There is more to chef Mohammad Rahman’s menu than the staples that diners have come to expect from an Indian restaurant, although crowd favorites do have reserved places. Rahman and his wife, Salma Khanam—who is the restaurant’s maitre d’—incorporate flavors from their homeland of Bangladesh, including fish fry combos and shak bhaji (made with custom-spiced spinach). Halal meats such as fish, lamb, goat, and chicken star in rich curry dishes, nicely accompanied by warm naan fresh from the tandoor oven. The eatery's lunch buffet pits stomachs against a bounty of dishes, piled high with delectables to reward diners who wore their nicest stilettos. Kitchen of India’s environment is warm and romantic, with white tablecloths serving as elegant yet neutral complements to colorful paintings and carved sculptures.
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.
Every morning at Bombay Nights, chef Neel Kamal and his staff grind and prepare fresh spices flown in on microscopic planes from India. These ingredients add a flavorful accent to the restaurant's North Indian cuisine, and can be adjusted to your preferred heat level. The menu pulls off the classics with aplomb, including garlic-topped naan baked in-house and creamy chicken tikka masala. But adventurous visitors can also dive into lesser-known creations such as the fish goani, a dish loaded with cubes of salmon in a coconut-flavored sauce.