Curry Mantra in Fairfax Serves Vindaloo and Naan

Curry Mantra is a beacon of regional pride

Curry Mantra founder Asad Sheikh has grown weary of the culinary turf wars raging at area Indian restaurants.

North versus South; clay oven or flaming grill: Instead, Sheikh prefers to break warm, absorbent naan and celebrate ardent sauces, slow-cooked proteins and the often complex vegetable dishes that showcase the best of the subcontinent's cuisine.

The restaurant assuages status-quo diners with familiar touchstones like budget-friendly buffets and snappy mulligatawny soup ($4).

But Sheikh's best dishes challenge typical menus by trotting out specialty curries culled from the far corners of his homeland each night. Rajasthan ki Kadhi ($12) journeys through different flavors and textures, steered by onion fritters, garlic, racy mustard and sour yogurt.

Assam ki Machli ($16) plunges house-marinated fish into a sea of tart tamarind sauce. Paneer makhani ($12) quells heat from spicier dishes, revealing chunks of creamy, house-made cheese in vibrant tomato sauce.

To rekindle the flame, there is Goat Mantra ($15), a fiery stew of tender meat soaked in chile-fueled curry. And for a taste of family, consider the house biryani ($16): The recipe comes from Sheikh's grandmother.

Curry Mantra, 9984 Main St., Fairfax; 703-218-8128 or dccurrymantra.com