Part of a series of restaurant recommendations offered in The Stranger’s 2017 Guide to Food and Drink (International Edition).
I'm a deep lover of Indian food, but I live in a city that has only a few decent Indian restaurants. And the closest of these to my place of work on Capitol Hill is Daawat. It's right next to the gateway to downtown and is busy but never crowded. Without a doubt, the best Indian lunch buffet in the downtown area is found here. The usual suspects of the Indian buffet are offered—tikka masala, coconut curry, butter chicken, and the like—and the attendants make sure that the hot trays are never empty or soon to be empty. I like sitting at the high tables by the east-facing windows. CHARLES MUDEDE
This downtown Renton dining room is filled with families and groups of friends, many presumably bickering good-naturedly over which of owner Majid "Mike" Janua's North-Indian and Pakistani halal specialties they want to stuff their faces with first. The squabbling makes sense: You must get the achari boti—tender chunks of tandoor-roasted chicken in a fennel-seed marinade. And you absolutely can't miss the velvety eggplant bengun bharta. Oh, and save room for the Mughlai korma, and the peppery lamb baalti gosht. And what about the biriyani?! But once you're scooping up your dinner with some airy naan, peace resumes. Lots of vegetarian options, and generous weekday lunch specials. JENN CAMPBELL
There's a dearth of good Indian food in Seattle; after eight years in New York, I was spoiled. But Nirmal's in Pioneer Square is nearly as good as what you find in the Big Apple, maybe better, even if the service can be a touch too friendly and the high ceilings make it a very loud experience (you'll be shouting at your fellow diner to be heard). While you can get your usuals (tandoori chicken, palak paneer), they don't taste like the usual thanks to namesake head chef Nirmal Monteiro. The food swerves left—there are dishes I'd never heard of (prawn phalnaire, goat roghni), most have strong distinct flavors, and the heat doesn't drown out the dish, only enhances it. Costly, but worth it. TRICIA ROMANO
Two years ago, the understated (and fabulous) Annapurna Cafe added a boozier street-level counterpart to its subterranean curry den. Situated next to the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station, the dark and frill-less Yeti Bar is prime for extended happy hours. Sadly, Annapurna's full menu of Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan dishes isn't available upstairs. But a litany of drinking snacks—from crispy lamb rolls to Tibetan-style chicken dumplings—are, and saffron-infused vodka cocktails are $2 off during happy hour. If Yeti's exotic softcore soundtrack and muted Bollywood flicks have you feeling frisky, try the $5 shots of Khukri Rum—a Nepal staple. MICHAEL RIETMULDER