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Fresno finds: La Paella - Oaxaca - Bombay Cuisine

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Fresno finds: La Paella - Oaxaca - Bombay Cuisine

PolarBear | Nov 16, 2003 07:47 PM

Responding to a previous request on the board and adding a couple of fairly recent additions to the local dining scene, in reverse order:

Bombay Cuisine - buffet and menu service

My experience with Indian food is fairly limited to hit and miss items from A Taste of India and Brahma Bull (due mostly to my lack of knowing what to order). That, combined with an aversion to most buffets and the draw being the $10 tab, I didn't have high hopes on our first visit to Bombay Cuisine. What a great surprise, the place is rather large and modern, chrome and glass exterior, linen table cloths and a uniformed, friendly, efficient waitstaff. The two sides of the buffet seem to be divided between vegetarian and meat dishes. As an avid carnivore I have to admit to being completely taken by the veg offerings, sorry I can't recall them right now ( a spinach dish was over the top) but the flavors from each were so distinct and varied. The same goes for the meat dishes, along with the tandoori chicken was a goat stew and on a return visit (Friday, I think) was a wonderful shrimp concoction. There were at least six items on each side of the buffet table. On another return visit we came with a close friend who had spent some time in India and was much more knowledgeable. He expressed disappointment at first since apparently BC is northern Indian cuisine and he was really hoping for the fiery southern style that puts an array of small 500M scoville unit sauces in front of you. However, the smile on his face after the first few bites was a clear indication that all was well. The final proclamation was that this was the real thing. On each visit we've been served great warm naan in small quantities that is replenished on a regular basis.

If you want wine, bring your own, they only have bulk produced red-white-rose. There are two very good Indian beers available.

Bombay Cuisine
3333 W. Shaw Ave. (SE @ Valentine in front of the theaters)
559-226-0333

IIRC last spring a poster asked about Oaxacan food here in the valley, I did a Google and asked several hispanic colleagues and came up empty. About a month ago I asked the admin assistant in my office who had heard there was one in town. Turns out it's called..... the Oaxaca Restaurant (searching for Oaxacan food doesn't work).

I've been three times so far, first trying the Mole Negro, a deep dark rich looking sauce that had a delicate taste I hadn't expected. To be fair my only other experience with this sauce was many years ago sampling a dish my wife ordered that had a stronger, chocolate tasting base. The admin gal thought it strange that it was offered with puerco (which I ordered) rather than pollo. The second visit I had the Nopal Zapoteco, grilled cactus and beef over tomatoes, bell peppers and cheese. This came more or less fajitas style (not sizzling however), the flavors were great but the star was the cheese used, it was half melted at the bottom but still intact on the top, somewhat like Armenian string cheese in form but with tons more flavor. On my last trip I went with the Coloradito (red mole) con Pollo, this sauce had the same rich, deep look at the negro, but seemed to exhibit more spice and flavors, again I don't really have the background for comparisons.

I've attempted each time to get a paper menu to take home but with no luck so far, when I do I'll describe the dishes in more detail. They have a very attractive looking seafood section of shrimp, octopus and mixed seafood cocktails. Some of the other Oaxacan specialties are:

Barbacoa roja de chivo $8 - goat in broth w/avocado leaves and chiles

Barbacoa de borrego, guacamole y salsa - lamb w/dried chiles and avocado leaves

Calyuda - tortillas of beans, cheese, salsa, w/chorizo, beef or pork

Coloradito - ancho and guajilo chiles, nuts, raisins and cinnamon w/ chorizo, chicken, beef or portk

Tomales Oaxacan style

Property enclosed by rust colored iron bar fence, cameras monitor all parking areas within the enclosure (mainly a night-time concern). Easy access, Hwy 180 east to Chestnut (current end of fwy), right to first light (Belmont), right (west) just past corner.

Oaxaca Restaurant
4773 E. Belmont
559-454-1614

(PS, if they're full, closed, whatever, go west 1/4 mile, flip a U and the Country Fare cafe is on the south side of Belmont).

Finally, the best find in town so far:

Quasi disclaimer - I actually built this place inside the huge office complex in the late 70s. My wife and I operated it as the Garden Court Restaurant until 1982. We hadn't returned to check out the subsequent incarnations (having no desire to return to the restaurant business whatsoever) until this fall. The rec came from our gourmet cook and pal mentioned in the Bombay review.

La Paella was opened in the past two years or so by the Vidal family that immigrated here from Spain. As the name implies their specialty is paella. We had given up on finding anything close to what we had experience in Spain in the early 70s. After returning to the US we tried Fandango in PG, at the time it was a fairly good approximation but we found later versions to be on a downhill slide. La Paella has a couple of versions available, one with chicken and sausage, @ $6 for lunch and a mariscos for $10 (dinner prices 9/15).

My gourmet guru (GG) however, raved about a fish stew he had during a business lunch with six hungry hounds. As luck would have it, I was in charge of setting up the next lunch meeting for my office, so the die was cast. At that time a lot of their offerings were prepared for two people so our group of 12 or so paired up on what appealed to them. There were rave reviews all around but the absolute star was the Zarzuela, a kind of Spanish chioppino, infused with saffron and full of mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari rings (perfectly tender) and fish. Our meeting was out on the garden patio and while waiting for our food a server brought by this flaming garlic shrimp appetizer dish, the aroma turned every head in the place and the recipients feared for their lives, and immediately offered to share... ; >P

After two subsequent visits, our take is skip the paella (unless you haven't had a good one in a while) and go for the Zarzuela. You might also consider one of the other fish stews, since my GG and I haven't had the chance to get together here, he claims that his came with some baby potatoes, ours did not, so the question as to which one is really the best is still up for review and discussion, oh damn, more work to do.

Wines: I tried the two offerings of Spanish wine with lunch the other day, they were OK, the full bottles might offer better choices, but I'm a CA wine hound so not much help here.

Service is on the slow side, if going for lunch and on a schedule, call ahead with your order and they'll accomodate. They make a point of stating that if you want fast food you're in the wrong place (kind of a rough gig if you're serving a big office complex, but they're pulling it off, we made 6:30 reservations on a Sat. with no problem, but by 7:30 they were lined up out the door.) Plan on 30-45 minutes prep time for paella or Zarzuela)

They are opening a new location at Champlain & Perrin in NE Fresno (same center as Campagnia's I believe) sometime after the first of the year. The owner's wife told me they plan to keep the current location open for at least a few more months.

La Paella
1320 E. Shaw Ave. Ste. 111 (NE corner Shaw & 6th)
(Guarantee Financial Center - in the Plaza, N of the towers)
559-225-7629

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