READERS' PICK: The rest of the name is "Homestyle Cuisine of India," and it shows in every dish at Sher-E Punjab. Delicately balanced spices (always respectfully prepared to meet your requested level of heat), heaping portions, and plenty of fish and vegetarian dishes make this authentic restaurant a pleasing experience for any palate. At once casual and elegantly appointed with white linen tablecloths and soft lighting, Sher-E Punjab offers intimate dining that's unbelievably affordable. All the American favorites are here, and freshly prepared: Aromatic curries, silky masalas, toothsome meat-and-vegetable filled samosas, and spicy dals and rich paneers are just some that leap to mind. The reddened tandoori fish or chicken is not to be missed, served sizzling hot with seared wedges of sweet white onion and bell pepper. We're also fans of their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, which stays hot and fresh from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: India Oven, 2727 N. Campbell Ave. This family-run neighborhood restaurant is a transcendental delight. Tucson has only a handful of Indian eateries, but they are of a consistently high quality. This year's leader of the pakora has been around for six years now, building up a loyal following. Respecting its namesake, India Oven specializes in Tandoor-cooked delicacies: chicken, fish, lamb and breads baked in a traditional clay oven. This little corner of Nirvana serves up plenty of beef, chicken, lamb and seafood dishes in a variety of styles: Southern Indian vindaloo; spinach and herb saag dishes; the rich spices and gravy of masala recipes; thick tomato-based karhai, a classic northern India version of ancient muglai cuisine, and more. For those concerned about carnivore karma, there are lots of vegetarian entrées, too, as well as a plethora of rice pilaus and biryanis. The many breads, of course, are perfect for sopping up the tasty turmeric-tinged sauces. Bring a giant appetite and be prepared for an out-of-this-world experience.
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