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.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

El Jaliciense Market

Nashville Restaurants and Food
El Jaliciense Market
3225 Gallatin Pike

Okay, first off this isn’t the El Jaliciense on Charlotte that we have reviewed, enjoyed and is doing fine. This is a market with a taqueria attached and the building has housed at least three restaurants in the last few years, a couple of which we have reviewed in this blog. So, why try again, given the high chance of this version closing? We want to stress what great meals can be had at these little mom and pop places. There is such care taken in the food that it simply transcends the majority of Mexican available in Nashville.

We were the only ones in the place on a Friday night at 8pm. Not a very good sign. Our friends Jackie and Don had a heck of a time finding the place, but finally we settled in to order. There is a simple menu on a white board listing the usual tortas, tacos, burritos and quesadillas. It’s what you choose to put in those items that can get as authentic as you would like. Many cow parts are represented, including lips (Labio), tongue (Lengua), stomach (menudos) and of course actual beef itself along with chicken and pork. You may have a little trouble ordering unless you know some basic Spanish. The husband and wife team smile and take to the kitchen to fill the order and emerge with plates of taqueria perfection. Burritos look majestic topped with thick slices of red, ripe tomato, crisp onion and sour cream (this actually surprised us, we figured crema would be standard). A fork full reveals tender, tasty chicken, rice and beans. Quesadillas are light, toasted and filled with melting cheese. There is a light touch with nearly everything. Torta rolls are just kissed with a grill and then baked on the outside with crispy result. A whole ripe avocado is sliced on the plate for easy scooping. There’s more fresh avocado and perfectly charred adobada inside. Adobada is pork, marinated in red chili and vinegar. It’s the cousin of Al Pastor, and a nice twist.

Our friends order aqua and he asks Horchata, tamarindo or jamaica? These three aqua frescas are traditional flavored waters with the horchata a cinnamon, milk like drink, which is actually usually made with rice. They say sure, bring on the horchata. It’s good, but then I’ve only had a few horchatas in my time, so I really can’t judge.

We finish and the smiling woman comes out again and presents us with pretty little cookies, smothered in powdered sugar. We ask what they are and she replies queso, but we may have misheard. They don’t taste like cheese cake and have the consistency and taste of a dense Italian lemon cookie. The gratis cookies are simply the perfect end to the perfect little Friday night dinner.

Veggie Eater: Not much English here, so makes it a bit dicey for the Veggie Eater to order. However, after some negotiation in bad Spanish and limited English, we agree on the cheese quesadilla, with rice and beans. Their salsas are fabulous. The salsa verde has quite a bit of heat to it. Then there is the sublime red sauce. I hesitate to call it a salsa. It appeared to be dried roasted peppers pestled into oil. I discerned no tomato in this mixture; very complex flavor with a subtle after burn which made a wonderful accompaniment to the quesadilla. Beans and rice were both well seasoned, though no surprises in the flavor.

Meat Eater: We paid $18 for the two of us, including drinks tax and tip.