Bombay Grill Cuisine of India
There's a fun game to play when you're eating Indian food called "What Kind of Tandoori Bread Would I Be?" Are you multi-layered and buttery like paratha? How about oily and rich like poori? Maybe you’re sweet and nutty like a slice of hot kashmiri nan. I like to think of myself like a fresh round of garlic nan—smoking hot and a little acidic.
A prime Indian restaurant amounts to more than just a stack of nan and Bombay Grill has the superb service, killer food and ambiance fit for a Moghul Emperor.
The dining room is a stroke or two of aesthetic color genius with browns, greens and yellow. Golden statues and long, tinkling water fountain in the middle of the dining room set the tone for a relaxing meal. The scent of sweet incense floated through the air during my visit, and a projection against the front wall with a slideshow of pleasant India scenery. I felt somewhat underdressed since the waitstaff was adorned in dressy black and white, and the tablecloths and napkins were nicely starched. Yet every diner wore casual or semi-casual clothing—no harm, no foul for me.
Foods from all of India's major regions were duly represented. There's Northern dairy-based dishes like matar and saag paneer (housemade farmer’s cheese in either peas or stewed spinach with a mild, buttery sauce) and Eastern fish tandoori and jumbo prawns. Rice is the staple grain of the South, and every entrée comes with peas palao—beautiful long-grained, saffron-flavored basmati rice topped with green peas.
I began with a dish of hot and spicy mixed pickles ($2). The small bowl coddled a red-green-yellow mixture of coarsely chopped lemon, mango, lotus root, ginger root and peas. The taste was super hot, mega-sour and turbo-salty, which balanced out nicely when spooned on to starchy rice or scooped up with a complimentary piece of papadum (crisp lentil-flour crackers.)
I asked for a cup of hot masala chai tea ($1.95), which they made by steeping Darjeeling tea leaves with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and whole milk. It was rich and the cloves made my breath smell yummy.
For entrées, I ordered tandoori fish and prawns ($24.95), and a lamb and chicken combo ($21.95). I spent the time before my entrées arrived dipping into the trio of chutneys (fresh chunky relishes made with spices) that were set on my table. The green chutney was chilly in temperature but spicy with cilantro and vinegar. A reddish brown chutney was thin and savory, flavored with sweet and sour tamarind fruit. The red pepper chutney was blood-red and fire-hot. My lips were just the right amount of numb when I set down the papadum and picked up my fork.
The meaty tandoori fish before me was a dense, salty sea bass—easily the best of the bunch. The fish was accompanied by two prawns, each the size of my fist, that soaked up the tangy mesquite smoke from the oven. On another plate, lamb (tikka) kabab was dry and gamy, in sharp contrast to pieces of red-skinned tandoori chicken that were moist and smoldering with spice.
Next came two vegetarian dishes—saag paneer and my (now) new favorite mushroom matar makhani. The paneer was chewier than I've had elsewhere, but the sauce was rich with curry. There were big, juicy mushrooms in the makhani, served in a bright mahogany gravy that was lush with yogurt and spices. I could taste cumin, ginger, coriander and fennel. In fact, the whole meal was so aromatic I wondered why there weren’t garam masala scented candles or air fresheners on the market.
Dessert came in two ornate glass dishes—one for vanilla ice cream with mango pulp and almonds, called malwa ($2.95); the other for kulfi ($3.50), a homemade pistachio ice cream. The kulfi was frozen solid. I chiseled off a few slivers only to be disappointed by an overdose of concentrated cardamom, which made it taste like Pine-Sol. The malwa was a better choice, perfectly luscious with bits of mango pulp toward the bottom.
I kept picking at my garlic nan after the dessert was gone, still tempted by zesty swirls of garlic embedded in the soft, char-grilled bread. My smiling server didn't seem to mind. He doted on me the entire time, and even after I was done feasting, he never let water glass sink below half full. For that and many other reasons, Bombay Grill would make an excellent first date destination. But if one of you gets the garlic nan, be polite and follow it with some masala tea.
The Alibi Recommends:
• Fish tandoori
• Garlic nan
• Saag paneer
• Mango malwa
Bombay Grill, 3600 N.M. Hwy 528 NW (Alameda, West of Coors), 899-6900. Hours: Lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, dinner from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. daily. Price range: moderate to expensive. Booze, credit cards accepted, vegetarian dishes, catering, large parties, events.