When Capital Public Radio reporter Elaine Corn visited Kathmandu Kitchen in 2009, she spoke to two servers—Paritosh and Rosy—who explained the nuances of their native Nepalese cuisine. A small yet diverse country, Nepal draws from distinct culinary influences: Tibet and China to the north and India along the south. As such, diners viewing Kathmandu Kitchen’s menu for the first time are greeted with a cross section of its varied cuisine, which includes Tibetan-style pan-fried noodles, tandoor-cooked chicken tikka masala, and fiery curries seasoned with cumin and garlic. The uninitiated are the lucky ones; Rosy explains that having first-time visitors to the restaurant is one of her favorite things. “If I find a person coming for the first time in this restaurant, I’ll be the happiest person at that moment. Because we feel it’s really important that people from America are valuing us, too, through our food.” Tables clad in white linens and a mural of the Himalayas surround Nepal’s beloved regional dishes, which coalesce perfectly in the form of thali, a tray filled with a harmonious blend of dumplings, flatbread, and lentils crowned with a main course.
Kathmandu Kitchen’s wide spectrum of aromatic and authentic vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and seafood entrees pleases just about every palate. The eatery has earned recognition from a host of local sources, including spots on the Top Five Best Indian restaurants list by CityVoter and the Top 100 list by Local Eats.
Bombay Bar & Grill lures diners with an approachable menu of mildly spiced Indian cuisine that Zagat scored as "very good to excellent." To enhance the flavors of free-range lamb and chicken as well as the housemade cheese, the chefs track down seasonal herbs and vegetables and incorporate them into their ever-changing menu. Skewers of meats and vegetables marinate in yogurt and mustard sauce before being roasted over the tandoor oven's bed of smoldering charcoal, and orders of chicken or lentils simmer in creamy curries.
Colorful, mismatched pendant lights hang from the dining room's ceiling and illuminate the area's bright-red and deep-purple walls. A turquoise-hued bar dominates one side of the restaurant, tempting guests with its selection of Indian beers and its bartenders who look like they need to hear a good joke. Belly dancers occasionally stop by and amp up the cultural atmosphere.
Previously located in Natomas, Mati's Indian Eats' newly-opened location in Midtown invites diners to gaze over a menu of ready-made dishes, order at the counter for quick service, and consume their cuisine indoors or on a covered outdoor patio. Diners silence hunger rumblings with hot samosas ($2.99 for three), carrots, peas, and potatoes in a pastry bundle more exciting to open than a money-wrapped birthday present. Large combination plates ($8.99 for meat; $7.99 for vegetarian) with rice afford molars a variety of entree options, and a meal for two ($19.99 for meat; $16.99 for vegetarian) satisfies dining duos with any three sides, three samosas, two naans, and rice. Chicken tikka masala comprises morsels of chicken breast baked in a tandoori Easy Bake oven, then slathered in a sweet and moderately spicy tomato-cream sauce. Gluten-free and vegetarian options abound, including the palak paneer's creamy spinach with homemade cheese cubes. Fans of open-air digestion can wash down meals in the outdoor-seating area with a domestic ($2.99) or imported ($3.99) brew.
The pots-and-pans pilots in Royal India's kitchen skillfully mix savory spices and fresh ingredients to concoct authentic Indian dishes that burst with flavor and variety. Launch your taste buds' trip to India by pitching a tent of garlic naan ($2.25) over a toasty sleeping bag of veggie samosa, stuffed with potatoes and princess-identifying peas ($3.50). A cavalcade of delectable curries like the rogan josh (lamb curry, $12.95) and the boneless-chicken murgh curry ($11.95) are a boon for touring tongues, while specialized seafaring folk can sailor-dive into the tandoori prawns ($14.95). Delicate seasonings adorn the creamed lentil of each dal makhni ($8.25), a prudent choice for leaf-lusters.
Namaste Nepal takes its name and warm ambiance from the reverent Indian greeting, "Namaste," but the piping-hot helpings on each plate transcend cultural and geographic labels. Chinese, Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese recipes contribute to the menu, filling a flavor spectrum that runs from pleasantly tangy to sizzling hot. Each dish is prepped to order using natural ingredients and often prompts speculation as to the size of the kitchen's spice cabinet. Notes of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron tantalize the nose, underlined with the scent of charcoal-roasted meat—chicken, lamb, fish, and shrimp—cooked in the tandoor and marinated in creamy yogurt sauce.
Careful combinations of these herbs and entrees lead to staples such as chicken tikka masala, as well as specialties such as boneless lamb with red chili sauce and tamarind. One of several vegetarian offerings, muttar paneer pairs housemade cheese with green peas, and four types of samosas entice diners to start meals by biting into crispy shells instead of by inconspicuously gnawing the tablecloth. Guests also can peruse well-stocked buffets at lunchtime and order group platters for catered events.