The Indian Food Scene Is Thriving on the Westside. Here Are Some of Our Favorite Restaurants.

Offerings in Beaverton and Hillsboro include Andhra chicken curry, crispy dosas, biryanis big enough for two, and rare Indian sweets.

For many Americans, Indian food equates to London-style curry house fare, with rich, creamy, frequently mild curries and garish red tandoori meats.

Increasingly, offerings have grown more diverse, following an influx of immigrants from southern Indian states. Several examples of this new wave of South Indian restaurants have clustered in Portland’s western suburbs.

Here are a few favorites from our recent peregrinations:

Chennai Masala (2088 NE Stucki Ave., Hillsboro, 503-531-9500, chennaimasala.net) has been a South Indian standard for more than a decade and a half. After the dining room was remodeled several years ago, it gained the feel of a midscale restaurant, shedding the cafeterialike vibe of its former incarnation and many of the other local Indian spots. South Indian food leans heavily vegetarian, so order accordingly. We suggest one of the dosas, a scrolled crispy crepe made with fermented lentil and rice flours. Good plain with just a side of aromatic sambar or filled with potatoes, chutney, egg, cheese, meat and more ($10-$17).

Chettinad (14125 SW Walker Road, Beaverton, 503-746-4512, chettinadbeaverton.com), at the northeast edge of the Nike campus, has been crushing the wickets lately with its multilayered, unabashedly spicy curries, among other savory specialties. Grab a cushy booth along the windows and try the Chettinad lamb curry ($15.99), plenty of tender boneless meat with ample hits of onion, curry leaf, cardamom and cinnamon. Novices should not venture beyond medium heat. Another can’t miss: one the biryanis ($12.99-$15.99), a large dish of turmeric-tinged rice and choice of meat that is plenty for two. The char-kissed and chewy butter naan ($2.99) is also best in class. Another tip: They like to keep the thermostat turned down here. Dress accordingly.

As its name suggests, Apna Chat Bhavan (1815 NW 169th Place, Suite 6020, Beaverton, 503-718-7841, apnachatbhavan.com) specializes in chaat, a category of dishes, including many snacks, with crunchy, savory and starchy ingredients. Chaat originated in Uttar Pradesh, home state of Agra and the Taj Mahal, but has become ubiquitous throughout India. And why not? Our favorite chaat at Apna is the bhel puri ($5.99), a mounded plate of puffed rice salad, with chickpeas, mint, potato, lentil crackers, onion and more, lightly coated with a tamarind-and-mint chutney dressing. Another highlight is the medu vada ($5.99 for four), a deep-fried savory doughnut made from fermented lentil flour punctuated by aromatic spices and served with a chunky, piquant sambar not radically dissimilar to ratatouille. These are crispy and not greasy outside, chewy and fragrant within. Apna is a large airy space, complete with a chill-out theater room with two large-screen TVs, lots of seats and children. It also shares real estate with a market selling Indian food staples and more.

In the Tanasbourne area of Hillsboro, Biryani Corner (1889 NE 106th Ave., Hillsboro, 503-747-4770, biryanicorner.net) is a full-service strip mall restaurant with a long menu dominated by southern Indian specialties. It may lack the flair of Chettinad, but top dishes come from the Andhra region of India that’s famous for its spicy foods. For a hot time, try the Rayalaseema chicken vepudu ($15), chicken stir fried in a minimally sauced “dry” curry with plenty of green chile heat and aromatic spices. Another winner is the Andhra chicken curry ($15.50), with a base of tomato and coconut milk. Here, the red chiles turbocharge the dish, to the delight of heat hounds. For those looking for more familiar flavors in an economical package, there is a family-sized biryani ($25-$36), with a variety of meat, seafood and vegetarian options, that can easily feed four.

Desi Bites (16165 SW Regatta Lane, #300, Beaverton, 971-371-2176, desibitespdx.com), another spot close to the Nike Campus, is one of the area’s newest South Asian markets with a full restaurant menu. Beware, however, the dining area is tiny (while the store is huge) and it fills up quickly. Plan for takeout, at least as a contingency. Don’t be afraid to try the fiery tomato and coconut-based Telangana curry ($13.99 for chicken, $15.99 for goat), a specialty of Hyderabad. For a more mainstream repast, try the kati rolls ($9.99-$12.75), curries ($10.99-$15.99) or kebabs ($12.75-$17.25) wrapped in paratha bread, which are messy but delicious.

India Sweets & Spices (16205 NW Bethany Court, #110, Beaverton, 503-690-0499, indiasweetandspices.com) is yet another market with cafeteria-style dining and a couple of tables. Dormant during much of the pandemic, it has fully reopened of late, serving a meat-free menu that includes a rotating selection of four or five curries each day along with dal, naan, rice and samosas. But the real draw here is the deli case full of traditional Indian sweets. Of course, there is gulab jamun ($2.99 for two), the ubiquitous sugar syrup drenched doughnut holes. But it also makes laddoo, burfi, milk cake and other, lesser-known Indian sweets. These are often flavored with nuts, cardamom or rosewater. Most are unfamiliar to Western palates, and the textures and sometimes intense sweetness can be challenging. Curious newbies will want to pick out a plate of mixed sweets ($12.99 per pound) to find their bliss.