Anticipation is an amazing thing. It can make one fixate on things with almost intolerable clutches. Tacoma is now released from said clutches. Bombay Bistro really truly opened yesterday. Let the gluttony begin.
Like locust descending on a field of sweet corn, Tacomans from far and wide poured into Bombay Bistro at lunchtime for a long awaited taste of the East. Employee Carrie greeted us at the door and gave a nice surprise with, “Welcome to Bombay Bistro. Our buffet today is complimentary. Please have a seat where ever you’d like”. What? The food is, like, free? I felt like Elaine from Seinfeld trying to stifle a huge disbelieving “Get Out!” Grinning ear-to-ear and giggling like idiots, we staked out two tables for our comrades who’d be joining us soon and zipped over to get in the buffet line. I kept breathing through my mouth and nose at once to take in all the heady aromas; ginger, cardamom, fragrant basmati rice, garlic.
The buffet starts with two soups, one a thin lamb broth that was more fat than lamb and the second a creamed tomato. The tomato soup was on the sweet side, which I enjoy, and of a medium thickness (also a plus). I just don’t find soups that are so thick as to almost be tomato paste that exciting. Next on the buffet table was dessert. Odd. Since I knew the milky white rice dish was dessert, I skipped it for later and advanced to the sauce section. Spicy ginger, tangy garlic, yogurt cucumber and sweet mint sauces were all available as well as a few I could not name. An array of sliced raw vegetables were laid out next to chapatti. I passed on the veggies; saving the room on my plate and in my stomach for the main attractions farther down.
Tacoma resident B. Hilton happened to be in line behind me, and called the flat bread chapatti ‘kick in the teeth’ hot. He was not expecting so much heat from a thin little bread. Neither was I as I nibbled a bit while in line. Chapatti is wafer thin and made of finely minced garlic, salt, ground cumin and whole wheat.
There were over ten dishes on the buffet, ranging from straight veggies options of caramelized onions and spinach in spices to their five lentils specialty with cumin. A great vegetarian dish of paneer (Indian cheese), curried cream and green peas with tiny bits of carrots was also offered. The cheese chunks were easily two inches in length and width. Now those are chunky chunks of cheese (man, that was cheesy). The standard pakora, egg size veggie filled balls, were dipped in chickpea batter and deep-fried . These were only lightly fried to golden with the insides still moist. Someone in that kitchen knows when to pull the fryer basket up.
’Bring on the meat”. I smiled now at the guy ahead of me as he loaded his already overflowing plate with drumsticks of red tandoori chicken legs the size of my hand. Somehow this giant of a man had mastered the art of ‘buffeting’ and had made beef biryani or sabzi and creamy chicken tiki masala into an elaborate carnivorous stack. The size of the meat morsels were more than generous and all were moist and flavorful.
Basmati rice had quite the subtle aroma, but it still crept out through all the other powerful scents. Fluffy hot naan bread ended the buffet.
Carrie, who turned out to be the official ‘espresso girl’ was delightful. She came from a 7-year stint with Starbucks and pulls a smashing double espresso. She checked on our group non-stop and gave us a pitcher of water for the table as we couldn’t seem to drink enough of it. The overall spice of most dishes seemed to be a bit on the hotter side.
Lastly, dessert. I’d be hard pressed to recollect ever having a better kheer. Bombay makes theirs with a hint of citrus with the creamy saucy rice, golden, slightly curried raisins and slivered almonds with a tad of cardamom. Just the slightest amount of citrus as an addition to the usual flavors was enough to make me gobble an entire bowl.
Lovely interior, colorful yet tasteful painting scheme, gorgeous huge chandeliers, brilliant colored exotic silk flowers, comfortable padded chairs, linen on the table and for the lap.
I can see the crazy 10:30 p.m. mid winter to go orders now; “Yes, I’d like to get two bowls of kheer, a bowl of tomato soup, an order of paneer, a lamb khorma, chicken masala with extra meat and a beef saag. Oh and a double order of naan.” There’s a pause as the person placing the order asks “What are you getting” to their counterpart. It’s Indian comfort food that’s also elegant and complex. Much time has been spent on getting the ingredient balance right in the dishes and it shows. Bombay Bistro will open at 7 a.m. for espresso service, lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 4:00 p.m. to 11 p.m. A full service bar complete with liquor, wine and beer are on the way. I hear the wine selection will be huge.
Bombay Bistro is at 4328 Sixth Ave. in Tacoma. Give them a buzz at 253.761.9999