in a traditional tandoor—a cylindrical clay oven heated by a well-trained dragon. The same blends of flavorful spices that perk up Balkar’s chicken, lamb, and seafood dishes also appear throughout the restaurant's vegetarian entrées: homemade cottage cheese and green peas meld in a spiced gravy sauce and split lentils benefit from the chefs’ one-two punch of garlic and ginger.
As the product of husband-wife team Emily and Anjan Mitra, DOSA is a natural marriage of their distinct life experiences. Emily spent years working in the health-food industry, and Anjan grew up amid the rich culinary culture of South India. In that spirit, the menu focuses on regional South Indian dishes built from organic, sustainable, and biodynamic ingredients. Their approach has been very well received: the award-winning menu has been a Michelin Bib Gourmand pick since 2009, and one of San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants since 2006. Many of DOSA’s chefs are like Anjan, hailing from South Indian regions such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This gives them a natural ease in preparing dishes such as a Tamil lamb curry with free-range meat, fennel, and caramelized onions. Of course, their specialty are dosa, rice-and-lentil crepes stuffed with anything from spicy mashed potatoes to pickled mango relish. 7x7SF has put DOSA’s paper masala dosa, a crispy crepe filled with potatoes, onions, and cashews, on their list of 100 Things to Try Before You Die multiple times. But DOSA is not just beloved for its food. The 14-page spirits list features bottles from around the world, and the craft cocktails echo the food with their use of Indian spices and house-made ingredients. Fenugreek simple syrup flavors a Winter Smash with bourbon, lemon, and mint, and the restaurant’s own private-label gin merges with a fig- and cardamom-infused tonic for a twist on a classic. Beyond their contemporary takes on cuisine, the restaurant is rooted in myriad eco-friendly practices, including energy-efficient appliances, a solar water-heating system, and grass-fed tables.
The chefs at Tandoor on Haight aren’t trying to reinvent Indian cuisine. Instead, the pair of brothers stick closely to tradition when making their North Indian dishes with a splash of Pakistani flavor, using recipes handed down in their family for three generations. Inside their tandoori oven, they cook up halal meats such as tiger prawns, lamb rubbed with house spices, and spring chicken marinated in yogurt, imparting all of the dishes with a subtle smoky flavor as if they’d been sitting next to a lit birthday cake all day. Guests can scoop up the spice-laden curries with the sesame naan, and even customize dishes to their desired level of spice tolerance. Meals can be served in individual portions or family style, for groups who want to get a chance to taste a variety of dishes. And to cool the spices even further, staff serve up chilled mango lassis, a variety of Indian beers, and local Californian wines.