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May 24, 2010

A Hidden Jewel Amongst the Rocks

How many of you out there have tasted well prepared *Bhel Puri or **Papdi Chaat?

My family and I went out tonight to this Indian restaurant called Bombay Spice in Bridgewater, NJ. We usually go to places nearby but tonight it was my sister's treat so we let her pick the place. And she picked this place which was about 30-40 minutes away, but she said it received good reviews, and so we went for it.

At first, we were put off by the location and appearance of the place from our car as we made our way into the parking lot. It was hidden inside a strip mall which also had a cleaners, realty office, a bank and an ice cream shop. After making a round through the lot we saw the little restaurant in the corner and parked. We sat outside since it was nice and breezy. As we took our seats, the hostess brought out the menus, cutlery and these round steel plates which would be used to eat our appetizers. The feel of this place reminded me of our restaurant choices in Kerala, India. We ate at these small places where the decor was simple but the food was great. Everything was cleaned off the plates.

We ordered two appetizers which I haven't had in a long time: Papdi chaat and Bhel Puri. Now this restaurant claimed to have cuisine from East, West, North and South. The appetizers I just mentioned are from Northern India but most Indian restaurants offer them. The downside is that not all prepare them well. Usually, the puffed rice that is tossed with the potato pieces and tamrind sauce is soggy by the time the waiters bring it to the table and it's too sweet. I'm a harsh judge when it comes to my native food. If the appetizer is supposed to be served crispy, it should be like that when it reaches my table. Well, tonight I was so happy. Not only was the puffed rice still crispy but also tasty. The sauce wasn't too overpowering or sweet; it was tangy, just the way it should be.

The Papdi chaat was prepared really well and presented tastefully. It was brought out in this square plate that looked like antique silver with the edges slightly curved. The papdi was still crispy and as I was eating the chaat, it just made me feel like I was in Delhi and eating my favorites. I took a couple of spoonfuls before I realized I should keep some for my parents.

Also another notable entree is the Vegetable Kolhapuri. It is vegetables are cooked with roasted coconut and red chillies. We were told that the restaurant cooks in 4 spice modes: Mild, Medium, Spicy, and Indian spicy. We went for spicy just to be on the safe side. We ate this entree with rice pulao and naan. My parents are also pretty picky when it comes to Indian cuisine. A lot of restaurants in our area are North Indian and cater to Non-vegetarians. When they do have vegetarian options, it's usually worth it, so they don't dine out that much anymore. However, at this restaurant we ordered two entrees, the Kolhapuri I mentioned earlier and Saag Paneer. They were both really delicious and unique. My parents really liked them; now that's hard to come by. We found out at the end of our meal that the chefs do not use butter or cream to prepare the dishes like most other places do...so we know now that what we ate was all healthy and not too fatty. In conclusion, if you are in the central Jersey neighborhood and are in the mood for some good ol' vegetarian cuisine, try your luck at this place, Bombay Spice. The owner and staff were polite and helpful and the food was good. http://www.bombayspicenj.com/index.html <-- has coupons! I learned one more lesson tonight: Don't judge an Indian Restaurant by it's physical size and appearance. You might miss out on great cuisine.

*Bhel Puri is a puffed rice dish with potatoes and a tangy tamarind sauce.
**Papdi Chaat is made with papdi which are crispy fried dough wafers made from refined wheat flour and oil and they are are served with boiled potatoes, boiled chick peas, chilies, yogurt and tamarind sauce. Sometimes this is topped with chaat masala.

1 comment:

  1. After reading the post ... I was completely lost in my good old sweet memories spent with family and friends hanging around chaat bandars in Hyderabad. Me and my brother used to drive only for paani puri even in busy schedule.

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