Black-and-white wedding photographs of owner Kayur Popat's parents beam down from Jalsa's walls, a nod to the restaurateur's Indian roots. After all, it was Kayur's family that first proposed he begin serving Indian food at his suburban pizzeria, Friends & Family Pizza Buffet, according to a profile on Philly.com. With the success of that venture—redubbed Bombay Junction & Pizza Buffet—Kayur decided to open a more upscale location downtown. And thus, Jalsa was born.
In the kitchen, a Goa-native chef captains the culinary crew members as they whip up curry sauces and homemade Indian ice cream, and a clay oven glows with tandoori dishes and fresh breads. Indian artwork and dangling chandeliers join the family photos on the walls of the dining room, where plates pair with cups of mango and strawberry lassi on sleek black tables. Strings of white curtains shroud the cushy white booths amid colorful walls and elegant exposed brick. After nightfall, the upstairs transforms into a dance floor where a live DJ spins tunes before turning back into a jukebox at the stroke of two.
The chefs at Zaiaka draw on their knowledge of 1,000-year-old recipes to fill their menu with authentic Indian dishes, which they say helped earn them a 2012 Readers' Choice Gold Award for Best Ethnic Food from Trib Total Media. They cook vegetarian dishes including palak paneer, house-made cheese cubes and fresh spinach cooked in ground spices, and vegetable biryani, the chef's specialty rice entree. Naan bread baked in the eatery’s clay tandoor pairs with rogan josh, lamb cooked in a gravy of aromatic spices. During dinner, the dining area swells with soft music, which is punctuated with the clink of wineglasses full of beverages brought from home. Like a maitre d’ arriving late to work, the dark tables are draped in white tablecloths, and light flutters across the rich tapestries that cover the walls.
At the bottom of Aashiyana Fine Indian Cuisine's chimney sits a construction that has been the tool of Indian chefs for centuries: the tandoor. This traditional clay oven sears meat to its core with super-hot flames, turning chicken a signature bright-red color and transforming wayward snowmen into quivering pools of regret. Chefs drench these succulent morsels of tandoori meat with creamy curries and yogurt-based sauces, which they can customize to each guest’s preferred level of spiciness. Fluffy piles of wild-grain rice or buttery naan flatbread are available to escort entrees to the table, and the restaurant’s BYOB policy invites guests to bring their favorite brew or wine to temper the tingle of spice.
A short flight of stairs splits the dining room neatly in half, amplifying privacy by creating two intimate spaces. Maroon napkins folded into crown-like shapes await diners at each table, ready to flop into laps or adorn heads when the staff spontaneously knights you the Tandoori King.
The cooks at New Amber Indian Restaurant expertly season their Punjabi Indian dishes with a wide range of carefully selected spices. Whether it's marinating chicken in yogurt and freshly ground spices before cooking them in the clay tandoor oven or seasoning shrimp curry, the cooks strive to bring out all the traditional flavors in each dish.
Tulsi Indian Restaurant takes its name from the holy basil plant?an herb celebrated in India for its healing properties and rich aroma. Intense, otherworldy flavors and scents permeate each dish, from tender chicken tikka marinated in paprika and yogurt, to lamb rogan josh cooked in a blend of freshly ground spices. Guests dine on South Asian delicacies of seafood, chicken, and lamb with fluffy naan and roti or feast from the extensive vegetarian selection, with dishes of roasted eggplant, veggie stews, and creamy paneer.
Boneless chicken doused in a buttery cream sauce. Skewered minced-meat kebabs fresh from the tandoor oven. Spinach soaked in a creamy, spicy curry. Led by head chef Syed M. Ahmad, the culinary team at Delhi Kabab House specializes in these North Indian homestyle dishes, which they whip up fresh to order. With handmade art adorning its amber walls, the eatery's softly lit dining room hosts each vegetarian and meat-laden meal. After feasts, guests 18 or older can savor more than 50 flavors of hookah tobacco, such as hazelnut, blueberry pancakes, and even one called Scooby Snax, which visitors presumably receive after they unmask the ghost haunting the tandoor.