Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bombay Café: Cheap, above-average, and tasty

Who knew you'd find a good eatery tucked in the furthest corner of a hallway in an Indian Plaza? At Bombay Café, you'll find the locals- either taking a respite after some grocery shopping, or just in for a quick, cheap Indian bite.

Look, this is not a fine dining concept. You have to take a menu upon entering, walk up to the front counter, order, take a numbered stanchion to an open table, and wait for your order to be dropped off. If you want to be served hand-and-foot, this place is NOT for you.I ordered a few dishes to sample a variety of their offerings- Pani-Puri ($3.95), Paneer Pakora Chaat ($5.99), Mysore Masala Dosa ($7.95), and the hard-to-find Gobi Paratha ($3.50). In retrospect, I'm glad I stopped from ordering more since it was more than enough food.

For standard Bombay-style cuisine, the Pani-puri was the right choice. 8 puris (small hollow, fried, crisp dough spheres) were presented with a sufficient amount of a garbanzo-potato mixture and a side bowl of sweet-and-spicy water. A triad of chutneys- mint-cilantro, tamarind, and a mildly spicy orange-colored one were promptly set beside the appetizer. I like assembly of this dish a lot- you have to deftly fill the water inside the hole of the puri and gobble the entire thing in one fell swoop. Yum. The garnish of Sev (thin fried lentil noodles) and cilantro was perfection.

The Paneer Pakoras were definitely a toss-up. Some people would prefer a thicker piece of Paneer in it. Others would be content with how spongy the batter was that soaked up the flavors surrounding it. But I did feel that this was consistent with a street food order- paneer, in India, especially if you're not in the North, can be a higher priced item. At Bombay Café, their pakoras have a scant slice of paneer. About 4 large pakoras were quartered and topped with curried garbanzos, yogurt, tomatoes, and chopped onions. It was good. The side condiments are integral to this dish. So when you go, don't forget to add the chutneys.

The Mysore Masala Dosa was okay. The dosa (a sort of fermented lentil crepe) needed to be crisper- a simple technique of cooking it over the skillet for a slight longer would have scored higher on execution. The flavors were a little subdued- especially of the masala that was smeared onto the crepe. I have a feeling that this is the orange chutney that was part of the condiment triad. The turmeric-laced mashed potatoes, lentils, and green peas that were tucked inside the rolled-up crepe were standard. So was the accompanying side of Sambhar (curried vegetable stew) that you get to dip the crepe in. However, I found myself skipping over the crepe to get to these tastier items.

The Gobi Paratha was intriguing since I've never tried one. A little bland for my taste, I realized that gobi (cauliflower) doesn't have much flavor to begin with. The gobi inside this flat bread is minced ultra-fine with a touch of garlic and cilantro. A side order of Ghee (clarified butter) made the paratha more enjoyable. Next time, I will pair this with a main-course curry item.

After lunch, I did have the opportunity to talk to the owner, Joy Kakkanad, who mentioned that they are known for their Indo-Chinese specialties. He also mentioned that his restaurant's main goal is to deliver speedy, minimal service with flavorful food and highly competitive price points. Mr. Kakkanad, I think you have a good concept and I think your flavors are successful in capturing the Bombay dine-and-dash scene.

Oh, and a word of caution- these are Bombay flavors. Hence, the name of the place. Not Delhi, Kolkata, or Chennai. I get perplexed at self-entitled people that request (like this particular 'special' man in front of me at the counter) "authentic Gujrati style" and the equally profane "make it medium-spicy but not too spicy." I suppose the cook had to stop everything and have a little interview with him about exactly how much chilly would be perfect in return for a STAGGERING SUM OF $6 from his precious little wallet. GET REAL AND GET SOME ETTIQUETTE. If you don't like the food, just don't go back. You're making the person behind you (viz., me) look like I just stepped off the boat with you.

IN A NUTSHELL: A great way of introducing your friends to Indian cuisine with a Bombay flare (which happens to be the second most-populous city in the WORLD). If they don't like it, you didn't bust your wallet over them. For 2 appetizers, 1 main course, and 1 bread, my bill came out to be $22 with tax. And they were big enough to be split between 2 people! And we couldn't finish all of it! The décor is tastefully done but don't expect 5-star service. Do expect a good price point for what you're being offered.
Bombay Café on Urbanspoon

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