Indian and Nepalese
Akbar has the feel of a secret place. It's not, of course. The yellowish awning over the Mount Vernon basement space has been a fixture for more than 25 years. They know what they're doing here: it's quiet inside, elegant, almost, and the staff will make you feel like a regular even on your first trip. Keema naan to start (lamb-stuffed flatbread), then tandoori shrimp, and/or anything korma, with that rich coconut sauce that makes everything tender and smooth.
The Ambassador Dining Room is one of few restaurants in the city that makes you feel like you're dining at a pastoral estate. The tranquility of the restaurant is partly due to its Tuscany-Canterbury location. When the weather's nice, the glass terrace doors are opened on to a well-kept garden. Far from pretentious, though, guests are a diverse set, dressed in everything from their Sunday best to jeans. The optimum time to go is on Sunday for brunch. Northern Indian treats like samosas are paired with brunch favorites and bottomless mimosas, all served buffet style.
Though the décor of this little rowhouse restaurant is a bit bland, that's certainly no reflection of the food that comes out of the kitchen. Sauces are the hallmark of really good Indian food, and at this Little Italy mainstay rich, spicy masalas and vindaloos, and tangy chutneys and raitas dress tender cubes of chicken, beef, or lamb. Creamy, sweet kormas complement peas and veggie dumplings. And fiery curries bring out the best in fish and shrimp. A winner every time we visit.
What does modern, innovative Indian cooking taste like? A lot like what you'll find at Indigma: open-face samosas, rich three-cheese saag paneer, naan spiked with ginger. Portions can appear small, but their richness often makes them more than filling. The snug dining room with its swaths of red and gold fabric gets points for encouraging romance.
This Mount Washington pit-stop offering simple, hearty Indian food is better for carry-out than a sit-down in its austere restaurant. Order containers of perfect jasmine rice, rich sauces, moist chicken and lamb, and foil-wrapped chewy naan. Entrées come with a fresh vegetable salad of chick peas, peppers, and onions--a nice accompaniment to the creamy sauces and tasty carbs.
Nepalese cuisine is supposed to be like a cross between Indian and Afghan--two other choices bountiful along this stretch of Charles Street. Kumari does most of its work in the tandoor, or creamily-kormaed, very Indian style. The crispy breads are a real treat, and if the service can be a little slow, it's always friendly. While you're waiting, you can enjoy a beer and observe the street scene outside the big front window.
If you're in the Lexington Market area and need a break from the bustle of downtown, step into MemSahib. You'll feel like you've been transported miles from the city streets and apocalypse cautioners outside when you enter the opulent, tranquil dining room of this Indian restaurant. The lunch buffet offers a wide variety of dishes from the usual chicken tikka masala to the unexpected, like stuffed okra. Definitely get the kheer, rice pudding with cardamom and almonds for dessert.
One of many fine Indian restaurants in Mount Vernon, Mughal Garden doesn't get much love. Sure the interior felt dated years ago, but if you're going to eat the food instead of soak up the ambience, Mughal has a lot to recommend it. The lunch buffet, for example, offers a wider and more consistent variety than its competitors, ensuring that everyone in a large party--say the editorial staff of a newspaper--can find something delicious to eat.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201