A Modern Passage to India
21 Spices by Chef Asif, 4270 Tamiami Trail E., Naples, (239) 919-8830, 21spicesdining.com.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Whether you’re a die-hard curry fan or a newbie to India’s culinary charms, this restaurant delivers thoughtful interpretations of regional specialties plus progressive fare blending styles and ingredients from the Subcontinent and beyond (chai beurre blanc and kiwimint chutney, anyone?). Chef Asif Syed’s cache of his, you guessed it, 21 favorite spices, is not limited to just the menu; a full bar with aromatic craft cocktails employing those same herbs and botanicals join with a diverse wine list and elegant, dramatic décor only to enhance the experience.
IDEAL MEAL: Most people who love Indian food have their must-eat dishes no matter where they go. There’s no shortage of those here—samosas, lamb vindaloo, chicken tikka masala (which, as the menu reminds us, was decreed a national dish of Great Britain by the country’s foreign secretary in 2001, a testament to its widespread appeal)— but, if you’re up for some adventure, trust Syed’s instincts that landed him a spot on the Food Network show Guy’s Grocery Games last year and guest chef appearances at curry festivals nationwide. You won’t be disappointed by a sweet lobster tail simmered with fenugreek-spiked tomato-cream sauce or garam masala-dusted organic quail perked up by freshly squeezed lime juice.
VIBE: Syed, with the help of Yussy El-Hibri from Design West, created a vaulted wonderland of exotic lanterns and glimmering mosaics just a hop from downtown Naples. With a modern, streamlined feel, it’s definitely somewhere you can take a client you’re aiming to impress. The bar, lounge and covered patio are a bit less formal, making them a great midday office escape when lunch service is offered during season.