Glowing sconces line the crimson and cream walls inside Namaste India, where traditional Indian dishes adorn linen-topped tables and fill the air with spiced aromas. Marinated lamb, chicken, and seafood slumber inside a clay tandoor oven until they're mildly smoky and tender throughout, while other proteins and vegetables steep in rich curry sauces, aptly scooped up with fresh-baked naan bread or ladled over delicate basmati rice. Patrons can wash down meals with sweet, salted, or mango-flavored lassi drinks, or snatch a classic dessert such as gulab jamun—deep-fried milk dumplings that are soaked in syrup and delivered to tables via an air gun.
Masala Wok's expansive menu features an assortment of Asian and Indian culinary concoctions crafted with fresh veggies, meats, and spices. Journeys down the Spice Road can embark with an appetizer of zesty battered chicken lollipops, an Indian take on wings ($4.99 for four, $8.49 for eight). Palates access subcontinental delicacies such as the spicy southern curry with red-pepper-bedecked fish, shrimp, chicken, lamb, or paneer in a mustard-coconut sauce ($8.99) or head for steamy Southeast Asian environs with the Thai-influenced spicy basil plate ($8.50 for chicken, $8.35 for paneer, $9.50 for shrimp or fish). Chefs stir-fry orange chicken with scallions and carrots in orange sauce ($8.50) and whittle skewers from stolen sorcerers' wands for the enchanting chicken malai kebab—yogurt-marinated boneless chicken kebabs grilled with cheese, spices, and cilantro and served with rice and naan ($8.99).
Purple tablecloths bloom with vases of cut flowers as petal-like fans whir overhead. Their regal hue symbolizes one of Zaroka Bar & Restaurant's guiding principles: that guests are akin to royalty. Inside the dining room, traditional Indian meals unfold amid ornately carved picture frames, vibrant music, and colorful conversations. To explore India's nooks and crannies, chefs craft dishes from far-flung regions such as Punjab, Gujarat, and Bengal. House specialties range from spiced chicken kebabs baked in a clay oven to curried shrimp simmered in a coconut pot. The kitchen also prepares an array of vegetarian dishes, such as savory garlic naan and three types of lentil dal. An ideal dessert or palate cleanser, the rosewater lassi teems with sweet, floral hints, like a game of charades with a potpourri sachet.
India Kitchen—deemed Hartford County's Best Indian Restaurant in 2011 by readers of Connecticut Magazine—piles family-style offerings from North and South India onto its menu, concocting entrees with imported ingredients and an authentic tandoor oven. Patrons can play games of solitaire with 11 types of traditional breads, such as the raisin- and nut-filled khandari kulcha ($3.95). Jumbo shrimp slip into robes of lemon juice, yogurt, and spices before sizzling in the clay oven, only to emerge as tandoori shrimp ($15.95) or, in rare cases, a single giant shrimp with crime-fighting ambitions and mastery over fire. The chicken chutney wala surrounds poultry morsels with tangy pools of curried mango and mint sauce ($12.95), whereas cashew-and-almond sauce varnishes vegetable-and-cheese dumplings in the vegetarian malai kofta ($11.95).
Featuring a catering menu for larger groups, India Kitchen's chefs portion out party-sized servings from a limited menu that includes naan ($32+) and vegetable biryani ($40+). For heartier mealtimes, they also simmer orders of lamb or fish curry ($90) that can either feed 30–40 people or one insatiable garbage disposal.
Guests at Bhojan⎯Hindi for "homestyle meal"⎯share platters of Gujarati and Punjabi cuisine, famed for its emphasis on vegan and vegetarian dishes. Stuffed with lentil dals and chickpea fritters, the menu has been praised by the Village Voice for its authenticity: "There are several Gujarati snacks here that can be found only at a handful of other New York restaurants," the reviewer noted. Patrons can dip puffy fresh breads into paneer- and eggplant-based entrees, or snack on small plates and chaat—traditional street-cart fare. And besides catering to vegetarian and health-conscious diets, the menu is also completely kosher, bringing together more culinary traditions than a U.N. potluck dinner.
The cuisine may be homestyle, but the decor is anything but. Spherical pendant lamps dangle from a ceiling lined with shiny copper woks, giving the dining room a modern vibe. In keeping with its upscale appearance, Bhojan's 2010 opening was high-profile enough to be noted by the New York Times and Grub Street.
Mumbai Rasoi's chefs adorn authentic Indian cuisine with a flurry of exotic spices and house-made ingredients. They enlist the roasting powers of a traditional tandoor to grill chicken dishes, and swathe shrimp and lamb in spicy curries. They also construct a multitude of vegetarian-friendly entrees, uniting a rainbow of ingredients ranging from red kidney beans to black lentils to holographic rutabagas.