Given that India was a British colony until 1947, Brits tend to know their Indian cuisine pretty well. And so, when someone from the U.K. says that Bombay Bites in Riverdale serves the best Indian food they’ve had since they left Britain, I listen.
Although it’s been open for eight years, I wasn’t familiar with Bombay Bites, located in a Riverdale strip mall (which pretty much describes all of Riverdale), but decided recently to head north to check it out. Normally, the restaurant offers a very popular prix fixe lunch and dinner buffet. But with COVID-19, the buffet service is on hold; customers must order from the menu, which is extensive.
The first thing to grab your attention when you visit Bombay Bites is the video screen in the rear of the restaurant over the small bar area. It runs Bollywood videos pretty much nonstop, which are amusing and nothing if not colorful. And yes, Bombay Bites does have a small bar and offers a limited selection of beer and wine. There are seven wines available in all, but better beer choices, including Taj Mahal lager from India. If you’d prefer to bring your own wine in, the corkage fee is a mere six bucks.
Bombay Bites’ owners are from Northern India, but the menu spans a range of Indian fare, from kormas and biryanis to vindaloo and tandoori dishes. I like to kick off a meal in an Indian restaurant with papadum, a slightly bitter tasting (but delicious) North Indian flatbread with a crisp wafer-like consistency made from lentil flour and served with chutneys for dipping.
Another good Bombay Bites starter is Fish Pakora ($6.99), which is fish deep-fried with a tasty garbanzo bean batter. There’s also chicken, paneer (homemade cheese), aloo (potato), and vegetable pakoras available.
Curries and some other dishes such as biryani are available from the Bombay Bites kitchen in mild, medium, hot, or very hot versions. Be forewarned: “Hot” is spicier than the most incendiary dishes I’ve eaten in most Indian restaurants, so be careful how you order.
I ordered Lamb Vindaloo ($12.75) hot, not super-hot, and I could tell when the dish arrived by it’s nearly neon red coloring that it was going to be seriously spicy. It was. The flavor was excellent. But frankly, I was a little disappointed in the tough and chewy lamb nuggets. Typically when I order lamb vindaloo the lamb has been braised for a long time and is super tender – but not in this case. Still, the vindaloo – a spicy Goan-style curry with potatoes and meat – had a rich, complex flavor. Chicken and shrimp are the other vindaloo options at Bombay Bites. All curries, including vindaloo, come with light and fluffy basmati rice.
Of course, you’ll want some homemade naan to help soak up any curries or other sauces you might have at Bombay Bites. We enjoyed the original naan ($1.99) – traditional Indian bread baked in a tandoor oven. It was nicely charred and the perfect vindaloo accompaniment. The restaurant also offers an assortment of naans, including garlic naan, garlic-basil, chili, onion-basil, Peshwari (stuffed with coconut, cashews and raisins), keema (minced lamb), chicken, cheese, and garlic-cheese. Other Indian breads on the menu include paratha and puri.
Biryani – which is sometimes spelled biriyani – is a popular rice-based dish from Southern India. It’s sort of like rice pilaf, but with an Indian spin and can be made in a multitude of ways, such as with shrimp, fish, lamb, chicken, etc. We ordered Chicken Tikka Biryani ($13.99) and found it to be the dish we liked the most of those that we tried. Chicken Tikka is typically grilled pieces of boneless chicken marinated in yogurt and seasoned with spices such as garam masala, cumin, cayenne, paprika, ginger, garlic and such. The tender chicken chunks in the Chicken Tikka Biryani were heavenly – perfectly seasoned and served with basmati cooked with raisins, green peas, spices and cashew nuts.
Faith, my wife, almost never visits an Indian restaurant without ordering her favorite: Shrimp Saag ($13.99). Saag refers to leaf vegetables such as spinach, mustard greens, collard greens and so on. So if one orders chicken saag, lamb saag, etc. in this country it will typically feature spinach. Shrimp Saag at Bombay Bites is a creamy curry made with spinach, onions, garlic, ginger, spices, cream and, of course, shrimp, served with basmati rice.
Vegetarians will find a lot to like on the Bombay Bites menu with more than 25 vegetable dishes ranging from Methi Malai Mattor and Mushroom Masala, to Bhindi Aloo, Dal Tadka, Matter Paneer, Vegetable Coconut Korma, and many more.
Dessert choices ($3.49 each) include homemade Indian ice cream with pistachios, almonds and cashews called Kulfi, house-made Mango Ice Cream, Indian-style rice pudding called Kheer, and Gulab Jamun – a popular Indian dessert of deep-fried cottage cheese and dry milk balls soaked in sugar syrup.
And remember, regardless of what you order at Bombay Bites you’ll also enjoy Bollywood in the background.
Culinary quote of the week:
“So often these days eating Indian food passes for spirituality. I don’t meditate, I don’t pray, but I eat two samosas every day.” — Dan Bern
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.