Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bombay Bistro - Jackson

Since opening late last December, Bombay Bistro has been featured in The Clarion Ledger (I would have linked the story, but the Clarion Ledger’s website won’t cooperate), The Jackson Free Press, and most of the local bloggers have paid them a visit as well: Gidget Eats, Angela Shephard of Go, Shephards, Go, and even Beth Kander as a guest blogger for Eat Jackson. However, they all share one odd similarity, the lunch buffet.

Since I hold a deep resentment for buffets, I decided to skip the steamer trays and go right for the menu. Readers of this site should know the drill by now. If it’s local, the restaurant gets two if not three visits. With that number of meals, any variance in service and food quality is hopefully evened out, not to mention it allows me to try a larger portion of the menu. Of course, the real challenge at an Indian restaurant is knowing where to start.

Located in the appetizer section of the menu, Cholley Bhaturey is labeled as “no description required” and, I know I’ll get angry comments about this, that is incredibly annoying.
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For those who are unprepared to pass neither a graduate level nor a kindergarten level test on Indian cuisine, the Wikipedia article sheds a little light on the subject. Basically cholley bhaturey is a combination of chickpeas (chole) and a fried bread made from maida flour (bhatoora).
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With that out of the way, this was the first batch of cholley bhaturey I had at Bombay Bistro and it was an excellent way to start the meal. Consisting of tender chickpeas floating in a rich, tomato sauce accented with the flavor of cilantro stems, this is a vegetarian dish that even carnivores can enjoy.
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I enjoyed this cholley bhaturey so much that I made sure to order again during visit #3 and it was still just as tender and satisfying as before. The only real difference I noticed was the obvious topping of cilantro leaves.

Chili garlic prawns were another choice from the appetizer section of the menu
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This was one of the two shrimp dishes that I tried at Bombay Bistro and with juicy, plump shrimp and a sweet sauce, these chili garlic prawns were a fine selection.
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Featuring a pleasant, trailing spiciness and plenty of garlicky goodness, the sauce bore an uncanny similarity to Huy Fong’s Chili Garlic Sauce but that’s never a bad thing.

The other shrimp dish that I tried at Bombay Bistro was the shrimp pakoras.
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While the shrimp were just as large and succulent as those in the chili garlic prawns, this dish was a mixed bag.
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The batter was almost like a savory funnel cake batter and while the tamarind, mint, and cilantro flavors were excellent, the thick, doughy texture of the batter lacked any crispness and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Despite being another vegetarian dish, it’s hard to turn down an order of vegetable samosas.
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Unfortunately these samosas were a lot like the shrimp pakoras, an excellent filling was weighed down by an underwhelming outer layer. Like you’d expect these samosas had a thick skin but each bite was doughy and missing the crunch that I’ve come to expect from a well fried samosa. Thankfully the stuffing made me completely forget the wrapper. It was your typical mix of peas and potatoes but with a strong taste of fennel and a peppery ending, a savory 180 degree turn from the lackluster dough.

I could have spent many more meals exploring the appetizer and starter sections of Bombay Bistro’s menu, but I was curious to see how owner Parveen Kapoor and chef Jitender Anand could handle some of the Anglicized Indian favorites. First in that category is the almighty Glaswegian dish, chicken tikka masala.
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The chicken tikka masala emerged from the kitchen looking a little soupy, even for tikka masala.
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Not to worry, it took a little digging but there were plenty of juicy chunks of white meat chicken throughout the bowl.
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With a creamy tomato based sauce, this chicken tikka masala had a relatively mild approach but the addition of large chunks of bell pepper and a forward cumin flavor made for a distinctive taste.

If you look through the menu at Bombay Bistro, most every dish has a quick description underneath the name but only one has the title “King of Kabobs”.
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This is a dish you just won’t find on the buffet, mainly because the presentation is half the fun. This cast iron platter of onions, cilantro and marinated chicken arrived at my table sizzling and smoking and generally causing a ruckus. I could see the envy in the eyes of the diners who had chosen the buffet. Sure their lunch may have variety but it sure as hell doesn’t sizzle!
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You might think these day glow colors are all a trick of the camera, but when the chicken is marinated in yogurt, mint, garlic, and ginger and cooked in a rocket hot tandoor, it tends to come out looking a little radioactive.
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Unfortunately, all the special effects in the world couldn’t hide the taste of this dish. Each bite was musty and flat. Sure there was a trailing heat that did its best to cover up the dryness of overcooked white meat, but it couldn’t hide the drab flavors.
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Per usual with any form of cooked chicken, the dark meat was much juicier than the white meat but the lackluster flavor persisted.

Two chicken centric dishes may be enough for most people but when I had my friend Sam in tow, he insisted on trying the butter chicken as well.
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This chicken dish may look eerily similar to the chicken tikka masala and some of ingredients may be the same, but there was a graininess to the sauce and the subtle taste of toasted butter that really set this dish apart. Well, those things and a touch of trailing heat.

Hoping to break out of the chicken rut, I ordered the lamb vindaloo just to see how Bombay Bistro would handle the different flavors of the lamb.
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You certainly can’t miss the peppers floating in this bowl.
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While the peppers added a nice crunch and spiciness to the dish, a grainy sauce and tender, but overcooked lamb let this vindaloo down. I really enjoyed the flavors of this dish but it’s hard to overlook dry lamb not to mention a sauce with a sandy consistency.

I don’t want to end this look at Bombay Bistro on a dour note so I’ve been saving this best for last. I never thought I would say this about a vegetable based dish, but the Baigan Bhurtha alone is worth repeat visits to Bombay Bistro.
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This dish is made by cooking eggplant on skewers in the tandoor, chopping the eggplant, mixing with onions and tomatoes and simmering the concoction on the grill and, let me tell you, it is something else. This eggplant is tender but not overcooked or mushy and it’s served with a sauce that’s more like a paste than a smooth gravy consistency. Each bite is packed with black pepper and delivers a spicy, beefy richness that you just don’t expect in a vegetable dish. According to Kapoor, this flavor is the result of peanuts, onion seeds, mustard seeds, and mustard oil. I would just as soon call it culinary magic

Of course, I can’t forget the garlic naan.
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I made sure to order this bread every time I was at Bombay Bistro. It was buttery, lightly charred, and full of silky garlic flavor, really everything you could want.

I suppose the burning question is how does Bombay Bistro compare to Spice Avenue and Ruchi India? Well that’s tough to answer as each restaurant has its own virtues. Bombay Bistro may not have the silky sauces and sublime tandoori chicken of Spice Avenue or the spiciness of Ruchi India, but it does have an expansive menu that is still being honed, not to mention excellent service. The bottom line is that Bombay Bistro is a new restaurant in town and it deserves a fair shake. I may have found that some of the dishes aren’t quite up to par, but with a dish like the Baigan Bhurtha, that’s a good enough reason for me to be a regular at Bombay Bistro.

Bombay Bistro Address & Information

Bombay Bistro on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are the two things that I would have for my last meal and they actually do quite well on a buffet lane.

Kat said...

I meant to leave this comment earlier, but next time you're going into south MS - stop in Georgetown at the Kountry Kitchen.

It's a little hole in the wall buffet in a gas station. The veggies are alright. But the fried chicken is simply amazing. I've been to Lorman as well and honestly - Lorman's fried chicken doesn't hold a candle.

Try it out!

Cynical Cook said...

>Anon
-I like your level of devotion to those chicken dishes.

>Kat
-Kountry Kitchen in Georgetown, MS? I tried looking up their address and didn't have any luck. Do you have a phone number and address for this gas station/buffet?

Yohan said...

What? All the real Jackson food bloggers have already been? That means it's my turn now :) Man, I'm always late to the party. Thanks for the thorough review though. I'm looking forward to trying them and seeing if they can dethrone Spice Avenue as my favorite Indian place in town.