Jaipur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 141 253 0148/49
Located within the walls of the Amber Fort, 1135AD serves up good high-end Indian food inside a dining room so opulent (lavish chandeliers, gilded chairs, turbaned guards, and portraits of royalty) it would make a maharaja blush. Set lunch and dinner thalis (both vegetarian and not) are served alongside an à la carte menu. More expensive than your average Jaipur eatery, the restaurant nonetheless delivers value for money. If you are ordering off the menu, keep an eye out for the Roomali Paneer, a delicious cheese dish with dried fruit stuffing. During starry summer evenings, ask for a table on the romantically lit terrace.—Vanessa Able
Open daily 9 am to 11 pm.
Amet Haveli Hotel
Udaipur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 294 243 1085
It's not hard to see why Ambrai, the Hotel Amet Haveli's waterfront restaurant, is so popular with tourists. In a garden bordered on two sides by Lake Pichola, guests dine by firelight against a backdrop of Udaipur's floodlit cityscape and a soundtrack of live Rajasthani music. The food won't disappoint: Try the Mewari specialties, such as the dumpling curry, or Indian staples such as tandoori chicken and dhal makhani. Get there early or book ahead, and be sure to insist (several times if necessary) on sitting as close to the water as possible.—Vanessa Able
Open daily 7:30 am to 11 pm.
Tel: 91 2953 289 211
Thalis, or tasting menus of regional Indian dishes, are the specialty at this restaurant inside a former fortified palace turned hotel. For instance, expect spicy lamb curry from Kashmir, or coconut-based concoctions from the southern Indian region of Kerala—all served on silver platters. But what makes it most memorable (and worth the 30-minute drive from Udaipur) are the many places where you can actually have your meal. In addition to the formal restaurant, which has pleasant views of the Aravalli Hills, servers will set up a dining space inside the palace or around the grounds, depending on your whim. Perhaps you want to eat on the rooftop, with plates set on a bed of flowers, or in a courtyard beside the sound of running water, or with candlelight reflecting off mirrored walls, or in a tiny alcove with live flute music. That they can do it for you is a reflection of just how quirky the physical layout is, with all its unexpected spaces left over from the palace days.
Shop No. 3
Jaipur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 98871 54000
Hidden away on a rooftop over the row of shops at Nehru Bazaar (enter via the narrow staircase at shop no. 10), Ganesh Restaurant is a rickety, unadorned eatery serving up some of the tastiest and most authentic food in the city. Popular with and highly recommended by the merchants who work below, Ganesh offers a pure vegetarian menu of ten or so dishes. These are all prepared before your eyes (curries on a charcoal stove, bread in a tandoor) by the sweating chef in an open kitchen. The dhal is a sure hit, but if you're having trouble choosing between curries, opt for the Ganesh Special, an in-house concoction of just about everything they have in the fridge, from paneer to chickpea flour dumplings. Cash only; no alcohol.—Vanessa Able
Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.
M.I. Road, opposite the General Post Office
Jaipur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 141 236 4839
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Handi was just a sidestreet kebab stand from the humble grill that marks its entrance. Venture inside and you'll find a surprising interior resembling a village hut, with mud walls and a grass-and-bamboo ceiling. Known for its grilled meats and specialties from the tandoor, Handi is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. Try the Afghani chicken, mutton Khathi kebab, or the house specialty, called Handi Meat, which is mutton cooked in clay pots for hours over a low charcoal flame. Vegetarians won't be disappointed by the paneer tikka. Cash only; no alcohol.—Vanessa Able
Open daily noon to 3:30 pm and 6 to 11 pm.
2325 Lal Ghat
Tel: 91 294 242 0133
A secret of Udaipur dining is that it's not essential to have a view from the incredible Taj Lake Palace, situated inside the lake, but to have one of it. And few restaurants have as romantic a view as the one atop the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel, especially in the evening, when the Lake Palace is lit up like a liner getting ready to depart from port. The food here tends more toward North Indian than Rajasthani (tandoori chicken, various yogurt dishes), which is no great crime—unless you happen to be in Rajasthan. And the waiters could afford to take a few lessons in graciousness from the waiters at the Taj Lake Palace's Neel Kamal (on second thought, considering the prices at the Taj Lake, maybe they couldn't afford to take lessons over there). But when you are settled into one of the alcoves, and the candlelight is flickering, and the Lake Palace is aglow, it's hard not to imagine that your ship has come in.
Jodhpur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 291 254 9790
Three things make this restaurant spectacular: location, location, location. Set on the high ramparts of Jodhpur's red sandstone Mehrangarh Fort, atop the 400-foot-high cliffs that stretch above the city, it has a view that deserves all the superlatives you can launch at it. Mehran Terrace serves a basic selection of local fare—including a popular Rajasthani thali that's perfectly adequate, though a little expensive—but it's the view you're paying for. Come here at night, when the tourist hordes have gone, and you'll find that by candlelight a fort can be a very romantic setting—even though the alfresco tables sit alongside the cannons.—Vivienne Stanton
Open daily 7:30 to 10:30 pm.
Taj Lake Palace
Tel: 91 294 252 8800
An evening at the Taj Lake Palace's fine-dining restaurant is considered one of the most romantic experiences in Udaipur, especially by those remaining enviously on shore. In truth, however, the restaurant, although suitably elegant in shades of pink and gold, faces inward, toward the lily pond in the hotel's courtyard, and not outward toward the lake. It is still possible to impress, though, if that is your romantic intention, by ordering the Royal Palace Thali, a tasting menu of Rajasthani specialties, such as wood-smoked morels in a saffron-cashew gravy, or the lentil dish thikari kid al, served, as one would hope, on a gold platter.
M. I. Road
Tel: 91 141 237 4493
Niros is not exactly a hot new spotit's been around some 50 yearsnor is it the most romantic venue, as the noisy jumble of tables is crammed into extremely tight quarters. But ask any concierge in Jaipur where to eat outside the hotel, and he will send you here. No wonder it always seems crowded with other foreigners. Also no wonder that you'll find something to your taste, since it serves everything from Rajasthani to Chinese to continental fare. Try one of the Rajasthani favorites, lal maans, slow-cooked mutton in a fiery red sauce, or sula, charcoal-grilled lamb pieces marinated in hot spices. Or, for a real adventure, order a mutton burger.
Raika Bagh Station Area
Jodhpur , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 291 510 2701
Screened from the busy main street by a high stone wall, On the Rocks restaurant is popular with tourists and locals who take refuge from the dusty city in the leafy garden. It's more atmospheric at night, when there are fewer tour groups. There's also a bar, which has a reputation as one of the most jumping joints in Jodhpur. It's an original concept and not a bad choice. There are vegetarian and nonvegetarian menus, lots of barbecue options, and even an on-site bakery.—Vivienne Stanton
Open noon to 3:30 pm and 7 to 11 pm.
Jaisalmer , Rajasthan
Tel: 91 299 225 1910
A patchwork of colorful fabric canopies held up by bamboo poles lends the air of a desert camp to this rooftop restaurant run by the Nachana Haveli hotel, situated close to the Amar Sagar gate. Saffron is always busy and provides nightly live music and dancing as well as a view of Jaisalmer and its fort. The menu doesn't deviate much from the standard tourist mix of Indian, Chinese, and Continental dishes, but the quality of the food is good. If you get a whiff of the tandoor as you climb the stairs, you might not be able to resist the Indian grill; the tandoori chicken here is excellent.—Vanessa Able
Open daily 7:30 am to 10:30 pm.
Tel: 91 141 268 0101
Five miles outside of Jaipur, at the Oberoi Rajvilas, you might find yourself sitting in a courtyard under the stars. Candles are flickering and women are performing traditional Rajasthani folk dances to a background of sitar and drums. What difference does it make how the food is? The food, in fact, is excellent. Nibble on a mouthful of (deep breath) bharwan gucci aur subz biryani—morsels of spiced vegetables and basmati rice. Or order typical Rajasthani vegetarian platters of kebab and kofta, which use spinach in a manner that even a preschooler would like. It's all so delicious you might even vow to go meatless—until a sizzling platter is set down on the next table over, and you remember that the chef is Australian and ought to know something about lamb.
Taj Rambagh Palace
Bhawani Singh Road
Tel: 91 141 2211 919
Classical music, Florentine wall paintings, gold tableware, and a waiter who was most likely once in the employ of royalty—with that much ambience, it's hard not to feel a bit royal oneself (or at least, say, a distant cousin of the prince). The dishes add to the feeling, inspired as they are by the royal houses of India. So explore the tandoori cuisine of Punjab, the chicken done in the dum pukht style of Hyderabad, and the kebabs of Lucknow, and dream, as more than a few others in India do, of becoming royalty.