Cafe Society

Denver's top 10 Indian/Nepalese restaurants

Jason Sheehan just reviewed Nepal Cuisine, where he found more than enough momo to keep him warm through these upcoming winter months.

On momo alone, Nepal Cuisine easily ranks among the top ten Indian and Nepalese restaurants in the area. Here are the rest:

India's Pearl 1475 S. Pearl St., 303-777-1533. Named after the street on which it resides, this dignified -- even elegant -- bi-level curry house has become a popular stomping ground for neighbors in the 'hood, winos (the list is behemoth) and trekkers who like to explore the equally Goliath-size menu that includes all the ubiquitous suspects, along with several beef, duck, pheasant and venison offerings, which you won't often find in Denver's other tandoori dens. The upstairs martini lounge mingles with crowds who show up for the weekly entertainment -- karaoke, belly dancing and live jazz -- but the serene street level dining room, hued the colors of Indian spices, is where you'll want to sit and swell your belly with chutneys, naan and dishes like duck vindaloo and beef boti masala. India's Restaurant 7400 E. Hampden Ave., 303-755-4284. Over the past fifteen years, this cozy Indian buffet and dinner spot has been serving up some of the best Indian cuisine in town. The mostly Mughlai dishes (a gentler counterpart to the spicy and curry-centric offerings elsewhere) offer diners a broad range of tandoori, biryani and curry, with enough seafood, lamb and vegetarian dishes to satisy any appetite. Whether you're after an adventure, an education, just lunch or a little of all three, India's is the perfect place to begin. Little India 330 E. 6th Ave., 303-871-9777. 1533 Champa St., 303-629-5777. 2390 S. Downing St., 303-298-1939. Little India's take on Indian food is an odd mix of regional specialties, all cooked in the tradition of northern Indian cuisine by a Punjabi chef. The menu is long and dignified, showcasing the curries and masalas that even casual Indian-food eaters would recognize, as well as seven kinds of saag, specialties of Madras, Danshak, Bombay and Punjab, and even colonial dishes like the vindaloos from Goa. And everything from those complicated vindaloos to the simplest chutney has the potential to transport a diner to utter bliss. Masalaa 3140 S. Parker Rd., Aurora, 303-755-6272. One of the few restaurants around offering both gluten-free cooking and Jain-friendly options, Masalaa raises vegetarian cuisine to such a level that even the most dedicated carnivore would never miss the meat. And you can return again and again without repeating the same meal twice, because the menu is huge, a mishmash of dozens of traditional and regional specialties. Masalaa's an asset not just for the local Indian community, but for anyone looking for an honest taste of another culture's comfort food. Namaste 3355 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood, 720-963-4005. Namaste offers everything a fan of Indian cuisine or even Tibetan food could possibly want -- and then six or eight or a dozen more things, like shrimp saag or fried spinach and potato pakora, that they've never even thought of eating before seeing this triple-fold menu. The cooks here have a particular talent with butter and cream, as shown in a saag paneer so rich that it tastes of caramel. The lunch buffet, which stretches the entire length of the back wall, is one of the best-stocked in town. Royal Peacock 5290 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-447-1409. The first thing you notice about the Royal Peacock is the smell: incense and curry, old carpets and fresh cinnamon and ancient tandoor smoke. It's a warm, cloying and sweet smell, and a hint that the Peacock isn't your average strip-mall Indian outpost. The very traditional kitchen offers tastes of India straight out of Goa and Bombay. The curries are smoky-hot, the tandoori meats incredibly tender. The menu has inspired such a fierce loyalty among transplanted Coloradans that the kitchen also does a nice side business shipping out saags and kormas and thalis on ice. Sherpa's Adventurers Restaurant and Bar 825 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7151. Pemba Sherpa -- a native of Nepal who made his living as a mountain guide before settling in Colorado -- built this restaurant around his idea for a "traveler's lounge," a place for climbers and adventurers to gather and plan, to reminisce, to tell true stories and to make up a few others. But the best adventure here is the food, heavy with Nepalese and Tibetan takes on recognizably Indian fare. The momo are wonderful, the service graceful and kind, and the kitchen whips up a great rosewater-spiked lashi. Star of India 3102 S. Parker Rd., Aurora, 303-755-1921. Star of India is one of the best Indian restaurants in town -- and there are a lot of them -- with certainly the best mango lassi. The dining room is comfortable, surrounded by desert-colored walls and decorated with cultural artifacts, and the food comes in beautiful copper bowls. The menu is broad, with all the traditional specialties, but the kitchen is at its best on the richest plates, those for which spicy heat represents a major flavor component. Tibet's Restaurant & Bar 321 McCaslin Blvd., Louisville, 303-665-2557. Tibet's is owned by Kami Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa, and related through blood (not money) to another great Tibetan restaurant: Sherpa's Adventurers Restaurant in Boulder. It's staffed by some of Sherpa's former waiters, and Pasang himself works the floor while the cooking is done by chef Uttam Lama, who has major cred: He got his training at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and once cooked for the Dalai Lama. The spacious dining room is lovely and comfortable, with the sounds of Tibetan music and the smells of Tibetan food filling the place.
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