Amid the golden glow of orange hanging lights, Manas Indian Cuisine celebrates India’s rich cultural heritage with a menu of exotically spiced traditional dishes. Chefs stir up house-made chutneys and yogurts, yielding savory sauces easily sopped up with sides of fresh-baked naan and poori bread. Crispy starters sizzle in 100% vegetable oil devoid of cholesterol or trans-fat, and the spiciness of curry-laden lamb, seafood, and chickpea dishes can be customized to each diner’s request. A selection of beers, cocktails, and wines by the glass or bottle cools tongues without flash-freezing dessert in liquid nitrogen.
Chef Bhupender Singh's menu features popular Indian dishes, which are all made fresh daily and incorporate a delicate balance of spices. A bevy of dishes, such as vegetarian and chicken curries, saag paneer, and chicken tikka masala, can rest their tastes atop a bowl-sized serving of basmati rice ($5.95). Or sidle up to two dishes served with basmati rice or a salad on a combo plate ($7.95). The tandori chicken platter features tender chicken marinated in yogurt and spices, then roasted in Saffron's tandor oven ($9.95), and hot samosas ($1.95) and plain or garlic naan ($0.95) play sidekick to the mealheroes. For cleansing spice-sodden palates, chai tea ($2.75) and fresh mango lassi ($2.95) can be swished around mouth chambers. Saffron also boasts a chutney bar full of homemade chutneys and hot chilies, allowing anyone to spicy up dishes or coat their arms in an ineffective sunblock.
Named one of the top 10 South Bay ethnic restaurants by the Daily Breeze, Al Watan has served up authentic Indian and Pakistani fare for more than 25 years. Much of the menu is cooked in a traditional clay oven, bringing intense heat to meaty specialties such as the tandoori chicken, expertly spiced to the rich orange hue of a dying sun ($6.99). Lamb, goat, and beef are also offered, cooked in a variety of regional spices and sauces. The naan, also cooked in the clay oven, includes plain ($1), garlic ($1.99), and butter ($2.25) varieties to mop up the savory leavings of the entrees. An extensive vegetable selection ensures that noncarnivores will find something to put in their bellies. Tongues stung by spice can seek succor in the cool sanctuary of the lassis or mango shakes ($2 each).
The founders of Annapurna Southbay chose to name their restaurant after a Sanskrit title for the goddess of the harvest, and it's easy to see why they chose that name for the Annapurna special dosa. Measuring four feet in length and spanning almost an entire table, this is just one example of the chefs' dedication to hearty, bountiful meals. Most of the menu focuses on cuisine from India's four southern states— Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, and Karnataka—uniting the coconut, tamarind, and dried red chilies that characterize so many of the region's dishes. These ingredients add their distinctive flavor and spice to orders of tandoor-roasted chicken, fiery lamb curry, and slow-cooked lentils.
Echoing the restaurant's pastoral inspiration, the dining room boasts a verdant, leaf-like wall pattern above the line of burgundy-hued booths. Blooming flowers adorn the buffet area, and stone tiles from the backyard quarry line a wall near the storefront windows.