The classiest place to eat is at the Taj Residency (tel. 0240/661-3939), where there's currently a very good round-the-clock cafe-style restaurant with an eclectic menu. We recommend you ask the obliging chef to prepare something Mahatrashtrian -- the Malwani fish curry is a good bet, as is their home-style lamb in tomato-onion gravy (muttonacha pandhra rassa), but the kitchen can make good suggestions based on your preferences. (Note that there's also a new Thai and Oriental specialty restaurant scheduled to open at the Taj by 2010.) Another smart choice (at least in terms of the quality of its food), is the pair of side-by-side restaurants at Hotel Amarpreet: they're called China Town and India Street, both do delicious, satisfying dishes at very affordable prices, and the attached old-fashioned bar is a real trip down nostalgia lane. Another spot worth trying is Angeethi (opposite Nupur Theatre, Jalna Rd.; tel. 0240/244-1988), one of Aurangabad's most popular restaurants, particularly with the business set. Try the Afghani chicken masala (pieces of boneless chicken cooked in a cashew-nut gravy), or the popular -- and spicy -- tandoori chicken masala. For something authentically Maharashtrian, order chicken kolhapuri (not on the menu, but ask for it anyway), a spicy-hot chicken dish with a sharp chili, onion, and garlic base; if you can handle the sting, it's delicious.
Perhaps slightly overrated, we still fancy Tandoor (Shyam Chambers, Station Rd.; tel. 0240/232-8481; daily 11am-3pm and 6:30-11pm) as the best restaurant in town. It's a very slick multicuisine place that's been a hot favorite since 1988 -- although it's a bit far from the main hotels. You can spend ages pondering the extensive menu, or you can ask the welcoming manager, Mr. Hussain, for his choices. Okra (bhindi) is not on the menu but can sometimes be made to order. The house specialty is definitely the kebabs; get a mixed tandoori sizzler with a selection of chicken kebabs or the fenugreek-leaves-flavored kasturi kebab (chicken) and kabuli tandoori chicken (marinated in creamy yogurt and flavored with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and white pepper), all outstanding. If you're looking for a mild curry that's been delicately prepared to bring out the most subtle flavors, ask for chicken korma -- the sauce is made from cashew nuts, poppy seeds, sweet-melon seeds, and white sesame seeds. Those craving a break from all things spicy can get the baked vegetables on a bed of spinach.
But if it's real authenticity you're looking for, head to the no-frills Thaliwala's Bhoj (Kamgar Bhavan, Bhau Phatak Smruti Rd., opposite Hotel Kartiki; tel. 0240/235-9438) and order a thali for a mere Rs 70. Waiters (who generally don't speak a syllable of English) will fill your platter with wonderful concoctions -- mop it all up with savory, freshly prepared chapatti, and you're sure to be a convert. Finally, for a pleasant lunch on the way back from Ellora, try Ambience, which belongs to the same group that owns the excellent Tandoor restaurant in Aurangabad . It's set in pleasant gardens 12km (7 1/2 miles) outside the city, in the vicinity of Daulatabad Fort. The place is also a lovely, atmospheric venue for dinner. Contact the manager (tel. 0240/261-5995; daily 9am-midnight), or inquire at Tandoor.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.