India Kitchen—deemed Hartford County's Best Indian Restaurant in 2011 by readers of Connecticut Magazine—piles family-style offerings from North and South India onto its menu, concocting entrees with imported ingredients and an authentic tandoor oven. Patrons can play games of solitaire with 11 types of traditional breads, such as the raisin- and nut-filled khandari kulcha ($3.95). Jumbo shrimp slip into robes of lemon juice, yogurt, and spices before sizzling in the clay oven, only to emerge as tandoori shrimp ($15.95) or, in rare cases, a single giant shrimp with crime-fighting ambitions and mastery over fire. The chicken chutney wala surrounds poultry morsels with tangy pools of curried mango and mint sauce ($12.95), whereas cashew-and-almond sauce varnishes vegetable-and-cheese dumplings in the vegetarian malai kofta ($11.95).
In addition to its classic menu offerings, India Kitchen hosts a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet seven days a week as well as a Wednesday and Sunday night dinner buffet. Featuring a catering menu for larger groups, the restaurant's chefs portion out party-sized servings from a limited menu that includes naan ($32+) and vegetable biryani ($40+). For heartier mealtimes, they also simmer orders of lamb or fish curry ($90) that can either feed 30–40 people or one insatiable garbage disposal.
The chefs at Saffron Place take spices seriously. Drawing on shelves of cumin, curry, fresh ginger, and garlic, they craft each dish individually to account for each person's preferred level of spiciness, be it mild to smoking hot. The individual preparation of each order ensures that their traditional north Indian and Bengali dishes arrive at tables still steaming from the stove or easily startled dragons. Servers carry goat curry, chicken tikka masala, and vegetarian platters to tables or customers waiting for takeout orders.
Glowing sconces line the crimson and cream walls inside Namaste India, where traditional Indian dishes adorn linen-topped tables and fill the air with spiced aromas. Marinated lamb, chicken, and seafood slumber inside a clay tandoor oven until they're mildly smoky and tender throughout, while other proteins and vegetables steep in rich curry sauces, aptly scooped up with fresh-baked naan bread or ladled over delicate basmati rice. Patrons can wash down meals with sweet, salted, or mango-flavored lassi drinks, or snatch a classic dessert such as gulab jamun—deep-fried milk dumplings that are soaked in syrup and delivered to tables via an air gun.
When China invaded Tibet, Thondup and Dolma Tsering's family escaped to India, and the two children enrolled in school for Tibetan children. They graduated and eventually moved to the United States in 1997, where they founded a business that would celebrate their culture: Lhasa Cafe. Today, as they celebrate the 78th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, chef Tenzin Tsewang leads the staff at the restaurant, and Thondup and Dolma can still be found helping out around their authentic Tibetan restaurant on weekends. In the kitchen, chef Tenzin and Namdol cook all dishes to order and make dumplings in-house from scratch; they use only fresh ingredients and refuse to use MSG or decorative glitter.
The staff follows recipes according to the Tibetan culinary tradition, which incorporates subtle seasoning and a lot of ginger, garlic, and the emma peppercorn. There’s also an emphasis on yak meat, which is lean and low-cholesterol and tastes comparable to beef. It takes center stage in dishes such as traditional mo-mo dumplings, pan-fried noodle dishes, and stews. Also on the menu: vegetable dumplings, vegetarian noodle soups, and lamb and chicken curries.
The aromas of Indian and Himalayan spices mingle in the kitchen at Royal Masala Restaurant and Bar, where chefs simmer curries and roast lamb and prawns in a tandoor. Guests dive into specialties such as flavorful biryanis, creamy chicken tikka masala, and vegetarian stuffed naan. They savor these dishes in an elegant, comfortable dining room with brick walls and a central chandelier.
At Mae Kong Thai—a restaurant named after the river that separates Thailand and Laos, they serve up the foods of their homeland. Mouthwatering aromas drift from Mae Kong Thai's kitchen, emerging from pans of duck stir-fry with Thai herbs and spices and coconut-milk curries flavored with lemongrass and sweet basil. Diners at the BYOB restaurant might also opt for a plate of pad thai or simmering pho, pairing the meal with a glass of thai iced tea with freshly squeezed lime. Dishes can be made with seafood, such as red snapper, or their choice of meat, and they also feature a variety of vegetarian dishes with colorful, fresh vegetables.