As a Manhattanite back in the last century, I used to visit India Row in the East Village as often as possible—which was a lot, as I lived a few blocks away. The food was so delicious and so cheap that the fact that you could also get a free floor-show with a sitar-and-tabla duo was beside the point. I haven’t found Indian food to match anywhere else in all the years since. Until now.
Bombay Grill opened at 8716 Third Avenue just a few months ago, and I stumbled upon it by accident. I tried the takeout a few times and was amazed at how good everything tasted, so I decided to stop in for a visit.
The place has a pleasant, somewhat formal atmosphere, with modernist wood panels on one side and flocked velvet wallpaper on the other. The dining room was empty at lunch time, but the kitchen was bustling because most of the business is takeout and delivery, although a large party of foodies had taken over the dining room while I was there. There is also a partyroom downstairs, in case you know any good sitar-and-tabla duos to rock your birthday party. Otherwise, pop music from the subcontinent plays softly in the background.
The cuisine is mainly western Indian, the staff told me, but adjusted to American taste, like all imported cuisine. The staff is a mix of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani, and the cuisine combines the best of all three cultures. The place is BYOB, and there’s no bottle charge, so feel free to bring your favorite adult beverages.
Papadum is served as soon as you arrive, crispy and lightly spiced. Tamarind; green sauce with ginger, mint and mango; and onion-and-mango chutney are perfect accompaniments. Then I ordered the garlic naan, which came lightly toasted. It was a little heavy on the garlic; I prefer the regular naan, which is fluffy, buttery and savory.
Veggie samosas are an excellent addition to the pierogie/empanda matrix of stuffed-dough appetizers from around the world; these were savory and redolent. The chicken samosa features ground chicken with the expected expert seasoning, but it also yields a grainy texture, which wasn’t as satisfying as the veggie variety.
Next came the Aloo Papi cold appetizer: light, refreshing and crispy crepe tidbits with chickpeas and three kinds of tasty sauces topping. The chicken tikka masala was a little heavy on the cream for my taste, but delicately seasoned and still tasting of the same expert grilling as all the meat dishes. The tandoori mixed grill came with chicken tikka and chicken tandoor, lamb cubes and shrimp grilled to perfection, expertly seasoned and served on a sizzling platter with grilled onions, tomato and peppers. A side of steamed rice came topped with toasted onion, peas and shredded carrot.
The portions are big enough to satisfy your nonironic lumberjack/fireman partner, but if you have a normal-sized appetite, it’s perfect for sharing. Even so, everything was so delicious I couldn’t stop until I reached the point of painfully stuffed. Even then, there was plenty left over to take home for a midnight snack. And everything came to $24, which is a pretty reasonable price for a world-class meal.
All the grilled meats were mouth-wateringly delicious. The shrimp in particular was flavorful and moist, so exquisitely seasoned it transported me far from Third Avenue to the India of my imagination. Or at least back to the Indian Row of my younger days.
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