Six months ago, someone had asked about Indian restaurants in SD and Dumpling said that Bombay was her favorite and I demurred, going so far as to call it an Eleanor Widmer restaurant. At the time, I felt uncomfortable disagreeing with Dumpling whose recommendations are generally excellent. So you can imagine my chagrin when a chowish friend from San Diego, a colleague of mine out here in the desert, not only said that Bombay was his favorite Indian restuarant, but one of his favorite places in the whole city of San Diego. So with Spring Break upon us, three of us agreed to meet there for a dinner.
One friend and I showed up early (OK, I'm compulsive about time), and I made the mistake of going across the street and reading the menu at Kemo Sabe. Next time I'm in America's Finest City, I've got to try that place--but it did make the menu at Bombay seem pretty standard by comparison.
Our server at Bombay was very good, warm, professional, and competent. However, as the evening wore on she was terribly overburdened as the place was full, and I did get subtle hints that they wanted us out of there so they could fill the table again. The decor seemed OK (though I'm not too concerned about such matters), but the room was awfully loud and we had been placed next to a table with two young clammering and clattering children.
I have to say the food was pretty good. We had a naan basket with four large sized naans of various types. None was especially memorable, but all OK. The four types of dipping sauces were in little mini bowls that were not a good shape for dipping bread into--their mouths being too constricted, making it too hard to fish out that cucumber chunk from the raita. Two of the sauces were sweet (one honey, one chutney) which were too many sweet sauces for my tastes, though one of the naans was coconut flavored.
I started with a mulligatawny soup, which was a well made, extremely rich creamy soup. It had at least two kinds of pulses (lentils and like kidney beans) in it along with chicken and who knows what else. If I had any criticism, it would be that the spicey notes were almost hidden by its richness. My main course was the Eggplant Bhajta (sp?) which I ordered at a hotness level of 7. One of my friends had a lamb curry (sorry I can't remember the name) and the other had the tikka chicken (which is like a white meat chicken tandoori). My eggplant dish was OK, smooth and very rich from the butter cooked with the pureed eggplant, but lacking that wonderful interplay of spices that marks my favorite curries. It was hot enough, but the heat level didn't seem to arise from the rest of the dish. It seemed rather to be something added on (does anyone understand what I mean here?) which may be because the heat is in fact added to the customers' tastes. The chicken was OK, but no better than what one would expect from tandoori chicken. My other friend's lamb was a good dish with big chunks of succulent tender lamb in a smooth creamy curry base. Again, if I had a criticism it would be that the emphasis in the dish was more on achieving creaminess than on exciting curry flavors.
As a whole, I was reasonably pleased by the meal, but not overwhelmed. If you like your Indian food smooth, rich, and creamy, almost heavy with dairy, this would be an ideal place. But it is hard for me to escape the feeling that there must be better Indian restaurants in San Diego.
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