Simi's centerpiece is a large hanging stained-glass art piece––a woman in full Sari playing a sitar amid a field of blossoming flowers. Zooming out, the restaurant complements the art with verdant flowing vines and a rustic gray stone partition. Amid these striking accents, tables line with dinner entrees of lamb curry, zesty seafood masala, and boneless chicken fired in a traditional clay-oven tandoor. Diners may also grab a bite during Simi's popular lunch buffet, which has been dazzling San Antonio for more than 20 years.
“Mela” means “gathering” or “fiesta” in Sanskrit, a fitting name since those are the kind of events that the restaurant facilitates with its traditional and very sharable feasts. The housemade breads, which range from flat naan to balloon-like poori, whet appetites for seasoned-to-order entrees, ranging from mild to spicy depending on the diner’s palate and how convincing they want to be when fake-crying. The eatery’s tandoor, a traditional clay oven, roasts dishes such as chicken tikka masala and tandoori shrimp; alternatively, curry dishes such as the spicy lamb vindaloo complement kebabs and succulent chunks of meat or veggies sitting atop beds of basmati rice infused with cashews, raisins, and saffron. A full bar rounds out the menu with domestic and imported beer, wine, and liquor that can wash down à la carte meals, buffet-style lunches served seven days a week, or buffet-style dinners that delight palates Sunday–Wednesday.
Chef and owner Aparna Nayani constantly seeks to innovate, telling the Austin-American Statesman in 2010, “I take world cuisine and try to incorporate Indian flavors into it…. It’s a never-ending process.” Although she prominently features iconic Indian dishes such as curries and tandoor-baked naan, she also experiments with Italian, American, Mexican, Thai, and creole influences. Quesadillas brim with chicken tikka; housemade jalapeño-cream sauces perk up bites of penne; and filets of salmon emerge in a sheath of spicy chili paste. When she isn't forging batches of food for special events or NATO's annual eating competitions, Aparna occasionally leads cooking classes for students looking to learn more about her recipes.
Glowing chandeliers scatter light across the sheer copper drapes that frame Pakwan Restaurant's 96-seat dining room, which is sheathed in spice-hued fabrics suggestive of the sumptuous cuisine emerging from the kitchens. Guests dig into aromatic plates of authentic Indian cuisine, from traditional curries and tandoori to village-style vegetable dishes and kebabs marinated in yogurt and special spices. Executive chef Laila Prasla and her crew utilize traditional Indian cooking methods, stirring authentic ingredients such as desi ghee—clarified butter—into entrees before sliding them onto hand-crafted copper vessels and sending them off to the dining room. Behind a black-topped bar, Pakwan's resident mixologist concocts taste-bud-tantalizing "molecular" cocktails, which offer a fresh spin on traditional bar drinks. Those opting for a bar beverage will also be gifted with four complimentary snacks to prep human food processors for main-course meals.
Tarka serves fresh, fast & flavorful Indian food, freshly whipped lassis & select wine & beer. Dine In, Take Out & Delivery Via Dine on Demand. City of Austin recognized Green Business for our eco-friendly packaging & recycling. Online & Mobile Ordering & our very own iPhone App make getting food from us a snap.