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Bombay Grill

571 Watervliet-Shaker Road (Route 155), Latham, 783-7838. Serving lunch (buffet) Tue-Fri 11:30-3, Sat-Sun noon-3, dinner Mon 5-10, Tue-Sun 5-10:30. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: Indian and Afghan

Entrée price range: $7 (lentil curry) to $20 (seafood thali)

Ambiance: casual

 

Seeking Good Korma

By B.A. Nilsson

It started, modestly, as a foodcourt stand, an anomaly in Colonie Center’s hive of fast-food fare. When Bombay Grill owner Naeem Yousuf murmured the monthly rent he was soon to be charged for his hole in the wall, I was shocked—until I realized I’d misheard him, and the number he’d quoted was the rent he’d already been paying. The proposed increase would have trebled that amount! So he seized the opportunity to move into a place of his own, on Route 155 in Latham.

A varied provenance has left this building with unusual characteristics. It has the boxiness of an old fast-food joint, but the bathrooms are labeled in Italian. The dining area is split by a low divider, and one corner hosts a juice bar.

In this case, it’s a selection of sweet yogurt-based drinks called lassi, a North Indian specialty with a long history, a drink now commonly enjoyed with a variety of fruit flavorings. Bombay Grill offers the traditional mango along with peach, strawberry or mixed fruit. My daughter, whose main reason for visiting an Indian restaurant seems to be scarfing down the lassi, reports that the strawberry variety was particularly satisfying.

The restaurant seemed lonely the evening of our visit. Yousuf was by himself working the floor, always a liability when there are customers to be seated and kitchen pickups to be made at the same time. Let’s hope this was only a temporary exigency.

My favorite introduction to Indian cuisine is a thali, the literal meaning of which, “plate,” has blossomed into a multi-course meal served on one generous platter. Bombay Grill offers four varieties: the vegetarian shahi thali ($13), the royal thali ($14), which features chicken masala and lamb korma, a seafood-oriented thali for $20 and an array that showcases the traditional clay oven, a chicken-and-kebab-based tandoori thali ($17).

The first of those proved irresistible to my wife, who likes to occasionally eschew her carnivorousness. The Bombay shahi thali includes chana masala, a chickpea-based stew; the spinach-and-cheese palak paneer and a portion of mixed vegetable masala, featuring curried potatoes, peas and cauliflower. Alongside it are basmati rice and tangy yogurt-based raita, with a choice of samosa or pakora as well. A very satisfying array, served with its own tandoor-grilled flatbread, nan—a bargain at 13 bucks.

Samosas, which are deep-fried pastries stuffed with potatoes and peas, and pakoras, chickpea-flour-based fritters with mixed-veggie fillings, are staples of the appetizer list, and we started the meal with a tasty six-dollar assortment that also included aloo tiki, a spicy potato pancake.

Feeling a little under the weather myself, I fought what ailed me with a bowl of dal ($3), a soup of curried yellow lentils. It had the satisfying effect of chicken soup, enhanced, I’m convinced, by the added aromatics.

Although most of the menu features Punjab fare, the Indian-Pakistani variety characteristic of nearly all such restaurants, Bombay Grill adds a column of Afghan platters. At the heart of these are kebabs, built from chicken or lamb or beef; the meat is in chunks, minced, or sliced as chops, but in all cases it’s grilled and served on a platter with rice and salad and a side of nan.

Three different lamb preparations are available individually or on a mixed platter ($16). As a tikka kebab, the meat is minced and seasoned and shaped into an oblong patty before it’s skewered and grilled. Other cubed and sliced formations gave the platter a varied look that supported the surprisingly varied flavors of the preparations.

A fast, hot run through the tandoor oven gives meat a succulent alternative to grilling, and chicken is a made-to-order meat for that process. Traditional tandoori chicken comes in half ($8) and full ($13) portions, and we figured ordering the latter gave us an economical second meal. Unfortunately, some parts of the bird were burnt, suggesting that the understaffed kitchen was too rushed to pay proper attention—a suspicion confirmed when our poori arrived. That’s a thin-crusted bread that’s deep-fried into a puffy balloon, a spectacular sight, but our order had long since deflated.

Among the items we didn’t get a chance to sample are biryanes—basmati-rice-based compotes of meat and/or vegetables that take on wonderfully complex flavors ($9 to $13). And there’s a wealth of sauces and spices I enjoy revisiting, particularly the super-spicy vindaloo.

Not surprisingly, lunch at Bombay Grill centers around the $8 weekday buffet ($10 on weekends), and there are many take-out specials available for both lunch and dinner. Mondays are given over to a vegetarian dinner buffet (5-10 PM, $11).

We’re finally in a position to note that an Indian restaurant entering this market has a lot of strong competition. Yousuf is off to good start, but there’s more ground for him to cover before settling in here for a long stay.

 

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties) hosts its annual Mardi Gras bash tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (Feb. 1-2) with an oyster-rich menu, live music and more. Among the offerings: shrimp and sausage jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, gator gumbo, creole veggie and pecan pasta made with fresh fettuccine, orange glazed duck with dirty rice, blackened catfish with Louisiana Béarnaise and oysters on the half shell, oysters stuffed and baked, oysters fried with Creole roasted pepper tartar sauce. Friday’s music is by Crawdaddy; Saturday dance to Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers. The music runs from 9 to 11:30 both nights. There’s a $5 cover for non-dining guests. Call for reservations: 845-246-0900. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (food at banilsson.com).



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