10Best restaurants for Indian eats in and around NOLA

Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono
Photo courtesy of Saffron Restaurant
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

New Orleans is known for all kinds of cuisine, but Indian food isn't one of them.  And that's a shame, because while the city doesn't have a large South Asian population, one of the best Indian restaurants in the country is right here, Saffron on Magazine Street, a finalist in the 2018 James Beard Awards in the category of Best New Restaurant - that's in the country, not just here in New Orleans.  And there are plenty of other mom and pop restaurants that go the more traditional route, curry houses with copious lunch buffets and even an Indian meets Creole spot, Silk Road in the Marigny. The small number of Indian and Pakistani folks living here are cuisine-proud, and you can satisfy your hunger for curry and other boldly flavored dishes at one of these 10 spots. Reserve a table at the upscale Saffron sooner rather than later, this place is putting New Orleans and Indian food on the national map.

10. Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery
Photo courtesy of Golden Feather

Though this is a restaurant in the Indian category, the Golden Feather is not a typical Indian restaurant in any sense. That is because it is a Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant, meaning its food comes from the Congo region of Africa and co-mingled with Creole and soul flavors. Shaka Zulu and his tribe of "Big Chiefs" serve up some great conversation, as well as chicken, fish and tofu dishes. The interior decor of the joint features ethnic pieces of art and sewn goods that are also available for purchase. Visit the Backstreet Culture Museum in Treme or House of Dance and Feather in the Lower Ninth to learn more about this local phenom.

9. Wah Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Isabelle Hurbain-Palatin

Kenner, out by the airport, has become quite the international foodie destination. There are little hole in the wall joints dishing everything from Salvadoran pupusas to Vietnamese pho and Chinese Peking duck. At Wah Kitchen, you'll find excellent Pakistani cuisine. Named for the owners' hometown in Pakistan, this family owned spot is set back in a strip mall on Vet, but it's worth discovering. Wah Kitchen is a hidden gem, with rock bottom prices, a good sized buffet and food prepared with care and bright with fresh herbs and spices. Chef Ghazala Khan was formerly the chef at a Marriott hotel in Pakistan and her husband, Masroor Khan, was one of the opening partners at Shyan's Kitchen in Metairie. Dishes like smoked chicken masala (a house specialty), mutton karahi (order it spicy if you dare!) and freshly made garlic naan will have you heading this way again soon.

8. NOLA Desi Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Andrea Lai

Williams Boulevard near the airport in Kenner is a who's who of global flavors these days. You can find Central American fare, taco shacks for regional Mexican dishes, Vietnamese for pho and banh mi and Desi's for authentic Indian, Pakistani fare. Chef/owner Syed Ali owner takes the cuisine and culture of his homeland to the next level, preparing fragrantly spiced biryani rice dishes flavored with chicken, goat or veggies, creamy chicken korma, cooked to your requestesd spice level For dessert, the apricot jelly (qubani ka meetha) is heavenly, thick with fruit and perfectly sweet. Don't let the shopping center location deter you - a feast awaits.

7. Shyan's Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Jorge Gonzalez

This cozy spot in Metairie tucked away on a side street off Veterans Memorial Boulevard is well worth discovering. Owned and operated by Irfan Khan, who emigrated to New Orleans in 2007, Shyan's Kitchen is a Pakistani-Indian restaurant that had its start in the French Quarter as the now shuttered Salt N Pepper. Khan wanted to cook more for locals than tourists and relocated to suburban Metairie inside the former Toni's Restaurant and Bar. Whether you are already familiar with Pakistani and Indian cuisine or are trying it for the first time, you're in for a treat. The two cuisines are similar, especially when you compare northern India's table with Pakistan's - they were once the same country after all. You'll recognize curries, made with goat, seafood and chicken - even beef, which you'd never have in India. Spicy samosas, marinated hot wings and paneer made with spinach and Indian cheese are all fine options. Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, Shyan's Kitchen is a vegetarian's dream and even serves Halal meats, a nod to Pakistan's largely Muslim population.

6. Tandoori Chicken
Photo courtesy of Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken is an Indian joint located in Metairie, a quick hop, skip and a jump from downtown New Orleans. A family run business in operation for more than 20 years, they serve up some delicious vegan and non-vegan offerings like the lamb birayni and butter chicken. Walking inside feels likeentering an Indian family's home. The warmth and service you'll experience will be top notch. A buffet option is available at lunch so guests can sample a bit of everything Tandoori does well. The local fish baked in the tandoor oven delivers a succulent dish, served with dal (lentils), rice and puffy nan bead.

5. Taj Mahal
Photo courtesy of Taj Mahal

Opened by Har and Anila Keswani in 1982, inspired by their native cuisine and their frequent travels, the Keswanis has the vision to open an Indian restaurant at a time when those flavors were foreign to all. Now in the hands of their son Anjay, who expanded to Magazine Street in 1999 after his father's passing, the Taj delivers homey, authentic flavors in a sunny, welcoming setting. Order off the menu or if you're new to the cusine, the helpful wait staff can assist. You can't go wrong with the chicken tandoori or any of the dishes made with dal - lentils.

4. Nirvana Indian Cuisine

Back in the 1980s, Har and Anila Keswani had a vision: to introduce New Orleanians to real Indian cuisine (see Taj Mahal on this list). Operating since 1982 and expanding to its current uptown location in 1999, the Keswani family was a forerunner in offering authentic Indian cuisine to locals and visitors alike. Favorites include buttery naan, creamy chicken tikka masala and expertly spiced curries, fish, chicken, lamb and shrimp cooked to perfection in the Tandoor oven. One of the stand out dishes is Flag of India, a presentation of butter chicken, malai kebab and saag paneer to represent the gold, white and green of the flag of India. Save room for rice pudding for dessert.

3. Good Karma Cafe
Photo courtesy of Goblin Box

Say namaste to healthful, Indian-centric veggie and vegan cuisine at Good Karma Cafe, a friendly little spot on the ground level of Swan River Yoga in Mid-City. The menu changes frequently, but you may find the Karma plate, with salad, a Malaysian chickpea-tofu soup, brown rice, and daal with poppadoms. The almond milk is house made, there is Kombucha on tap, unusual options like South Indian Upma, a kind of roasted Cream of wheat with fragrant spices and coconut chutney. Non-Indian options also abound, like the Buddha bagel topped with avocado, cucumber, tomato and vegan cream cheese and pumpkin flax seed granola, also made inhouse.

2. Silk Road
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

The newly renovated Silk Road has come a long way since the days when it was a ramshackle neighborhood joint called Schiro's. Situated in the Marigny rectangle, the newly renovated restaurant, with its eye-popping art and handsome bar, is a hidden gem, polished beyond expectation. Chef Ganesh Ayyengar pays homage to his homeland with red curries from the South of India, along with spicy vindaloos popular in the west and tikka masala creamy with ghee. Heat can be adjusted to your taste, with a choice of chicken, or veg, all value priced. There's a super veg platter (tamarind chick peas, lentils, curried seasonal vegges) and also a slew of local faves like blackened drum and jambalaya.Chef Ganesh has a deft touch with a wide range of dishes, but be sure to order the lemongrass crab bisque, a silky rich soup that is simply outstanding.

1. Saffron
Photo courtesy of Saffron Restaurant

You've never been to an Indian restaurant like Saffron. What started as a once-a-week pop up on the West Bank is now wowing diners Uptown on Magazine, and not just locals are in the know. The restaurant made the cut for the James Beard Award nominations in the category of Best New Restaurant, quite an honor. Well deserved in this case, thanks to Saffron's one-of-a-kind cuisine, contemporary fusion of regional Indian dishes and Louisiana ingredients, a stylish setting and an over-the-top craft cocktail list that will have your taste buds cheering. Chef Arvinder Vilkhu channels his Indian heritage with local and global flavors, inspiration from his grandmother's kitchen as well as chefs from New Orleans, Thailand, Singapore and France. Owned and managed by the Vilkhu family, Saffron offers a riot of small plates for sharing, all served with traditional bread or roti sati. Try the oysters bed roast with caramelized onions, garlic and curry leaf, charcuterie plate (when was the last time you had chicken pate and truffle naan at an Indian restaurant?) and the most wonderful spice crusted Gulf fish with mango pickle. Desserts, never worth eating at most curry houses, have names like curry is my jam and chocolate & chai, all wonderful.