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Cardamom Hill

Atlanta’s first upscale regional Indian restaurant (really, one of the few in the country) invokes the multicultural richness of the Malabar Coast. Chef-owner Asha Gomez grew up surrounded by spice plantations in the southwestern state of Kerala, long a vital port on the European-Asian trade routes. She retells her life story through food in an intimate setting—partitioned rooms, carved wooden walls—off Northside Drive that feels like an exotic retreat, belying its strip-mall location. The small menu introduces thrilling discoveries like duck and plantain croquettes with dried figs simmered in tea and cinnamon bark; elegant seasonal fruit salads in lime-cardamom dressing topped with spicy shrimp; and duck leg confit in smooth clove–and–black pepper sauce with homemade chutney. Gomez’s signature fried chicken—boneless and encased in a lacy crust, lashed with mango sauce, and festooned with fried curry leaves—achieved cult status soon after the restaurant opened its doors last January. (It also helped her earn immediate kudos in magazines like Bon Appétit and Food & Wine.) Recently she’s also been running specials that mingle compatible flavors of the Indian South and the American South: Think spiced goat sliders or curried shrimp over South Carolina rice grits.

The cocktail program, ambitious at first, now falls back on overly sweet concoctions; the wine selections much better match the food. If you find Indian cuisine intimidating, try lunch, when you can enjoy the fried chicken over Lowcountry rice waffles or order an affordable, daily changing thali (platter) of warming soup, rice pilaf, and a fragrant, gentle curry made from pork or beef, which weren’t taboo meats in Gomez’s Christian upbringing. 1700 Northside Drive, 404-549-7012, cardamomhill.net