Chef's Table at Bombay Spice: Indian Different [PHOTOS]
When I think of Indian restaurants, I generally envision places that try to 'capture' the atmosphere of being in a far away country with traditional artwork, dark colors on the walls, a strong scent of curry and buffets. NOT that there's anything wrong with that...I still enjoy that version of Indian dining! But, I did come in with that expectation and was pleasantly surprised the minute I arrived at Bombay Spice Grill & Wine.
First, the place has a modern feel in architecture and decor, as many restaurants in River North have...well lit by the glass walls at the front of the place from floor to ceiling. It was easy to see one another and the food (which is always a good thing at a meal because how the dishes look is one way we consume them). The furniture was clean lines, solid but still comfortable (good for being comfortable with your dinner companions and taking the time savor what you came for). No overt attempts to show how Indian they are; instead they trust their food to do all the talking.
They offered us a choice of three wines on tap, of which I only sampled one that night, tending to stick with what I find enjoyable. My choice was a very mildly sweet Riesling which was pleasant and went well with everything else I consumed. There was a chardonnay and a cabernet as well, but the guests I sat with all went with the Riesling. My next visit will involve taking advantage of the other choices.
We started with round flat wafers made with lentils called papadum crisps. They had quiet flavor, but the texture is what made it interesting and a good platform for the four signature sauces paired with them. The sauces were served in a long, square dish which reminded me of a a paint palette. Each was sauce a vibrant attractive color. Tamarind: a dark colored sweet; Raita: a yogurt-based vegetable dip; Bombay Hot and Bombay Mint. I enjoyed all of them equally. Ok, I REALLY enjoyed the Raita and Tamarind equally with the crisp and later appreciated the Mint with the tofu!
The next starter was their mango salad consisting of crisp iceberg lettuce, mixed baby greens and nuts tossed in their signature creamy dressing. The fresh mango takes what would be a common salad assortment and makes it memorable, the sweetness was light and refreshing. The creamy dressing merely enhanced the mango flavor.
Their Seared Tofu, considered a Bombay signature, was dusted with fresh herbs and spices. The bite sized pieces were flavorful and absorbed the myriad of dipping sauces well, the mint sauce being my favorite to coat them with.
Next was the Seared Eggplant, my favorite dish of the night! It too was dusted with fresh herbs and spices but it was the savory flavor and multiple textures that made me happy; its skin was crisp, its insides silky and the flavor takes a couple of chews to reveal itself in the mouth but worth the wait. I ate this very slowly with purpose!
The Lamb Chop was flame grilled and seasoned with nine-spice blend. What was nice was that the blend complemented the lamb instead of masking it, the meat was moist and easy to remove from the bone.
The Tandoori Wings have a mildly sweet taste and come in three different levels of heat; they served these with the least hotness, probably to accommodate the entire Chef's Table guest list, since you never know where their heat threshhold is. The dipping sauce paired well with the wings but I forgot about the sauce and ate a couple without it.
Tikka Masala is an Indian curry dish and included chicken (though you could choose your protein). Their recipe contains chili de arbot peppers cooked with tomatoes, onions, vinegar, garlic, cumin and goram masala (which made it hot). It had a very welcome flavor of sour and heat and went well on their rice which made the texture fulfilling.
The Dessert Flight was a perfect way to have your cake and eat it too (although, there was no actual cake!). The flight consisted of a mango sorbet, their rice pudding and carrot halwa. Of the three, I was really surprised by the halwa. I hadn't expected to enjoy a dessert made from carrots as much as I did but all the natural sweetness of carrots is moist to the touch and sweet on the tongue. They were all light dishes that entertained your palate but didn't remove your memory of the rest of the meal with too much sweetness or too much richness.
Executive Chef Sunil Kumar talked to us about the food and the use of healthy, local ingredients. Bombay Spice focuses on providing food that is not only delicious and complex, but benneficial as well, using olive oil and the freshest ingredients available. I felt satisfied with what seemed to be excellent portion sizes of each showing he knew how to not just please one's taste but satisfy one's nutritional needs. To be content without being full.
I look forward to coming back to try other items not experienced during the event, particularly their Naan.