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If Americans were polled, Family Feud -style, for their associations with


Seattle's Top 10 Indian Restaurants

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If Americans were polled, Family Feud-style, for their associations with Indian food, the words "buffet" and "steam table" would probably score the most citations.

It's a shame that an intriguingly complicated - and frequently delicate -- cuisine has been reduced to a gloopy, all-you-can eat-feast. But we've taken a cue from those lunch joints and assembled an almost unwieldy spread of the 10 best Indian restaurants around town. Whether you're seeking Indian sweets or a kosher curry, you'll find the right eatery here.

As always, Erin Thompson compiled our contributors' lentil and ghee wisdom. The finalists are arbitrarily ordered, but our very favorite Indian restaurant is listed in the number one slot.

10. Punjab Sweets

Your eyes are immediately drawn to the trays of variously shaped sweet treats that dominate Punjab Sweets' back wall. You've heard the savory vegetarian chaat, or snacks, are just as good-the bhel puri (puffed-rice salad dressed in spicy cilantro chutney), the bhatura cholay (fried bread with curried chickpeas), and the aloo tikki (potato fritters)--and it's true. Do get some milk cake and syrup-saturated jalebi, but save them for home so you don't (sugar) crash before you reach your driveway.

9. Travelers Thali House

Opened in a converted house on Beacon Hill, Travelers' menu is a foolproof remedy for repetitious kid diets--but don't worry, it's sure to pique adults' interests, too. Big enough to divide families from childless diners, Travelers promises to keep the peace and not allow its dining room to become a total kid fest. Be prepared for all-vegetarian cuisine that doesn't come in the expected shades of greens; rather, the pallet ranges from colorful cabbage coconut salad to mango lassi, served in a metal milkshake cup.

8. Chutneys Bistro

Robust entrees and oven-fresh, fluffy naan make Chutneys one of the better restaurants along 45th in Wallingford. Try the mango chicken: fruity hues and curry enhance perfect cuts of meat. Also recommended: the murg masalam, boneless chicken chunks in a creamy, tomato-based sauce. You can taste the fresh ingredients in every dish. And the salad bar (free with each entrée) stars an excellent garbanzo tamarind chutney that'll flavor any veggie medley better than dressing.

7. Roti

A small, warm space adorned with traditional paintings and wall hangings, Roti celebrates Indian cooking exuberantly. Gingery and spreadable, the eggplant bharta makes believers of even eggplant's staunchest opponents, and the prawn vindaloo is full of firm, juicy specimens. Roti's mattar paneer performs like a thoroughbred. The tofu-like Indian "cottage cheese" bathes in a complex red sauce seasoned with most of the spices in the Indian pantry. It's comfort food par excellence.


6. Pabla Indian Cuisine

Renton may not be a dining destination in and of itself, but once you've tried Pabla Indian Cuisine, it really puts the drive in perspective. The restaurant and adjoining grocery/ sweetshop offer vegetarian and kosher Indian food so flavorful you'll happily get in your car and make the trek south again soon. Live downtown? You're even closer and have no reason not to go. Pani puri are crunchy, hollow, deep-fried puffs that you eat by punching a hole in the top, then filling with a spoonful of potatoes and garbanzo beans, followed by a slightly sweet, slightly spicy cool water. It's a lesson in perfect flavor/texture balance: salty and sweet, spicy and cool, crunchy and soft and liquid.

5. Maharaja Cuisine of India

Not affiliated with the other Maharajas around town, this one boasts a recently remodeled bar (it used to be a dive, but not anymore!) and one of the city's best bartenders, Don Bogey. With television sets in every corner of the room, the Maha is like a sports bar without the crappy fried stuff and flat Bud Light. Instead, you get high-quality kebabs, vindaloos, and daals, plus Taj Mahal bottles. Score!

4. Annapurna

The furnishings are sparse, the Nepalese and Hindi music sets the mood, and the food is a hungry sherpa's dream. To craft your own Himalayan dinner odyssey at Annapurna, start with an order of tensing momo, Tibetan chicken dumplings served with sides of zesty peanut, sesame, and tomato chutney. Momo are to the Himalayas what pizza is to Italy or Buffalo chicken wings are to the American sports bar. Pick them up with your hands, dip in the chutney, and enjoy.


3. Bengal Tiger East Indian Cuisine

Among the many local Indian restaurants offering cheap lunch buffets and serviceable delivery options, just one place (this side of Lake Washington, anyway) serves the sort of Indian food worthy of a reservation and a cloth napkin: Bengal Tiger. The Roosevelt eatery, bereft of the usual kitschy crap typical of Indian restaurants everywhere, is casual enough to be family-friendly, yet nice enough to be a suitable date-night destination (assuming your companion won't mind curry breath later). Call ahead to order the Kashmiri chicken for two or the Kurzi lamb, meant to serve up to six. And for last-minute diners, there's the requisite lunch buffet, too.

2. India Bistro

Ballard's clean and tidy India Bistro features entrees that highlight regional delicacies: spicy masalas of the central region (the fish variety is super) and flavorful vindaloos of southern Goa. The bready onion kulcha is a surefire side dish winner, filled with sautéed onions, mango, and mint. You can get your lentil fix with crispy fried veggie pakoras and a rich mulligatawny soup, and vegetarians can fill up on saag paneer (pureed spinach) or aloo mattar (potatoes and green peas in a delectably spicy gravy).

1. Cedars Restaurant on Brooklyn

The best Indian place in town isn't the flashiest or the most-hyped, by any means. It's found in the humble attic of a little brown building with white trim, tucked between 47th and 50th Streets in the U District. Cedars Restaurant has become well-known for its one-of-a-kind butter chicken, mango curry, and garlic naan (just one of 14 naans the restaurant offers)--which can easily become your main meal if you can't resist refills. You'll forget about the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing neighboring businesses, Jack in the Box and Walgreens, and about the hustle and bustle of the Ave while you're surrounded by lit candles and the enticing scent of Cedars' spices.

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