Spicy scents waft through the air to greet guests with the aromas and atmosphere of South Asia. The product of more than 25 years of South Asian?cuisine experience, Diya Restaurant, Lounge & Banquet's menu suffuses both meat and vegetarian dishes with potent herbs and spices. Tandoori ovens roast servings of salmon, jumbo shrimp, chicken, and lamb chop. Though fans of Indian cuisine can savor their old standbys, the restaurant has a few tricks up its sleeve as well?burgers tinge pub favorites with exotic spices, and ingredients take on even more flavor through Dumpukth?a technique of slow-roasting dishes over a fire in a tightly-sealed clay pot and seasoning food with specialized herbs and spices. The dining room's decor further strengthens the South Asian feel as bright colors embolden earth-toned walls and match the hues of ambitious side dishes vying for a starring role.
If Cafe Taj’s large stone fountain could talk, the rippling waters would still keep mum, because the restaurant’s authentic Indian cuisine can speak for itself. Warm naan and whole-wheat roti sop up creamy curry sauce from main dishes, and the black tables are loaded down with charcoal-roasted tandoori dishes for pairing with both wine and beer from a fully stocked bar. After sating sugar cravings with rose- and cardamom-scented sweets, patrons can question servers about their catering services or use the dining room’s Romanesque columns to kick off a backflip in honor of an evening well spent.
Bamian Restaurant gained the attention of The Washington Post in 2006 when its traditional Afghan cuisine drew in an Afghan ambassador and embassy staff from Kuwait and Qatar. Plates teem with housemade flatbread prepared in a tandoor oven and kebabs grilled over open flames, earning the restaurant a "very good to excellent" Zagat rating. Vegetarian items include the sautéed pumpkin with yogurt and mint and hummus dusted with paprika.
The interior of Bamian Restaurant is elegantly decorated with leopard-print chairs in the foyer and sparkling chandeliers in the dining room. Gayot describes the restaurant as "large-as-a-barn and gussied up like a deb ready for a coming-out party." The large space includes a full dance floor, which lends itself to hosting large parties, wedding receptions, and rehearsal lunches to practice for dinner.
You might momentarily forget your hunger when you step into Curry Mantra's striking, newly expanded dining room, where vivid Indian artwork speckles the warm orange and yellow walls. Your appetite is reawakened, however, when you peer into the large kitchen window and catch sight of juicy morsels of lamb, salmon, and chicken waiting to be cooked in tandoori ovens. When discussing his decision to install a kitchen window with a food critic Tom Sietsema from the Washington Post, owner Asad Sheikh explained, "I want my customers to see what's going on in the tandoor." He's proud of the work that goes on in his kitchen, which earned Curry Mantra a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2011 and 2012, and Washingtonian Magazine's Best of Fairfax 2013. His chefs pull culinary inspiration from all four corners of India, folding lamb, chicken, and seafood into a wide variety of flavorful curries and fiery vindaloos. To craft their goat biryani rice dish, the chefs use a generations-old recipe passed down to Sheikh from his grandmother, peppering aromatic basmati rice and tender goat meat with saffron and nuts.
Silverware clinks against glass tabletops in the dining room, where diners sip on glasses of wine and creamy mango lassi. Come lunchtime, a buffet table will stretch across the room, lined with silver trays of freshly made dishes. On the weekends, the eatery hosts live music, as traditional flutists and drummers play classical Indian music and the theme from Three's Company upon request.
Fashioned after Jaipur, a gem of Rajasthan, Jaipur Royal Indian Cuisine excites the senses with aromatic spice mixes prepared separately each day for each dish. Among an interior of authentic figurines in elaborate dress and strung beads baring images of vibrantly colored birds, they serve a menu of traditional dishes rooted in North Indian cuisines. That includes rich grilled lamb, chicken, and seafood, as well as complex curries and plenty of fresh vegetarian dishes. They welcome guests to pair such variety of tastes with flavorful beverages such as aam ki lassi, a whipped mango and yogurt drink.
After the success of Bombay Bistro’s first location in Rockville, Maryland, chef K.N. Vinod and partner Surfy Rahman opened the Fairfax eatery in 1995. Like their first restaurant, the new location continues to serve fine Indian cuisine in a setting complete with Indian artifacts and warm colors. Savory dishes such as tandoori salmon and lamb vindaloo have attracted guests such as Madeleine Albright and visiting ministers from India, while a daily buffet attracts rumbling bellies.