By Bob Sacks |
Red Bank does not suffer from a lack of restaurants. It plays home to a wide-ranging variety of cuisines, from Mediterranean to Mexican, Italian to Irish, and every stripe between; but it had been missing one significant dining experience until two months ago when Bombay River opened its doors on Broad Street, at the site of the former Pho Le Vietnamese Restaurant. The long room has been graciously redecorated in soothing tones of deep green and gold, with exotic lighting fixtures and abstract artwork, making for a relaxing escape from the outside world.
The menu focuses more on Northern India, with its wheat-based breads, curries, use of garam masala spice, and creamier dishes, but the South is also represented with rice-based dishes such as Biryani (spicy rice with lamb, shrimp, chicken, or vegetables), use of coconut milk, and lentils.
The numerous small plate starters are ideal to share. We enjoyed Crispy Samosas ($7); a fried shell of wheat flour filled with seasoned roasted potatoes and peas, which was my idea of savory comfort food.
The highly addictive Lakkhnavi Papri Chat ($8), a crispy, sweet, gently spicy mélange of sweet yogurt, tamarind chutney, crispy crackers, potatoes, chick-peas, and black salt, resembled an upscale version of bhel, a wildly popular street/snack food. This was one of the dishes of the night; highly recommended.
Another appealing dish, Garlic Pepper Butter Shrimp ($10), presented shrimp cooked in butter, with green pepper, garlic, onions and curry leaves yielding a tangy, moderately spicy preparation, with each ingredient retaining its individual character, yet blending together smoothly.
Who knew cauliflower could be so interesting? Lasooni Gobi ($10) crispy – sort of – cauliflower florets, garlic, mustard seeds, and curry leaves had layers of flavor and a satisfying texture that kept luring us back until the dish was gone.
We also found much to like in the Kheema Samosas ($10), well-spiced minced lamb in a thin crust pyramid-shaped pastry.
My DOTN (dish of the night) award went to an entrée of Chicken Saagwalla ($18). Tender cubes of chicken nestled in a creamy spinach purée seasoned with ginger, garlic, cumin seeds, cloves, and turmeric. The silky texture alone was compelling; when I say it was baby food for adults that’s not a criticism, it’s a compliment! Combine that sensual mouthfeel with those complex seasonings which played off one another perfectly, and the dish became irresistible. Excellent!
The Vegetable Biryani ($14) sounded simple, but was delicious and nuanced with secondary flavors. Firmly cooked basmati rice combined with a mix of vegetables: green peppers, carrots, lima beans, onions, peas, cauliflower, and seasoned with turmeric, cumin, and ginger, made this a compelling preparation. A side of cool yogurt sauce (raita) completed the presentation.
From the grill, plump, juicy Lamb Chops ($24) were marinated in yogurt and spices, perfectly cooked to medium rare, and served on a bed of sautéed onions. The blend of seasonings lent an intriguing, delicate taste of exotic spices which did not overpower the meat, and were in perfect harmony.
A vegetarian offering of Chana Punjabi ($15), white chickpeas slow-cooked with onion, tomatoes, and those aromatic Indian spices, elevated it to far more than a side dish. Deeply satisfying, it was substantial, but not heavy.
A wise addition to your dinner order is a Bread Basket ($14); a combination of naan, garlic, onion, and whole-wheat breads which have been cooked in a clay oven (tandoor) rendering them beautifully charred on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, perfect for tearing off pieces and dipping.
What wines to drink with Indian food? The cuisine is so diverse that there is no definitive set of rules. Bombay River is BYO, so feel free to bring what you like, but be aware that the flavors and seasonings are complex and assertive, making it a challenge to pair easily with wines. Many diners prefer cold beer to tame the spiciness and bold flavors, but if wine is your desire, for whites experiment with off-dry rieslings from Germany, Alsace, or Austria, demi-sec Vouvrays (chenin blanc grape) from the Loire Valley of France or spicy Gewurztraminer from Germany or Alsace. Dry whites which have seen oak, such as California chardonnays, don’t work to my taste. Reds are a challenge, but avoid high alcohol, heavy fruit, and strong tannins, and look for lighter, more acidic wines such as grenache, syrah’s from the south of France, or even a Rioja from Spain.
The arrival of Bombay River in Red Bank provides a local destination for well-prepared classic and modern Indian food, not only for diners who grew up with, or are well-versed in this cuisine, but also for newcomers who want to learn more about the wide variety of delicious dishes and flavors of India.
90 Broad St.
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob.
This article first appeared in the July 5 – 12, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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