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Shakalaka Baby

A variety of Indian restaurants curry flavor with the locals

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With flamboyant Bollywood coming to Charlotte in the form of the musical Bombay Dreams at the Blumenthal July 25th through 30th, it's time to get Indian and dunk some naan into a tamarind chutney and throw back a lassi or two. Indian food, which has that love it or hate it appeal, is anything but boring. For those who love it, try these:

Owner Apar (Pannu) Singh, a native of the Punjab, has Copper in Dilworth. Copper's menu offers three types of entrees: traditionalists can have their tikka, the gourmands masala lamb chops with achaari curry sauce and vegetable biryani, and the adventurous a garam masala dusted salmon with nariyal-nirangi sauce. Also on hand is an extensive wine list.

Copper, Modern Cuisine of India, 311 East Blvd., 704-333-0063.

Entrepreneur Bhupen Engineer is one of my favorite restaurateurs in Charlotte. His staff at Bombay Cuisine in the university area is always courteous and the food is quite good. His best appetizers are the simplest ones: crispy samosas, house-made cheese paneer ragada patties, and generously portioned chick pea battered vegetable Pakora. Naan is a must here.

Bombay Cuisine 230 East W.T. Harris Blvd., 704-503-5558.

Indian Cuisine is prepared differently all over the world and some believe the spin put on it in the UK surpasses even that found in mother India. Entrepreneur Nick Naik has brought a bit of his heritage to Charlotte since his dishes at Namaste are slightly Anglicized to reflect his time in England. (He was born of Indian descent in Africa.) Namaste is a favorite spot of the UK expats living in Charlotte. At lunch, Namaste offers a 20-item buffet for $7.95 (weekdays). We like the vegetable jalfrazi with peppers, onions, and carrots with a bracing hit of spices and popped cumin seeds.

Namaste India Bar & Restaurant, 34508 East Independence Blvd., 704-568-7979.

Restaurateur and Napal Native Tulsi Bhandari is no stranger to Charlotteans' tastes. He owned the former Diamond India on Monroe Road, and had an Indian Grocery Store before opening Situl named for his daughter. Situl's menu is primarily Northern Indian, but Bhandari has maintained a few dishes from Nepal, a cuisine that is a mix of Chinese, Thai and Indian. The tandoori, the classic cooking method in northern India's Punjab region, is quite good here and the pliable poori is positively addictive.

Situl Indian Restaurant, 540 Brandywine Road, B, 704-523-0037.

At the Lake is Sangram, owned by Ashok Kumar from the Punjab. The most brilliant food from the Punjab isn't a food at all. It is the drink lassi, the world's original smoothie. This is a must have here with sizzling tandoori carrying its special earthy aroma. Also on the roster is kulfi, Indian ice cream perfect for a summer's night.

Sangam Indian Cuisine, 20910 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius, 704-655-9600.

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