The Soup: At SoMa’s new 1601 Bar & Kitchen, chef Brian Fernando modernizes the flavors of Sri Lanka, next of kin to India in its cuisine and geography. Spoon through a bowl of his take on mulligatawny ($10), a silky purée of masoor lentils, onions, and potatoes, finished with dots of coconut milk and crisp-skinned chicken confit. 1601 Howard St. (at 12th St.), 415-552-1601
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The Cocktail: If you want a preview taste of Mina and Parr’s the Company Bar & Kitchen, make this Blood & Sanskrit cocktail at home. Pour 1½ ounces of whiskey and ¾ ounce each of Contratto rosso americano, blood orange juice, and Velvet Falernum into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a coupe glass. 133 Steuart St. (near Mission St.)
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The Tea Spot: You’d be hard-pressed to find rose chai in India, but the Chai Cart’s Paawan Kothari has a cult following for her blend of rose water, milk, and assam black tea. Find her carts every weekday on Market Street, and look for her third cart to debut at 400 Montgomery Street just in time for the summer chill. 545 Market St. (near 1st St.); 298 Market St. (at Drumm St.), theChaiCart.com
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The Sweet Treat: At Juhu Beach Club, which opened in March in Oakland's Temescal, chef-owner Preeti Mistry whips together Straus yogurt, Alphonso mango pulp, fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt and cumin for a less-cloying take on a mango lassi. It's infinitely refreshing. 5179 Telegraph Ave. (at 51st St.), Oakland, 510-652-7350
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The Culture Mash: The Curry Up Now food trucks started a chicken tikka burrito craze, but the rollout of their three brick-and-mortar locations brings a new Mex-Indian obsession: guac sev puri ($5). For this twist on classic sev puri, tamarind-cilantro chutney and chilies pile atop bite-size semolina crackers, along with pure, unadulterated guacamole. The kitchen makes a fresh batch every 15 minutes to keep up with demand. Try it at the new Mission district location. 659 Valencia St. (near 18th St.), 415-735-3667
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The Pakwans and Shalimars of San Francisco—with their nostril-filling curries and garlic naans that stick with you for days—have their place in our hearts, but a new breed of Indian food vendor is pushing the genre’s boundaries. At Juhu Beach Club (5179 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), Preeti Mistry serves a menu of enlightened culture-benders, like vindaloo-spiced chicken wings and masala-dusted fries. Namaste India Market (161 Valencia St.) hopes to attract all sorts of food enthusiasts with made-to-order dosas and other Indian snacks at a street market coming to the street under 101. And in July, Mumbai-born sommelier Rajat Parr of The Mina Group is slated to open the Company Bar & Kitchen (133 Steuart St.), serving intricate bites like curry-spiced crab paired with East Indies–inspired cocktails. Check the gallery for five more reasons to cheat on your usual tandoor-walas.
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of San Francisco.