Cumin

**** (4 stars)

This wonderfully aromatic restaurant is well named.

The menu offers a wide range of classic Indian dishes, some with a twist. For example, the naan bread is very thin, almost like flatbread, but with a bubbly crisp crust around the edge. We had the garlic version, and it was some of the best I’ve had. Because of its thinness, it wasn’t too filling, yet made a great scoop for picking up sauce.

We tried three entrees. The shrimp saag was rich and had a good spinach taste amidst the spices, but the strong flavors made the inclusion of shrimp pointless. Next time I would get it without any protein.

Chicken Madras was extremely creamy, and the chicken was moist and succulent. I hadn’t had this dish before, and really enjoyed it.

But by far the best was the lamb korma, not so much because of the lamb (which was fine, but not tender and succulent like the chicken) but because of the wonderfully complex flavors in the korma sauce, one of the best versions I’ve tasted.

The meal starts with a basket of papadums and two sauces, mint, and tamarind. The mint sauce was a bit thinner than some, and I like more cilantro in mine, but the tamarind sauce was outstanding, almost like fresh cherries in its fruitiness. Very different from the dark, cloying versions served most places.

Service was extremely friendly and helpful. There are a large number of nice wines by the glass.

The place is cozy and upscale, and the cooking smells waft down the street. For a fine meal, just follow your nose to Cumin.

Cumin
1414 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 342-1414
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cumin-chicago

Turmeric Indian Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a passable Indian restaurant. The $10 lunch buffet has quite a few offerings, however they tend to run out late in the lunch hour, a measure of the fact that ingredients are not being freshened. Service seemed a bit amateurish, but late lunchtime on a Sunday with only a couple of tables probably means the first string servers are not on. Not worth a special trip, but certainly an okay choice if in the area.

Turmeric Indian Restaurant
2300 Lehigh Avenue
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 730-5182
http://www.yelp.com/biz/turmeric-indian-restaurant-glenview

Jaipur

***** (5 stars)

Wow, the lunch here is a fantastic experience and value. For under $20 you get table service of fresh delicious food that changes from day to day. When we visited we received virtually everything we would have ordered from the menu: samosa, tandoori, masala, korma, saag, lentils, garlic naan. We could have easily spent $100 on this ala carte. And if you finish a dish they just bring more. It’s the variety of a buffet without the warming tray staleness. Service was friendly and attentive. We’ll definitely be back for another sampling.

Jaipur
847 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 526-3655
http://www.yelp.com/biz/jaipur-chicago

Aashirwad Indian Restaurant

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**** (4 stars)

I’m wary of Indian buffets because they tend to get tired as they sit. Not here. There are eight different ho items to choose from, and they are all super fresh, with top notch ingredients. I happened to go two days in a row, and all eight items were different! I really appreciate that variety. I wouldn’t hesitate to go for dinner and order ala carte, as I liked everything I tried.

Aashirwad Indian Restaurant
5748 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-9830
http://www.yelp.com/biz/aashirwad-indian-restaurant-orlando

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen

***** (5 stars)

Amazing decor, and great food. I love being able to get Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine all in one place. Favorites were the summer rolls, samosas and short rib vermicelli bowl. The two or three course lunch is a great deal. It was our server, Jordan’s, first day, and she did an amazing job.

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 552-9988
http://www.yelp.com/biz/rocksugar-pan-asian-kitchen-los-angeles-2

Saffron Indian Cuisine

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**** (4 stars)

Three years have passed since I first tried Saffron, and it has definitely improved. The ugly display case at the back is gone, and the food quality is top notch. They serve an excellent lunch, with well-seasoned versions of all the standards such as korma, shakuti and tikka masala. Lunch comes with an excellent samosa, rice, soup, and a rice-based dessert, plus papadums and naan bread. Service is efficient, although it takes a while to serve everyone in large parties due to limitations in the kitchen.

I’m less enthusiastic about Sunday brunch, which is a buffet, and suffers from the usual buffet food quality issues.

Saffron Indian Cuisine
7724 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 674-8899
http://www.yelp.com/biz/saffron-indian-cuisine-orlando-2

Raga Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

After a good, but not inspired lunch, I returned for dinner and was quite impressed. The lemon grass chicken appetizer had a delightful sear to the outside, but was extremely moist and tender. Probably the best chicken tikka-like dish I’ve had, and the price was very reasonable. The Kachumber salad was also great if you like lime, as I do. Mushroom Jalfreezi were fabulous: many layers of flavor, succulent and piquant. Vegetable korma was also good. The bread sampler was fun, but I think garlic naan is the way to go in the future. The restaurant was very busy on a Saturday night, but service was still very attentive. The long narrow room across the front is my favorite spot, because it’s quite, and you can watch the tourists down on Sand Lake Road. I’d have to say this place has edged out Kohinoor and Memories of India as best Indian food in Orlando, because it has more complexity, and more of that London-ish international flair. However I still think Memories of India is probably a better lunch choice because of the assortment that comes with the thalis.

Raga Restaurant
7559 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 985-2900
http://www.yelp.com/biz/raga-restaurant-orlando

Mumbai Indian Grill

**** (4 stars)

This small restaurant offers quite tasty and authentic Indian food, and at least at lunch the prices are quite fair. I had the Chicken Korma. There seems to be some disagreement about what goes into Korma sauce, with some places adding spices that turn it pink or red, while others make the traditional white. This was the pink variety, and it was savory and delicious, and mild as advertised. I love garlic naan bread, so I ordered that, rather than the plain naan that comes with the lunch, and took rice instead with my chicken. Both the rice and the garlic naan were excellent, and the two chutney accompaniments — tamarind and cilantro — were perfect. A tiny salad was as also on the plate, really just some shredded lettuce that might have been lightly dressed, but it actually served well to clear the palate. The two fried bits of smashed and breaded cauliflower aren’t really my thing, but they were good with the chutneys. A lot of food for ten bucks. Service was attentive and friendly. There’s free wifi, too, due to the fact that Starbucks is next door! No complaints, and I’ll be back.

Mumbai Indian Grill
1728 Sherman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 859-2453
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mumbai-indian-grill-evanston-3

Tabla Bar and Grill

***** (5 stars)

Don’t be put off by the somewhat tired looking Days Inn next door. Tabla offers the most sophisticated Indian dining you’ll find in Orlando, and perhaps anywhere in the US. The complexity of each entree is amazing, with gourmet twists on old favorites, and lots of creative surprises. Ask for the avocado and mint sauce to dip your papadums in! Lunch is a particular bargain, with a multi course meal starting at just $7. Desserts are a specialty. The mango tempura with coconut gelato is amazing.

Tabla Bar and Grill
5827 Caravan Ct
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 248-9400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tabla-bar-and-grill-orlando