In Nepal, the sprawling summits and snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas backdrop Lumbini, one of four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. In Baltimore, simmering curries and spice-laden sauces permeate the atmosphere at Lumbini Restaurant. This bouquet of savory scents dances over crisp white tabletops and drifts to the edges of an elegant dining room, which deepens with the broad landscape mural that guides glances along an outer wall.
Creamy or spicy sauces daub charcoal-roasted chicken, tandoor-barbecued lamb, or stir-fried jumbo shrimp. Veggie entrees blend the same rich sauces over pumpkin, baked eggplant, chickpeas, or house-made cheese. With each meal, diners dig in with classic copper utensils and cover laps with maroon napkins. For parties and events, a private floor accommodates groups celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or the successful forging of a college degree.
At Dancing Ganesha, a comfortable, modern atmosphere and breeze patio complement a varied menu of traditional Indian cuisine, including tandoori chicken and paper-thin dosa crêpes. Exotically spiced plates, such as lamb vindaloo and saag paneer, arrive at polished wooden tables, which are illuminated by the restaurant's elegant built-in ceiling lights and elephants holding candles with their trunks. Dancing Ganesha also holds its “karma” happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, during which diners can order $5 appetizers, $2 tap drinks, and half off anything else at the bar.
Between the traditional eats and visual treats of Darbar, each guest’s culinary escape stimulates the senses with delicious sights and pretty smells. A varied menu includes exotic staples such as chicken tikka masala ($14.95) and fresh-baked naan ($2.25+). Vegetarians savor the popular aloo gobi, featuring potato and cauliflower doused in onions, tomatoes, and spices ($12), and fish fanatics feast on the tandoori salmon ($17.95). Instead of chewing on a fine china set, visitors seeking to sample a broad selection of dishes can flock to the daily lunch buffet ($9.95 on weekdays; $11.95 on weekends).
Kabab Stop is a small, casual eatery offering a menu saturated with traditional Indian favorites. Ignite ingestion with marinated tandoori chicken wings—delicious dunks of colorful meat barbecued and prepped for deep diving into a pool of refreshing mint yogurt sauce ($6.25)—or indulge in the paneer tikka wrap, where homemade Indian cheese's true potential is brought out by the nurturing nudge of yogurt, garlic lemon juice, and ginger marinade before being cocooned in flat flour bread with green peppers, onion, and carrot ($7.25). Otherwise, stage a Bollywood mouth musical with the rich, tomato-based chicken tikka masala ($11.95) or the lamb curry ($12.95). A plethora of vegetarian entrees, such as vegetable korma ($9.95), chana masala ($8.75), and yellow daal ($8.49), makes it easy for herbivores to meet one another without resorting to the complicated vegetarian handshake.
The close-knit family culture that is so prevalent in India makes its way across the pond to India's, where the Kumar clan—mom and pop Suraj and Sudesh, son Raghu, and daughter Rozy—dish up flavorful curries, stews, and roasted meats created in the kitchen by nephew and chef Zeenat Bhanot. They work together to ply patrons with both meaty and vegetarian morsels scented with cardamom, ginger, and fenugreek.
Like the trail of raisins Marco Polo left to find his way back along the Silk Road, the bill of fare spans the subcontinent. South Indian mulligatawny soups and Goan chicken vindaloo mingle with Mughlai butter-based sauces and North Indian Khara Pasanda lamb. These fragrant dishes tantalize noses amid the dining area's impressive art collection of colorful paintings and gilded statues.
Plates at Kabab Hut brim with traditional Bangladeshi dishes including curries, tandoori chicken, and skewered kebabs. A selection of 27 combo meals load these spicy, simmering entrees onto beds of rice along with sides such as fries or naan. The eatery also welcomes families with a kids' menu that reduces each dish to smaller portions without the need to root around for the shrink ray Mom keeps in her purse.