The chefs at Tajmahal Indian Restaurant serve up traditional cuisine forged from fresh ingredients and halal meats. Curries come in both mild and spicy varieties, and vegetarian options showcase homemade paneer cheese, lentils, and cauliflower. The kids? menu offers up miniature dosa crepes and chicken nuggets, and the drink list boasts Indian beers, domestic suds, and wines by the glass.
At Niramish, turmeric bursts in sunset hues in curries. Mango and pineapple cut the spice in cool chutneys, and the aromas of ginger and garlic tangle in the air. Those scents drift from clay-oven tandoori dishes, curries, and fried rice. The dishes range from mild to hot and spicy, with mango lassis and buttered naan bread soothing palates still a-tingle from plates of tofu vindaloo cooked south-Indian style.
Master Chef Rudolph Matthews adores the cuisine from his hometown so much, he just can't stop making it. He's passed down this fever to his sons as well. At A Taste of the Island Restaurant, his sons Kevin and Dashaan assist Chef Matthews in dishing up authentic Jamaican food. They make dishes such as curry goat and brown stew chicken fresh every day, not photocopied from a photocopy. One specialty, the jerk chicken, gets soaked in traditional spices before being flame-grilled.
At first, Tin Drum Asia Café's rapid service and bright decor evoke the aromatic street stands of Hong Kong, where founder Steven Chan ate throughout his childhood. The traditional ambiance is no accident—the franchise's name also harks back to a bygone era, when a tin drummer would awaken citizens and regale them with current events as they ate the day’s first meal. The electronic kiosks dotting the café, however, plunk this traditional scene in the middle of a cyberpunk setting. They allow patrons to customize their orders based on taste preferences and nutritional content, accommodating dietary endeavors such as vegetarianism and weight-loss goals.
This merger of technology and urban convention reflects a penchant for edgy ideas that also affects the menu. Items inspired by the culinary techniques of Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand share space in the savory catalog, taking the form of street tacos, soups, and mango chicken, a take on the general tso's staple that's sweeter than a syrup-soaked army helmet. Music is the final ingredient that charges the atmosphere. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it typically plays at an energizing 120 beats per minute and was a factor in attracting the café's initial college crowds.
Chandeliers illuminate red, tufted booths and draped walls replete with golden Buddhas, Middle Eastern art, and woven-wood panels. Such touches earned Tantra an "Extraordinary-to-Perfection" decor rating from Zagat and OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Award for romantic restaurant. The eatery also received high praise for its service and food. Drawing from his training at the Culinary Institute of America, chef Dwyer caramelizes scallops in a basil rub, grills ostrich filets, and stuffs pork tenderloins with quince and fennel, using these distinctive combinations to bring out unexpected flavors and baffle blindfolded taste testers. On the first Tuesday of every month, these dishes couple with tango dancing to add an extra layer of romance and spontaneity to dinner dates.
In naming Himalayan Spice one of 2013's best new restaurants, Atlanta magazine implored its readers to order the momo, the restaurant's famed steamed dumplings and perhaps the snack most worthy of being called Nepal's national dish. Stuffed with either veggies or chicken, these dumplings arrive alongside gingery house-made tomato achar sauce. But they're only the most familiar of the Nepalese specialties available at Himalayan Spice, appearing alongside lentil patties, noodles, and bountiful thali platters starring goat or lamb stew. Creative Loafing Atlanta found the cuisine "not so much over-the-top spicy as it is well-spiced," complementing the "comfortable and colorful atmosphere."
Sujit and Dilip, the pair of friends who opened Himalayan Spice, hail from Nepal, but they also make room on their menu for plenty of Indian dishes too, including garlic- and basil-flavored chicken kabobs baked in a tandoor oven and served on sizzling platters. This side of the menu isn't just there to supply more familiar flavors, though: it spans buttery Northern Indian dishes as well as less commonly seen vegetable dishes with sauces based around coconut milk, onions, and even pineapple.