Chefs at Little India's four locations infuse authentic Indian dishes with fresh and exotic ingredients, earning Top of the Town awards from 5280 magazine for "a decade running." The culinary creatives concoct a taste-bud-tempting lot of specialty dishes, from the butter chicken to the super-hot lamb madras, which makes taste buds sweat with scantily clad seasonings. Vegetarians can spoon a kaleidoscope of meat-free dishes, including the dahl makhani, lentils cooked with tomato and savory spices. Guests sip mood-enhancing beverages from the bar, and the friendly wait staff places plated Indian delicacies and unplated charades suggestions at their fingertips.:m]]
Every day, the aroma of smoky spices wafts from the imported, wood-fired tandoor ovens at Tandoori Oven’s locations. To a soundtrack of upbeat techno, reggae, and bhangra music imported from UK clubs, servers deliver plates of lamb biryani loaded with basmati rice, bell peppers, cashews, and secret spices alongside mango lassis blended with housemade yogurt. The healthful signature wrap is stuffed with chicken or lamb that’s been marinated for 24 hours in yogurt and spices and then baked in the tandoor oven and wrapped in soft naan with mint chutney and tamarind. Local athletes dine at Tandoori Oven, a sponsor of the TRIbe Triathlon Club, after workouts for meals made to order with lean meats and served in participation trophies.
Mantra's menu infuses modern Indian cuisine with fresh California influences and a bounty of vegetarian fare, resulting in a cast of familiar favorites alongside newfangled flavors. Start with a small plate of scallops marinated in peppercorn and fennel ($12), the vegetarian grape-leaf-wrapped goat cheese ($8), or, for a bright beginning, the cinnamon-stick lamb "lollipops" ($10). Classics such as the chicken tikka masala ($17) take their esteemed place among original entree creations including the chili-marinated pan-roasted sablefish ($22), served over tomato-basil biryani, asparagus, and mozzarella and drizzled with a cardamom and peanut-infused red-curry sauce, or the Rajasthani duck ($22), rubbed with red chili and served with braised Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms. The cinnamon-and-clove-marinated lamb chops "Vinhaleaux" ($22) reforms renegade shepherds, while the paneer "ravioli" ($19), which folds cauliflower, paneer, and cumin into a puff-pastry envelope, pleases vegetarians.
At India Palace, ambrosial Indian aromas waft between turquoise curtains of beads and colorful landscape pictures splashed across the walls. Lunching pairs dig serving spoons into the buffet, arranging steamy fare onto plates alongside towers of soft naan. Between sips of chai teas or creamy mango lassis, chums catch up and fuel high-stakes thumb wars with dishes that range from curry chicken to palak paneer. Garlic naan works double duty as a sauce sponge when diners clear their plates of chicken tikka masala. Dollops of soft-serve ice cream close lunch curtains and cleanse palates with sweetness.
Red-bricked walls and colorful murals of city streets surround the cozy main dining room at Main Street Diner, where a casual crowd noshes hulking portions of comfort dishes from the extensive menu. Starters such as the buffalo blue mozzarella ($4.50) and fried pickles ($4) work tirelessly as palate prep for grippable grub, such as the zesty jalapeño chicken sandwich ($7) and the guacamole-infused California burger ($8.50), each served on a toasty bun. Dairy lovers can brain-freeze romantic moments as they sip from the strawberry milkshake ($3).