Well, thinking of this board I just FORCED myself to go to the above-named restaurants yesterday and today so I could compare them with Bollywood Cafe (see link). I ordered the same things at each: vegetable korma and chicken tikka masala--plus naan. I did takeout, in part because it felt too piggy to get two lunch specials for myself (even if I did eat only half of the food).
First let me say that it strikes even ME as odd to be evaluating CTM, because that is, after all, not a dish one would find in India. I was going to say it was not an authentic Indian dish, but then I wonder about that. Seems to me that Indians in the UK, here, etc. can create dishes that fit into the authentic category even if they are created after they are in other countries, but where do you draw the line? What do you think?
Okay, first Khushboo. Murgh Tikka Masala--the first time I had this dish at Khushboo, it was excellent, with an intriguing fruity undertone, but thereafter, the inability to calibrate the level of spiciness has been a problem. Yesterday, after not having had it for a while, I tried this again. I ordered it mild, and it arrived somewhat spicy, with cumin being the prominent flavor. It was also noticeably salty. The fruity undertone was gone, alas--in fact this was entirely different from the dish I had there when the restaurant first opened. I hate to say this, but Bollywood Cafe's was better--and Bollywood's contained much more chicken.
Sabji (vegetable) korma--identifiable veggies were potato, carrot, peas, eggplant (at least there was what looked like eggplant skin), green beans, and corn. There were also cashews, almonds, and raisins. The creamy sauce was a bit sour, and although ordered mild, was fairly spicy. There were tiny specks of some as-yet unidentified herb. I think Bollywood Cafe's korma tasted better, although Khushboo's has a nicer selection of veggies.
Gosht (lamb) naan--not the least bit worthwhile. Very little lamb and no lamb flavor. At first I thought the green specks were, dare I say it, methi, but at least some of them are cilantro. Anyway, if you want lamby flatbread, go to Eastern Lamejun and get lamejun. Note that I tried this instead of the plain naan merely because I am already familiar with Khushboo's naan, which I like the best of all I have tried.
Other notes: the orders came with a large container of rice and three containers of condiments. I struck me that at least I would dare eat these condiments. I am afraid to use the ones at the restaurant, because they are obvioulsy recycled and someone could very well have licked the spoon, etc.
Now on to Punjab. The first thing I noticed when I got home was that the entrees were a lot smaller than those at either Khushboo or Bollywood--the containers were half the size! This was compensated for a bit by the fact that Khushboo's lunches also come with soup. Also included were rice and two small containers of condiments.
Chicken Tikka Masala--I had a number of thoughts after my first bite of this: that it might be somewhat more interesting than Khushboo's (I am still looking for that slight fruity undertone and this came closer), that it was a bit salty, and, dare I say it, that it tasted like it could have contained Campbell's Tomato Soup. (Now, this is not a unique thought, because someone on uk.food+drink.indian said he had the perfect recipe for CTM, and that recipe, to the horror of all, contained said soup. I honestly don't know if that would have occurred to me otherwise, but I sure wasn't thinking about it before I tasted it.) Now let me go on to say that, nonetheless, this CTM might have been a tad tastier, and simultaneously more comforting, than Khushboo's rendition. I do think I liked Bollywood Cafe's the best though.
Vegetable Korma--although this was, again, half the amount of Khushboo's and also only a fraction of what one got at Bollywood Cafe, the thicker sauce was more populated with veggies. The selection included chickpeas, carrots, cauliflower, peas, summer squash, and zucchini. There were also almonds, cashews, and raisins. Ordered at the regular level of spiciness, this was slightly less spicy than Khushboo's mild and had a better flavor than Khushboo's. It is not clear to me whether I like Punjab's or Bollywood Cafe's better, although Punjab's was more flavorful. Khushboo's veggies were the most to my liking, but the somewhat sour sauce was offputting in this dish.
Naan--good. I prefer Khushboo's which seems to be brushed with ghee. Punjab's was brushed with something oily, but it did not taste buttery....
Dal Soup--this soup was rather thin (perhaps just from my western standpoint), but what it lacked in bulk, it made up for in flavor. It tasted like an Indian spice shops smells.
Okay, now a question. While I was in Arlington Center, I also picked up a menu for Bombay. There are some interesting things listed. Does anyone have any comments on this place?