We got a five-pound wakeup call this week -- in the form of the holiday red velvet cake, coconut macaroons and sugar cookies that landed on our thighs. So with the inevitable New Year's resolutions of dieting and gyms looming on the horizon, we went in search of a lunch spot that would offer intense flavor without packing on any more pounds.
Bombay Spice at 10810 N. Tatum Blvd. in North Phoenix is one of our favorite healthful haunts. It boasts "redefined Indian food," which apparently translates to "hold the butter, cheese and cream yet miraculously manage to keep some flavor."
We walked in on a lazy weekday afternoon and were surprised to find it fairly crowded. Apparently, the management at Bombay Spice was surprised too -- or holiday call-ins left them shorthanded -- because one lone guy had to clean the place, take our orders and serve our food. Poor dude.
Orgasmic chai and more cheap treats after the jump...
The place is nothing like most Indian joints. You won't find statues of Ganesh or Indian saris on the walls. If not for the food and the subtle Indian music in the background, Bombay Spice could just as easily be a hip American wine bar or a French cafe. It's small and cozy, with a dozen or so tables. Behind the large contemporary bar is a neon green backlit wall of wine bottles that serves as some of the only art.
With the exception of some of those wine bottles, everything on the menu at Bombay Spice is under $10. Yes, even at dinnertime. Chaat (Indian roadside snacks), including a vegetable and lentil curry and their signature chickpea ceviche appetizer, is offered for a mere $4.99. The serving size was big enough to feed a neighboring diner for lunch, with leftovers to spare. Kebabs ($5.99-7.99), $5 tasty fried samosas and $5.99 mango and curry salads round out the offering. Many dishes are vegetarian and some are gluten-free.
Entrees have a base price of $6.49 for bowls and $4.99 for wraps; from there, you customize with veggies and/or meats at additional prices. We opted for chicken tikka masala served with basmati rice and roti (flat bread). With the place so understaffed it took about ten or fifteen minutes until the main dish arrived. In the meantime, we splurged on a chai latte. For less than $2.50, we got a cup of spiced black tea with milk and just a touch of sweetness that put our usual chain store cuppa to shame. It was silky smooth and so delicious we practically squealed with they offered a complimentary refill.
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Teagasm now over, we turned to the arriving entree. Traditionally, the rice and sauced meat would be dumped on a single plate and the roti used to scoop up individual bites. But this is Arizona, land of the Mexican burrito. We spooned chunks of chicken, peppers and rice into a tortilla -- oops, roti -- and dug in like we were at Chipotle.
Oh, well. Our server was so busy he didn't seem to mind. The chicken was moist and tender, and the basmati rice was perfectly cooked, with just a little bite to it. That's more than I can say for the chicken. Ordering it mild was a mistake. The masala was used very sparingly, which might work if we had a more subtle foreign palate. Instead, our desensitized American mouth barely detected any flavor.
A medium spice level or the creamier Korma sauce with dried fruit and spices would probably have made more of an impact. Still, the overall dish was good and we didn't leave feeling overstuffed. Next time, maybe we'll save room in our bellies and wallets for the savory-sweet rice pudding with pistachios and cardamom ($4.49).