Sunday, February 15, 2009
Feel like taking a journey to India? I can't think of a better way to experience the culture, than through its food! I personally love Indian food because it offers several vegetarian options packed with exotic spices and flavors. This past Valentine's day, my best friend Aimee (also a vegetarian) and I decided to celebrate our wonderful friendship by feasting over Indian food! We had already tried Cafe Maharani and India Cafe in the past, so we decided try somewhere new. Well, Hawaii doesn't have many options for Indian food (Cafe Maharani, Zaffron, and India Cafe, and Bombay are the only ones that I know of) so we were left with just two choices, and Bombay was what we decided on.
Bombay opened about two years ago, and unlike the other Indian restaurants that I've visited, this place feels like a true restaurant. You won't find a crowded room of tables and chairs with tacky Indian art and mismatched plastic cups at this place. Located in the Discovery Bay Center in Waikiki, the restaurant has a tastefully decorated interior with an open kitchen, allowing you to see the chefs hard at work preparing your food. You'll find dim lighting and cloth napkins at this place. Bombay is one notch above the other Indian restaurants, in that they offer a wine list and imported Indian beers. They've also been voted one of the Best Restaurants in the last two years by Honolulu Magazine.
So what about the food? You can be sure that Bombay is authentic because owner Ashwani Ahuja was born and raised in New Delhi. I could also watch Chef Anand Bhandari and his crew prepare the food from my seat and the entire staff (including the waiters) appeared to be of Indian ethnicity. The menu is filled with familiar items like Curries, Samosas and Chicken Tiki Masala; but it also offers items that are hard to pronounce with descriptions offering names of ingredients that offer me little help. That didn't bother me though. In fact, it made me more excited--I was ready for the adventure!
To start, we had the Chat Papri ($5.95). I had no idea what to expect from this dish. The menu said that it was Crisp flour puris topped with chunks of potatoes, coated with yogurt and mint-tamarind sauce. The crisp flour puris turned out to be like little pieces of fried won-ton wrappers, light and crunchy. At first, I didn't like the strong mint flavor; but the more I ate it and mixed the sauces together, I found that the combination of flavors really fill your palate! The thick and creamy yogurt balanced out the strong mint flavor and the tamarind sauce added a hint of sweetness. The portion was small, but appropriate because the deep fried puris and thick yogurt was quite filling.
Aimee ordered the Baingan Bhartha ($14.95), which was baked and mashed eggplant cooked with onions, tomatoes, coriander, caraway, and ajwain. The flavors tasted slow cooked, with a mostly sweet flavor and a hint of spice. The mashed eggplant made the dish really hearty, almost as if there was meat in it. All entrees are served with Batsmati rice for an additional $1.
My dish was called Palak Paneer, which was a fresh spinach porridge with freshly made paneer (farmer's cheese). The spinach was creamy and tender, not mushy, and the cubes of fresh paneer added texture and richness to the dish. The delicate flavor and texture of paneer reminds me of fresh mozzarella cheese.
There are also a variety of freshly baked breads to choose from, inculding Nan, Roti, and stuffed versions. We decided upon the Roti ($2.95), thin bread made with whole wheat flour.
The menu also has several curries, meats cooked in the Tandoor oven, and Biryanis (casseroles of rice cooked with vegetables, chicken, lamb, shrimp, or fish). There are also beverages like chai and fresh mango lassi, as well as authentic Indian desserts. In my opinion, the food at Cafe Maharani had a lot more flavor and excitement; but I later learned that you can ask for raita, mango chutney and pickle condiments. Nonetheless, it was an exciting cultural experience and I'm glad to say that we have another option of Indian food (with a nice ambience) in Hawaii!
Discovery Bay Center
1778 Ala Moana Blvd