Okay, since I've lived in Portland everyone's told me that the Indian places in town, with the exception of Haggerty's, are all serviceable, but nothing special. So we drove or walked past Hi Bombay and Tandoor a lot, and never really had the urge to go in (and they were often totally empty). Tried Haggerty's a few weeks ago and was not thoroughly impressed. Yes it was fresh and pretty flavorful, but maybe Brit-Indi isn't for me? The sauce to everything else ratio just struck me as wrong. It was like big containers full of sauce with a few odd extra ingredients floating about. I'd give them another try, but it's nothing I can't live without.
So tonight, we get the Indian urge and figure what the hey, let's give Hi Bombay a shot. And now I'm wondering, what on earth are people hoping for in their Indian food that they're not raving and screaming about this place. My wife and I agree that our meal tonight ranked with the best Indian food we've had in a really long time, perhaps ever (and while we're no Indian food experts, our experience has taken us up and down all of New York City's Indian neighborhoods, and also to India itself for a couple of weeks). Every aspect of our meal tonight was exceptional. Samosas were piping hot, clearly fresh, and bursting w/ flavor. We ordered Fish vindaloo ("supper spicey," as the menu proclaimed) and Daal Saag, which seemed basically like saag paneer with a side of daal. The daal came first, and it was like a thick lentil soup - the depth of flavor was far beyond what I'm used in a daal side. We scooped this up with some hot, fluffy and delicious naan. Fish vindaloo was the spiciest entree I've had in Portland, and featured a thick, red, oniony sauce w/ chunks of perfectly done fish and potatoes. The heat was well integrated with the dish - not the result of a casual or careless overdose of chilis. The vindaloo was balanced by the saag - creamy spinach with fresh and tasty pieces of paneer (which is the one thing that REALLY tastes a lot better in India for some reason. This was pretty close, though).
Raita was the perfect consistency, with shredded cucumber and the slightest hint of sweetness. The only thing that I didn't love was the mango chutney, which was a bit syrupy, as opposed to chunky.
The place isn't cheap - but then it seems to me that ethnic restaurants of all stripes are rather expensive in Portland. For two, without any drinks or dessert, it was $40. But it was money well spent, and I'm kicking myself for spending six, no seven months here without setting foot inside the place. Can it be that this was just a fluke, and they just seriously overperformed tonight? Well, obviously I can't speak about their consistency, but I will certainly be back to give them another try.
I can't help wondering if I've landed in some kind of bizarro world when it comes to standards for Indian food. Based on only one visit to each place there is just no way Haggerty's even comes close to Hi Bombay.