The aroma of mint never fails to take Navjot Arora back to his childhood in Jalandhar, Punjab, when he'd spend mornings scouring his family garden for fresh mint leaves. Navjot would triumphantly bring his findings back to the kitchen, where he was allowed to grind the leaves with a pestle for the mint chutney—the most important condiment. He worked alongside his parents, marveling as they nimbly sliced tender goat meat, throwing it against the wall to test for doneness, and thoughtfully tasted spoonfuls of creamy curry from simmering pots.
Though Navjot would go on to study under master Indian chefs at the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels and work for top restaurants in New York, he never forgot the culinary lessons he learned in his family's kitchen. At Chutney Masala, he still hand grinds fresh herbs and spices to bring out their intricate flavors, adding them to sauces lauded by reporters from the New York Times as "superbly complex." The expert chef then folds free-range meat, wild seafood, and local produce into a variety of contemporary and traditional Indian dishes, from spicy lamb curries to fragrant biryani rice.
Navjot's dining room is nearly as intriguing as the flavors in his dishes, with brick walls speckled with photographs from India's mid-19th century Raj era and rustic antique accents. A mounted deer head overlooks the rows of wooden tabletops and cushy green booths, sometimes sneezing when a waft of cumin floats to his nostrils.
In a dining room the 2010 Michelin guide described as "a fresh, modern interior soaked in beautiful, natural light," according to their website, servers at Indian Clove deliver a diverse roster of Indo-Chinese dishes. As patrons sip salted, spiced lassi, daily lunch buffets heap plates with both vegetarian and nonvegetarian entrees. Grilled-chicken tikka and lobster cook inside the traditional clay oven known as a tandoor as chefs with a "serious talent for Indian fare," according to Michelin, prepare classics such as samosas and lamb vindaloo. Drinks and live DJs complement these classic flavors in the bar and lounge, where hanging orange lamps sprout from carefully watered light bulbs to illuminate cocktails.
The chefs at Kulcha Corner fire up a traditional clay oven, in which specialty Kulcha, or Indian-style flatbreads—concocted from flour, salt, yogurt, and milk—bake until golden brown. Servers ferry trays of tandoori kebabs and hot vegetarian curries to tables, where diners can revel in the entrees’ spiciness. The oblong eatery invites patrons to relax at tables for four and gaze toward an HDTV positioned near the back of the venue. Glossily stained wainscoting underscores sconces that emit vectors of romantic yellow light, and a deep-red back wall reminds guests of what would happen if a lipstick truck crashed into a wall.
Aromatic spices perfume the air at Khaja Haleem & Grill as diners sit down to platters of freshly prepared, authentic North Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Hefty portions of biryanis and tandoor-cooked meats and veggies feature marinated chicken, minced mutton, or goat. Vegetarians find their wheelhouse in the selection of six veggie entrees, including fried okra and spicy soup. Seven styles of naan come stuffed with garlic, jalapeños, cheese, or smaller pieces of naan.
Canteen Indian Bistro draws in customers with a lengthy menu of traditional dishes prepared with halal meats, from the chicken malai kebab to lamb chops. The restaurant's BYOB policy allows customers to dine in and supply their own beer or wine, and its carry-out service allows guests to enjoy a meal provided they supply their own home to eat it in.
Unified by their love of skillfully spiced Indian cuisine, the chefs at Amiya craft distinctive menus for their two locations. The Jersey City location's menu features traditional elements such as spicy curries, homemade paneer, and tandoor-roasted lamb and lobster, as well as a selection of Indian-Chinese fusion dishes. The classics from the Parsippany location's menu are joined by creative flavors such as pomegranate-tequila shrimp and wasabi-crusted crab cakes.
Though their cuisine differs, the two spots are linked by an ultralong zipline and their upscale contemporary decor. In Jersey City, crisp white tablecloths pop against warm mango and persimmon walls, and a cushy, curvaceous booth spans two walls. Golden statuettes watch over the Parsippany dining room from small nooks in the walls, and an attached bar and lounge glows bright yellow and blue. Patrons sample cocktails and tapas plates, and on Friday nights hop up to the mic for Bollywood karaoke.