Second Helpings: Indian Restaurants, Part One

We survey some of Austin's Indian restaurants in this week's "Second Helpings."

The weekly Chronicle feature "Second Helpings" offers readers the opportunity to sample tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were updated by Chronicle Food Editor Virginia B. Wood from an original publication date of 10/15/99. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

Bombay Grill

3201 Bee Caves Rd., 329-0234

Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11am-2:30pm

Dinner, Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30pm; Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30pm

Owned and operated by the same family that runs Star of India, this comfortable West Lake eatery offers a selection of traditional Indian dishes at very reasonable prices. The popular weekday lunch buffet is a great way to sample a variety of different items. For dinner, it's possible to choose individual items from the tandoor oven or a mixed grill that includes chicken, lamb, and prawns. Vegetarians will appreciate the Vegetable Bhojan, a hearty combination dinner showcasing many delightful veggie dishes. The Biryani, casseroles of sorts made with basmati rice, spices, and a choice of meat or vegetables in spicy sauces, are especially good.

Sarovar

8440 Burnet Rd., 454-8636

Monday-Friday, 11am-2:30pm; 5-10pm

Saturday-Sunday, 11am-10pm

This busy North Austin restaurant offers the most extensive Indian menu in the city, 20 pages of Northern and Southern Indian specialties. The shear number of choices can be overwhelming and the menu descriptions are scant, but the waitstaff can make well-informed suggestions when you can get their attention. Vegetarians will be pleased to find there are 40 vegetable dishes offered, from various entrées featuring homemade paneer cheese to the interesting Vegetable Kafta. Chicken, lamb, and seafood appear in curries, kebabs, and tandoor dishes. Once again, a lunch buffet ($6.95) offers the best opportunity to acquaint yourself with Sarovar's bountiful diversity.

Little Bombay

9616 N. Lamar #195, 339-0808

Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30am-9pm

We consider ourselves lucky that readers tipped us off about this unassuming little Indian street food joint in a North Austin strip center, otherwise we might not have found it for some time. Now that we've been there, count us as enthusiastic fans. Little Bombay specializes in authentic renditions of the street foods of Southern India, a satisfying selection of hearty, flavorful vegetarian dishes. Many items are deep-fried but emerge from the fryer crisp and light in our experience. The accommodations are very casual, but the food is first-rate.

The Clay Pit

1601 Guadalupe, 322-5131

Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm

Happy Hour, Monday-Friday, 4-6pm

Dinner, Sunday-Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday & Saturday, 5-11pm

The dynamic, sophisticated cooking at the Clay Pit can best be described as "contemporary Indian cuisine," where the pairing of traditional Indian techniques and flavors with items such as mussels and salmon makes every dining experience at the Clay Pit memorable. The daily lunch buffet is very satisfying, and the happy hour is a great place to chill out after a hard day at the Capitol. Mussels in Garlic Curry Sauce and Chicken Khuroos-E-Tursh are two of the chef's signature specialties. The waitstaff has been trained to offer all entrées prepared mild, medium, hot, or desi hot for the true chile head. Located in the historic Bertram Building, the Clay Pit books special events in the Bombay Room upstairs.

Taj Palace

6700 Middle Fiskville Rd., 452-9959

Daily, 11:30am-2:30pm; 5:30-10pm

Many Austinites savored their first taste of Indian cuisine at Taj Palace, the longest established local Indian restaurant where the royal court cuisine of Northern India is served in an attractive setting. They specialize in delicious, low-calorie dishes from the tandoor; chicken, lamb, shrimp, and fish are marinated with herbs and spices before cooking in the ultra-hot clay oven. An inviting selection of vegetarian offerings include the buttery Paneer Makhni Masala, homemade cheese in a creamy tomato sauce, and Malai Kofta, vegetable dumplings in an almond cream sauce. It's also possible to make a filling meal with appetizers of vegetable or chicken pakoras fried in delicate chickpea flour, Mulligatawny soup, and several baskets of fresh, hot naan bread from the tandoor.

Star of India

2900 W. Anderson Ln., 452-8199

2601 S. I-35, 441-3800

Daily, 11am-2:30pm; 5:30-10:30pm

The northwest sibling of West Lake's Bombay Grill is tucked into a strip mall in the shadow of MoPac at Anderson Lane, but it's worth seeking out, as is the newer South Austin location. The house specialty here is the Maharaja Dinner ($19.95), an enormous spread fit for royalty. Feast on Chicken Pakora, spicy Prawn Bhuna, Saag Gosht (lamb), Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Boti Kebab, Seekh Kebab, Onion Kulcha (bread), pilau rice, and coffee or tea! Lesser mortals will be sated by one of the Biryani, a spicy curry, or a tangy vindaloo. Try the Keema Naan, tandoor-cooked flat bread stuffed with spiced ground lamb or the Aloo Paratha, whole wheat bread stuffed with potatoes and peas.

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