The tandoor plates and curries of northern India are popular at these low-flash, high-quality restaurants, but the south is given a nod with a lineup of vegetarian dosas. Fairfax has a bigger dining room, while Rockville is a cozy spot with the kitchen in full view. Indian art and artifacts add grace notes to both. Deep-fried bhajia, vegetables in a batter of grain flour, are beautifully done. So are spicy fish tidbits to dip in tomato chutney and a pair of cool "salads"--papri chat with flour crisps, tamarind chutney, and yogurt, and bhel puri with crisps and noodles.
Dal Makhani, black lentils laced with ginger and tomatoes, makes for a smoky dip-- it's been simmered over charcoal all night--with one of the flatbreads from the tandoor. The tandoor also turns out flavorful bone-in half chickens and seekh kebab made with ground beef and a shot of garlic. Round the meal out with a curry--shrimp masala cooked with aromatic spices or the southern Indian lamb nilgiri korma, which gets its kick from green curry and cilantro. Specials like lamb shank, mussels with curry leaves and white wine, and whole rockfish cooked in the tandoor with ginger and garlic are well worth trying. Beers and wines are available, but the cool sweet yogurt drink known as mango lassi is more authentic.