Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bombay Palace

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Bombay Palace
2912 West End Ave.

Also see the updated entry below

It’s a busy Friday night at Bombay Palace. All 15 tables are filled with diners: college students, date night couples, families with kids, and large group of friends. People are sipping Indian beers by candlelight and there is quiet warmth to the room. It’s enhanced by a pleasant décor of dark red walls and subdued lighting. The waiters move back and forth quickly, but they’re not rushed. They’re all dressed in style with black pants, white shirts and red ties. There’s an informal formality to the place, if that makes any sense at all. At one point two waiters emerge from the kitchen with a piece of cake and a glowing candle. The next thing we know they’re singing Happy Birthday to a smiling and cringing young woman. The finish with several patrons joining in, and then it’s back to business.
Bombay Palace is one of the newest entrants to the Indian food community in Nashville. It’s located in the space formerly occupied by Nola’s restaurant on West End Avenue, a couple of doors down from the departed Vandyland. The menu is huge. We counted more than 100 items. It’s well organized and easy to scan. Vegetarian, chicken, lamb, goat, seafood are a few of the headings.The usual papadum, crispy wafer flatbread, arrives at the table. It’s typical and the sauces are uninspired tamarind and mint chutney. Not a great way to start. No matter though, the appetizers quickly arrive and quality is noticeable in the very first bite of a meat samosa. There is a delicate, fluffy fry to the dough and the spiced ground beef and peas make a nice savory filling. The veggie pakora and samosa sampler has four items. Onion bhajia is like the ultimate onion ring: light and crispy.

Our coconut saffron soup also arrives promptly. It’s sweet, quite milky and with only a bare hint of saffron: interesting, but perhaps too much for an entire bowl; more like dessert than soup.
There is a bit of a wait for entrees. It soon becomes evident why. A waiter pushes a cart out stacked with big, foil trays of food. It’s a massive to-go order. The Indian gentlemen waiting smile and help get the cart out to the parking lot and into a nearby car. The table next to us is looking a little antsy. We’re okay and finally our entrees arrive. The copper serving bowls are a nice touch, as are the candle powered chafing dishes that keep entrees hot at the table.The waiter recommended goat saag. It features spinach, ginger and garlic. I order medium and it has real heat. You have to pick through the bones, and be careful as you eat, but this also provides the deep, rich flavor. Despite the stew consistency the tastes are distinct. It’s good goat.

The garlic naan bread is fantastic, some of the better we’ve ever had. It’s clearly a priority back in the kitchen.
There are 17 veggie entrees listed on the menu, which gives the Veggie Eater plenty to choose from.
Veggie Eater: The meal started off with papadum and chutneys and it was not a thrilling start. The veggie pakora and samosa sampler at least buoyed my spirits. The spinach pakora was a bit too salty. The cauliflower and pea was wonderful. The potato samosa was a bit odd; flat potato disks simply fried. And the onion was like the ultimate blooming onion. Then there was the lag until entrees…little to no attention from the waiter in the intervening period. I asked the waiter to pick a veggie entrée for me and he chose the malai kofta. When asked about spice level, true to form, I chose spicy. The sauce was great; silky, slightly sweet from coconut milk, and a good bit of heat. The kofta’s were tasty, but a bit gummy. They were a mixture of pureed veggies (cauliflower, peas, and potatoes). This was kind of a mixed bag experience; the food was good, but not phenomenal. The service wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. Not sure I’ll be rushing back, but it appears the neighborhood has embraced Bombay Palace.
Meat Eater: They have a lunch buffet for $7.95 that has been popular. There are a bunch of selections to choose from and it’s all you can eat. I think the few bumps in service delivery we experienced at dinner were probably due to that large take out order and the fact that we hit them at the peak of Friday night rush. I guess I disagree with the Veggie Eater, this is quality Indian food in a nice atmosphere. Bombay Palace is a welcome newcomer to the Nashville restaurant scene. We paid $49 with tax and tip.

Update 9/2010: Bombay Palace continues to serve some of the best Indian food in Nashville. A recent visit found the Chicken Shorba soup tangy and creamy. Lamb Korma brought excellent flavor to the plate and the naan has a perfectly light fry. Be prepared to wait a bit, they appear to cook most food to order and this might be a surprise to those who expect instant Indian food. It's well worth the wait and the atmosphere is pleasant.


Anonymous said...

I am a long term fan of both Southern and Northern Indian cooking. It seems that Southern Indian food usually wins out in popularity with the public. It's spicy and the flavors and textures are rich and robust. The problem is that some folks seem to like it greasy and others prefer it smoother and more refined. So here in Nashville, the greasy crowd falls in on Sitar and up till now the smooth crowd has had an on and off relationship with Cuisine of India. There are a few other shops that have been around forever, but I'll leave that to another discussion.

Now Bombay Palace arrives on the scene and so far we're impressed. I think it's very attractive, and particularly the attire of the staff harkens to the old days when servers looked the part (a real plus in my book!) From our very first visit we've been treated with a good bit of attention there. The owner always comes around and almost always insists that we take a better table. He offers suggestions and produces things that are not on the menu. For the most part we've been more than pleased, and anything from the tandoor oven is special, particularly the breads.

I will offer this observation. My family and I are well dressed, older American people. Many of the patrons are Indian ladies and gentlemen. It has been my experience in India and in this country that one's perceived status plays a role in the quality of service and attention one receives. In reading the comments of others about Bombay Palace and from reports by other patrons, I am inclined to speculate that there may be a bit of old fashioned red lining going on. I may be wrong, and I hope I am. I genuinely feel that all patrons should be treated equally. But I am aware that from our first visit we have been given exemplary service, but others have reported differently.

All in all it has become a favored place for inexpensive dinners, and we have enjoyed the lunch buffet several times.

Jim Vickers

Eric and Katie said...

Thanks Jim...that's an interesting point about the dress-status question of service. It could certainly be a case with us, as we almost always dress quite casually on a Friday night. In this case though many well dressed and upscale folks were also experiencing service issues...and I think it goes back to the rush issue and perhaps a bit of newness to the staff. Our only real complaint was not the wait time for food, but rather the fact that they didn't pick up our finished appetizer plates until the entrees arrived. Which was surprising considering water was refilled regularly. Thanks for the insightful comments. Your posts always add a lot to the conversation.

Wendy and Mark Barrett-French said...

I have never been disappointed in the lunch buffet at Bombay Palace. I will say that I did have a lackluster experience when ordering off of the menu, but I didn't ask for recommendations.

As for the service, we've received top notch attention each time my husband and I come in--even for the buffet. Ron, the owner, calls us by name and makes sure we have plenty of fresh naan. Overall, the food seems to taste fresh, the spices "pop" more, if that makes sense.

I didn't know they served beer at Bombay. If so, that might just rule Sitar out of our lives for good.

Nice review, guys. Keep up the good work.

Eric and Katie said...

Thanks Wendy and Mark. You know it seemed like the kind of place that would normally have the level of service that you describe. And I agree the food has more pop and those flavors are more distinct at Bombay Palace than many places in town.

Uma said...

I stumbled upon your website as I was trying to figure out which new Indian restaurant to try. We chose Bombay Palace, after reading that they have a wide variety of vegetarian entrees. We had the veg. samosa, veg. kabab, paneer karahi, veg vindaloo, veg biryani, naan and tandoor roti.
Being from India, I was looking forward to eating food that would remind of the good ol' days of eating out in India. The food was good, but it did not transport me back in time.
The appetizers were really good. The Samosas were flavorful and not oily at all. The entrees were all a bit on the oily side, typical of "restaurant food". The curries were flavorful, but the flavors hadn't permeated completely into the veggies and paneer. My favorites were the paneer karahi and the naan.
I liked the ambiance, but thought the tables were small for all the things that went on them. Plus, they kept moving tables to accommodate larger groups of people and that was quite distracting. Looking back I think I will go back and give it another try.
Love your blog!

Eric and Katie said...

Thanks for reading Uma...any other Indian places in Nashville you'd recommend?

Joan said...

the buffet never disappoints. i've given up all other indian places for this one, i like it so much. not sure why they can't seem to get it together during dinner hour.

John H. said...

I gotta say, my wife and I absolutely love Indian food and have been (I think) to all of the major places in Nashville. I don't know if things have changed since the original review, but in our opinion, Bombay Palace is the best, by far. The sauces are richer and more flavorful, and they're not afraid to give you spice if you want it. Love it!

Brett said...

Out of the 10 or so times I've eaten the Bombay lunch buffet, only once has it been lackluster. It might put some people off that the taste of their tikka masala varies by the day, but I find it kind of charming and as I said, only once was it not that good. I do however wish they would increase their capacity for delivering naan because I don't even like to eat without that spectacular bread, but it can be scarce.