"Pretty damn incredible"—the first words that Philadelphia Weekly's Brian Freedman chose to sum up the cuisine at Tashan. Philadelphia magazine's Trey Popp was also wowed by the restaurant's unique culinary balancing act, stating that the food was " …a potential minefield, but executive chef Sylva Senat dances through it without dropping much more than a teaspoon’s worth of his 51-spice arsenal." The Haitian-born chef—who was a James Beard Award semi-finalist in 2012 and 2013 and who is beloved by area food critics and his mother—certainly does his best to help Tashan redefine Philadelphia's Indian food scene.
Drawing from extensive culinary experience—time spent in the kitchens of Trump Hotel Central Park and Buddakan—and traditional Indian cooking methods, chef Senat melds classically Indian flavors with culinary styles from around the globe. His small-plates-focused menus feature inventive takes on familiar dishes, such as organic chicken-vindaloo sausage, tandoori free-range butter chicken, and masala-dusted lobster. The food pairs well with cocktails that also incorporate Indian spices and fruits.
Though chef Senat's cuisine is the star, Tashan's decor has also garnered praise. Designed by New York-based architect and interior designer Winka Dubbeldam, the dining room surrounds visitors with tables made from hand-carved wood, as well as with statues and furnishings from India, Spain, and Mexico. Ebony wood takes on a subtle dark glow, and polished steel accents reflect the low, sensual lighting. The result is a physical space that, according to Brian Freedman, takes on an air of “crepuscular sexiness."
Tendrils of smoke curl slowly up from the ornate waterpipes at Eclipse Hookah Lounge, filling the air with the sweet smell of flavored tobacco. Sourced from the shisha experts at Starbuzz and Al Fakher, the tobacco is the cornerstone of the lounge's laid-back vibe, but the experience goes far beyond a little smoke. Here, overstuffed couches cast in the invitingly dim light of lantern-style wall sconces invite guests to settle in. Although the lounge is a suitable spot for a night of conversation, there are other distractions available; two 60" televisions flicker with lively highlights, and a professional audio system often fills the room with the chilled-out sounds from around the world. Guests can also take advantage of the lounge's affiliation with Kabobeesh, ordering beef tikkah roll sandwiches or chicken gyros from the restaurant ranked number 11 on Forbes magazine's Top 20 Best Eats for the Buck in America list.
Inside the tandoor ovens at Taj-India, sizzling morsels of paneer melt to a crisp yet tender finish, rows of vegetables on a shish kabob receive intense flavor, and naan stuffed with a range of savory fillings emerges fluffy and ready for the table. The one thing you won't find, however, is meat. That's because the chefs at Taj-India decided to focus on vegetarian culinary traditions of India. They use recipes from numerous regions of India, from the tandoor tradition of the North to the South Indian dosas served with a coconut chutney. To pare down their menu's spiciness without offering replacement taste buds, they also create a range of cooling desserts such as kulfi?an Indian ice cream. More unique flavors can be found as well, such as rose-flavored milk drink made with basil seeds, rice vermicelli, and ice cream.
Shere-E-Punjab owner and chef Zail Singh Shergill has more than two decades of cooking experience packed into his apron. Even with all that wisdom, he still counts on those around him—family, especially—to keep the restaurant’s spread fresh and exciting. Zail’s son and Shere-E-Punjab co-founder, Pushpinder Singh, consistently concocts recipes for new dishes—an ongoing effort reflected in the lengthy and varied menu, which includes fresh naan, chicken tikka masala, and barbecue lamb kabobs cooked in the clay tandoor ovens. The restaurant also carries a selection of Indian beers, wines, and cocktails.