My wife and I had been eating at Bombay Grill in the Idanha building since it opened and always liked it, but about three years ago, we noticed the food suddenly become engrossing, fuller and more highly flavored.
We eventually learned that this surge in quality was no happy accident, but the result of an ownership change. Bombay Grill is now owned by chef Mehar Singh and his wife Sukhvinder Kaur. Along with their son Paarmveer Singh, they are making and serving the most excellent Indian food in Boise.
The physical space of the restaurant, a few steps up from street level on the corner of 10th and Main streets, has not changed much since the Peter Schott restaurants of the 80s and 90s. As always, 10th Street Station is downstairs and any meal in a restaurant in this building must conclude with a cocktail in the basement bar, possibly the best bar in the world.
In the Bombay dining room, there are still brass handrails and one strange holdover of decor 75 wood-cut profiles of George Washington on hinges at the top of a bookcase over the fireplace. Now the walls are burnished copper and golden pink, and there is Indian music overhead. In the arched windows are the words: lamb, chicken, beer, wine.
We had always found the window slogans funny, especially the seeming odd grouping of lamb, chicken and beer. That is, until about the 15th time we were having dinner at Bombay and realized this was always what we order: lamb saag ($13.95, for me), chicken tikka masala ($15.95, for her), and Kingfisher lager ($7/22 ounces, $4.50/12 ounces).
Like many Indian dishes, these entrees are a type of curry, a thick brew of vegetables and spices, served with your choice of meat or sometimes cheese. They are presented in a bowl or a boat to be spooned over rice, and even the plain basmati rice at Bombay is perfect. Or the curry can be scooped up in a piece of warm flatbread called naan (four pieces of plain for $2.25, with various fillings up to $5.95).
The lamb saag is something like the most transcendent spinach dip you never even imagined, with cumin, coriander, cilantro bright green, intense, as spicy as you request. (The heat is more of a slow burn than a blast right out the gate, and if you aim too high, it can be tempered with a little of the absolutely delicious yogurt made in-house.) The lamb shreds apart with a fork but is still pink inside. The chicken tikka masala is creamier, with a more tomatoey base, a little sweet, the meat just as tender.
All dinner entrees are served with a basket of poppadum thin, chickpea wafers fried crisp and two chutneys, a sweet tamarind syrup and a puree of ginger, yogurt, and cilantro. This sort of functions like the Indian version of chips and salsa, preparing the palate without filling you up. (When ordering food to-go, be sure to mention these, or they wont be included.)
We could have gone on forever, happily eating that same meal. I have tried other dishes here, and we have gone to other Indian restaurants in town, but we always return to the saag and the tikka masala.
But then we tried the lunch buffet.
Served every day from 11 a.m. 2:30 p.m. for the jaw-droppingly economical price of $9.99, there is no better lunch deal in the city. Most buffets aim for the middle, sacrificing variety or spice, but we found popular items and more esoteric choices, ranging from mild to hot enough to clear the sinuses. Most important, everything we tried was at the right temperature, juicy, attractive, and all made from scratch, no corners cut. The chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo served were just as good as wed come to expect at night.
We found on the buffet one Saturday: plain rice, vegetable biriyani a kind of baked rice dish like paella, bright yellow with turmeric stewed chickpeas, and crispy vegetable fritters. Of the eight curries available, half had meat and the rest were vegetarian, some with paneer, a spongy homemade cheese. One most surprising thing I learned about Mehar is that he is vegetarian and never tastes the meat dishes he prepares. His work with meat is expert, particularly those items roasted in the tandoor.
Tandoori chicken also on the buffet is marinated in spices and yogurt, then cooked in a small clay oven (the tandoor) in high heat. The result is a bright red exterior and flavor that permeates to the bone. Other dishes on the buffet such as the delicious butter chicken and chicken curry utilize meat first cooked in the tandoor, then shredded and stewed.
Also served at lunch are a cucumber salad, chutneys, mango pickle and desserts the soupy, coconut rice pudding was particularly delicious. Indian chai tea is also included.
In winter, especially, I cant imagine a more satisfying meal. The family is personally invested in a way you rarely see, and we have always felt truly appreciated for our patronage. Mehar and Sukhvinder are there every day, and Boise could not be any luckier for it.
Email Alex Kiesig: firstname.lastname@example.org