The recipes at Shish-Kabob Palace have arrived in Philly from Uzbekistan, a land of fertile valleys and roaming cattle. Inspired by the nearby Russian and Middle Eastern culinary cultures, Uzbek cuisine ranges from hearty rice plov to flavorful meat kebabs. The aroma of spiced lamb, chicken, fish, and steak sizzling over a natural oak charcoal grill wafts out into the Shish-Kabob Palace's dining room, where diners can relax over a BYOB tipple or two. In the kitchen, the chefs stuff traditional dumplings with meats and potatoes while keeping pots of borscht cabbage stews and lamb shurpa simmering on the stove. Though the Shish-Kabob Palace whips up an abundance of recognizable favorites such as kebabs and fries, it also extend its culinary expertise to less common specialties such as the Blabber Mouth—a decadent assortment of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and beef tongue from cows with the herd's finest singing voices.
Inside the tandoor ovens at Taj-India, sizzling morsels of paneer melt to a crisp yet tender finish, rows of vegetables on a shish kabob receive intense flavor, and naan stuffed with a range of savory fillings emerges fluffy and ready for the table. The one thing you won't find, however, is meat. That's because the chefs at Taj-India decided to focus on vegetarian culinary traditions of India. They use recipes from numerous regions of India, from the tandoor tradition of the North to the South Indian dosas served with a coconut chutney. To pare down their menu's spiciness without offering replacement taste buds, they also create a range of cooling desserts such as kulfi?an Indian ice cream. More unique flavors can be found as well, such as rose-flavored milk drink made with basil seeds, rice vermicelli, and ice cream.
Indian cuisine made with seasonal ingredients and an American flair.
When to Go: Swing by on a Thursday night if you fancy live sitar and tabla music, but go any other night if you prefer humming your own tunes while you chew.
Inside Tip: The restaurant is BYOB, so pick up your favorite bottle of wine or six-pack of beer before dinner.
Chaat: savory Indian snack food made of potatoes, fried bread, and a spice medley that typically includes dried mango powder, cumin seeds, and black salt.
Paneer: a fresh cheese made from boiling cow's milk or water buffalo's milk and curdling it with whey—the dish dates back to at least 6,000 BC.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Test your crafting skills at All Fired Up (602 Haddon Avenue), a studio devoted to paint-your-own pottery.
After: See what's happening at the Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike), a historic 1930s venue that hosts musical acts and theater performances.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: If you're in Philly for the evening, head to Indeblue's sister location (205 S. 13th Street).
Cherry-colored curtains swoop across the inviting picture windows of Mood Cafe, an Indian restaurant situated on the ground floor of a loft apartment building. Inside, red remains prominent, splashing across walls and framing the restaurant's dark tables. When visitors arrive, those tables transform into stages for colorful arrangements of Indian delicacies, from various forms of fresh naan to chicken, lamb, and seafood entrees. Some dishes, specifically the barbecue tandoori specials, start out in clay ovens, such as the garlic-and-ginger-chicken kebab. Meals conclude on a high note with traditional Indian desserts, such as the carrot-based gajar halwa.
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.
Nirvana Fusion- Indian-Chinese-Thai takes diners on a culinary tour of modern India, its menu overflowing with dishes from India, China, and Thailand. Rather than lick all of these countries on a map, guests can savor chicken masala brimming with grilled chicken or salmon in tandoor, onions, tomatoes, and green peppers, while also digging into Indo-Chinese fried rice, Thai shrimp curry, and Biryani.