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.
Manjit Singh, known to his contemporaries as a tandoori guru, has captained the kitchen at Tandoor-A-India for 20 years. In that time, he's developed a bountiful menu of Indian cuisine that hinges on aromatic curries and meats marinated overnight before facing the blazing fires of a tandoor oven. Vegetarian options include saag paneer packed with housemade cheese and enough spinach to sate a starving Popeye or the vegetable korma with cashew nuts and a creamy curry sauce. As diners sop up reservoirs of curry with buttery loaves of paratha, they toast the multiple uses of yogurt with frosty, creamy glasses of mango lassi.
The namesake dish at Kabob Curry of India is a feast for two that highlights most of the restaurants specialties: tandoori chicken, a choice of curry, and beef or lamb biryani?all of which represent the restaurant's devotion to northern Indian cuisine. The chefs here have specialized in that type of cooking for more than 30 years, serving an extensive menu that includes several varieties of biryani, curry, and tandoori meats. Of course, there are plentiful vegetarian entrees as well, such as baingan bharta (roasted eggplant) and saag paneer (spinach with cheese and spices), as well as a sizable selection of Indian side dishes and breads, including fresh-baked naan, sweet mango chutney, and the spicy, crispy lentil wafers known as papadum. To help temper the spicy food, Kabob Curry of India serves a selection of Indian and Californian wines, which also saves guests the embarrassment of clinking with empty glasses or, worse yet, reading glasses.
At Akbar Cuisine of India, the tandoors are always busy, whether they're puffing up naan and paratha breads or baking the spices into traditionally prepared lamb and chicken, as well as unusual house specialties. The grilled Chilean sea bass, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, scintillates taste buds with herb-marinated slivers of fish. The unconventional twists on traditional flavors last through dessert, which can include mango cheesecake.
Chef and owner Avinash Kapoor pickles fresh chutneys each day. His staff also gives the pepper-lamb curry a hint of saffron and the prawns an unfounded rumor of coconut. The menu also features coco lamb, chicken tikka masala, and saag paneer. The made-to-order curries, in particular, make ideal diving pools for freshly baked roti.
The chefs at Annapurna meld a variety of authentic herbs and spices with veggie-laden entrees to craft a menu of savory Indian eats. The cheese dosa Annapurna special stuffs its pillowed crepe with a hearty blend of marinated mozzarella cheese, tomato, and cilantro ($8.95), dueling the succulent flavors of the Hyderabadi baingan ka bharta curry—fresh eggplant from the clay oven with an armful of chopped onions, diced tomatoes, and a special spice blend ($9.95). Batter-fried pieces of cauliflower bask in a garlic sauce with tomato accents in the gobi manchurian ($10.95), finishing off appetites with orders of the garlic naan ($3) or two vegetable samosas that barely manage to contain a potato-and-mixed-vegetable mélange within its crispy crusts ($4.50). A cultural immersion from "hello" to "holla back," Annapurna keeps guests cozy with a dining room TV broadcasting a range of Bollywood movies and sports.