Ayesha chef-owner Mohammed “Mike” Hussain says he picked Key Biscayne for his Indian restaurant because it reminded him of Bombay. If you close your eyes on a breezy night at one of his outdoor tables, the air thick with curry, tamarind and turmeric, you almost believe him. Even the crush of people waiting for a table on a weekend night seems in keeping with the South Asian illusion. Only you’re standing in a strip mall overlooking a parking lot, and you’re being scolded for being five minutes late for your reservation. It’s amazing what we’re willing to tolerate in the Indian food desert that is Miami-Dade.
This aromatic space with white tablecloths and saffron-colored sponged walls has been building a respectable following since Hussain relocated to the exclusive suburb 21/2 years ago after closing his Taste of Bombay restaurant in downtown Miami. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), Hussain, who also owns Indian restaurants in West Palm Beach and Jupiter, named the spot after his 13-year-old daughter. He plays on the name with menu items like saffron lettuce wraps, an appetizer that successfully pairs a fiery, juicy, chicken-tomato sauté with cool lettuce leaves and a fruity tamarind sauce for dipping. There’s a full page of vegetarian options and a healthy range of tandoor, biryani (rice), curry, madras and rogan josh dishes with chicken, lamb and seafood, served with a mound of carrot-flecked basmati rice.
Ambience: A potpourri of languages drifts from the intimate, raised booths inside, while Indian music videos on the flat-screen TV over the bar provide a rocking sitar soundtrack.
What Didn't Work