Bombay Express presents a cornucopia of exotic spices to transform mundane vegetables into works of culinary street-food art
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Nov. 16, 2007
Bombay Express13000 N. I-35, Building 12 #216, 491-5055
Mehul Kapadia and his effervescent wife, Falguni, opened Bombay Express more than a year ago and have enjoyed prosperous business from day one. They serve a mix of Indian vegetarian street-food dishes found in South India, in the western state of Gujarat, and in Mumbai, with a few dishes thrown in to represent the north (the culinary area of the Indian subcontinent most known by Westerners). It's a pristinely clean and bright spot with lots of windows; tables fill the center of the room, and the perimeter is lined with a bar-level dining shelf and stools. You order at the counter, get a number, and the staff delivers your food. Everything we have eaten at Bombay Express has been superb. Most of the customer base is native South Asian, so they grew up eating these dishes, but the staff could not have been more helpful in describing the food and helping us make our choices.
A great starter is Pani Puri ($3.95), a hands-on dish in which you create a hole in little puffed-pastry spheres; load them up with diced potato, sprouted daal, black garbanzo beans, sweet sauce; fill the cavity with spicy mint water; and then a delicious and unusual treat is created. Follow that with Khasta Kachori ($3.95), flaky and crisp domes with the top imploded, stuffed with sprouts and potatoes, and covered with yogurt and sweet tamarind chutney, or Chole Samosa ($4.50), two flaky potato and pea turnovers, topped with a rich, chunky garbanzo sauce and sweet-sour chutney. These last two were among our favorites.
From the north we sampled a fine Aloo Paratha ($4.50), flaky flat-breads with mashed-potato layers, served with green mango chutney and yogurt. The tomato omelet ($3.50) is an eggless, chickpea-flour flat-bread with onions, herbs, and tomato cooked into the ruddy surface, served with a fiery green-chile and ginger dipping sauce. Both are excellent.
From the south we sampled an assortment of dishes. The Fried Idli ($3.95) reminded us of a spicy, fried spoon bread. Idli are steamed disks made from a batter of lentil and rice flour. Here they are cut into batons and deep-fried until very crispy on the outside (while the interior is light and fluffy), dusted with milagai podi (crushed lentils, red chiles, and spices), and served with coconut chutney and sambar (a rich and spicy lentil soup made with tamarind). We could eat our weight in fried idli. Medu Vada ($3.95) are the familiar doughnuts made from lentil flour, brown on the outside, savory and light as a feather on the inside, with the flavor of cumin and curry leaves and nary a trace of oiliness. Again, served with coconut chutney and sambar; again, wonderful.
A trio of dosas fell to our appetite: the onion dosa ($4.95), a large, thin, and crispy rice-batter crepe filled with onion, jalapeño, and cilantro; the Mysore Sada Dosa ($4.95), the same crepe with a liberal spreading of mysore chutney (tamarind, red chiles, jaggery sugar, coconut, lentils, and peppercorn); and the Bombay Express Special Dosa ($6.50), a crepe filled with heavily spiced diced potatoes and onions. We also enjoyed a nice uttapam ($5.50), a chunky rice crepe topped with diced tomato, jalapeño, and onion. All dosas have the traditional Southern Indian accompaniment of spicy coconut chutney and sambar.
We tasted one of the specials: Spicy Paneer Roll ($3.95), a flour tortilla filled with seasoned fried cubes of paneer cheese, onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño strips, all in a masala-spiked tomato sauce. Good and vaguely Indian. Meal specials are on the menu from Tuesday through Friday for $6.95, and their version of the Thali Platter ($8.95, a round tray containing small portions of eight to nine different items) is offered Saturday and Sunday only.
From dessert world we sampled a couple of Kulfi "Popsicles" ($2), one of mango and one saffron-pistachio, both decadently rich and soothing, plus an amazing dish of Gulab Jamuh ($2.50), delicate, round condensed-milk dumplings awash in a thick rosewater syrup, and the sinfully rich RasMalai ($2.95), "clouds" of delicate paneer cheese in a sweet cardamom syrup, dusted on top with flaked pistachio nuts. For drinks you can choose from sodas, spiced tea, mango lassi, sweet lassi, or salty lassi.
Bombay Express presents a cornucopia of exotic spices – cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, red-chile powder, coriander, fennel, cumin, mustard seeds, asafetida, rosewater, clove, turmeric, black pepper, green chile, fenugreek, sesame and poppy seeds, curry leaves, saffron, etc. – to masterfully transform mundane vegetables like potatoes, peas, and lentils into works of culinary street-food art. Bombay Express is fast and inexpensive and deliciously divine.
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