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Spice of Life | By Bhairavi Bhatt

Indian food in Fayetteville used to be limited to a tent at the annual International Folk Festival. That was it. During the rest of the year curry and tandoori cravings had to be satisfied in home kitchens or during trips to other cities. Despite a large and thriving Indian community here and plenty of residents who already loved the cuisine, our city had no Indian restaurants. Then, to the delight of Indian food lovers all over town, came Bombay Bistro. As the restaurant’s popularity grew, hundreds more here were introduced to the cuisine of one of the world’s most populous nations, creating a desire for more options. Now there are several Indian restaurants in Fayetteville, each featuring foods from different regions of the Indian subcontinent and catering to the city’s foodies, purists and experimentalists.

The growing demand here for Indian cuisine has opened doors for Southeast Asia restaurants like Shalimar, Marquis Bistro at Doubletree and the well-established Bombay Bistro. Spice blends are at the heart of Indian cuisine. Many were created centuries ago, perfected over the decades and passed down from generation to generation. In fact, the very phrase “Indian food” tends to conjure exotic aromas and the euphoric taste of the spices, but unbeknownst to many, the blends are actually specific to the regions of India and each region has its own favorites.

Shalimar: Shalimar, the newest player on Fayetteville’s Southeast Asian restaurant scene, is rapidly gaining popularity with locals. The menu favors the flavors of northern India, with dishes like malai chicken kebab and lamb rogan josh. However, Chef Luke Rosario has also created blends of spices that are unique to Shalimar and adopted flavors originally celebrated by the Mughal Kings of ancient India. Naans, the delicious flatbreads typically served with Indian meals, at Shalimar are baked in an authentic tandoor clay oven, which gives the breads and the other tandoori items their distinctive earthly flavor. Shalimar | 3401 Raeford Rd. | 910.433.4351

Bombay Bistro: That the menu at Bombay Bistro draws heavily on foods favored in Bombay should not be a surprise. It’s right there in the restaurant’s name, after all. Bombay Bistro has been successful in serving typical hearty items such as samosas, palak paneer and paneer makhani. Buffets at Bombay Bistro are an event in themselves, as they offer an array of items and showcase a variety of spice blends. The cozy decor of the restaurant, with its walls of Indian artwork, provide a perfect backdrop for the filling and flavorful food. Bombay Bistro | 5945 CliffdaleRd | 910.487.0020

Marquis Bistro at the Doubletree Hotel: People are often surprised to learn that delicious and authentic Indian food can be found inside the Doubletree Hotel on Cedar Creek Road. The hotel’s restaurant, the Marquis Bistro, has a menu of more expected foods like sandwiches and pastas, but with several delightful Indian surprises added to the mix. The Marquis Bistro’s head chef of Indian Cuisine, Sabrata Bag, hails from India, and the food’s preparation and tastes reflect that. By eating the food there, diners are instantly transported to the busy streets of ancient Delhi where these dishes, like chicken curry, biryani and more, were born. Marquis Bistro | 1965 Cedar Creek Rd. | 910.323.8282