Two relatively new Indian restaurants are offering a deliciously varied reprieve in the culinary glut of Old City.
Compared to other area eateries, Indian Grill, 114 Chestnut St., has a basic, almost-austere aesthetic. But the menu shines as brightly as the restaurant’s lighting.
On a recent visit, the mirchi pakora ($5.75) started the meal on a spicy note.
The cheese-stuffed hot peppers were perfectly crispy and hot. The meat samosas ($5.95), stuffed with ground chicken, were robust in size and seasoning, making the familiar dish stand out.
Among the entrées, the shrimp vindaloo ($17.75) had a pleasantly aggressive level of spice. The tender shrimp were stellar enough on their own, but the juices begged to be soaked up by basmati rice and butter-garlic naan ($3.50).
MANGO SHRIMP AT MAKHANI
A couple blocks away, Makhani is specializing in northern Indian cuisine. The restaurant at 7 N. Third St. possesses an assertive visual charm and a sense of swagger, thanks to the moody lighting, colorful murals and Indian-infused trance music filtering through the sound system.
Its menu also is decidedly different from the flavors of its ethnic neighbor, with many offerings that blend spicy and sweet — often with mangoes representing the latter.
The tandoori scallops ($12), one of the special dishes on a recent evening, started the repast on a memorably savory note, with a wonderfully complex sauce topping the large, tender mollusks sitting on a perfectly crisp slice of potato.
Another savory standout was the chicken kabuli ($20), a comforting dish that glistened with garlic and pistachio.
But mangoes are obviously the culinary centerpiece at Makhani, and to delightfully exotic ends. The mango shrimp ($18) executed the flavor of the fruit against a brilliant level of spice, which permeated the sauce and garnished the plate.
In an irresistibly sweet and almost-sinful encore, the mango cheesecake ($9) mingled the chilled sauce with a warm drizzle of passionfruit reduction. n
If you go:
114 Chestnut St.
Sun.-Thurs.: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat.: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
7 N. Third St.
Daily: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.