Located on the northeast corner of Union Hills Drive and 19th Avenue in Phoenix, Om Bistro is a casual Indian restaurant with a menu that offers everything from a Bombay sandwich to samosas to bhel puri. As you approach the entrance, the sounds of Bollywood melodies leak through the doors, and whispers of curry and mint chutney hang in the air while people converse in Hindi, Gujarati, and English.
The restaurant is, in particular, a destination for those craving the texture and taste of Indian street food called chaat — because, while it's not easy to find chaat done well in metro Phoenix, you certainly need not travel to Delhi for the experience. The restaurant's menu is displayed in alternating colors of orange and white (the colors are a deliberate reflection of the Indian flag) and most choices involve spices like turmeric, garam masala, red chili pepper, and cardamom. Similar to vendors in India, ordering involves little fuss and low prices. Just pick your favorite chaat or other item, indicate your spice level (mild, medium, or hot) and wait for your number to be called.
For the uninitiated, chaat is an Indian savory snack which originates from Uttar Pradesh, but now is prevalent in all parts of the country. Om Bistro offers the popular Delhi chaat, a classic Indian street food dish made from a medley of deep-fried whole-wheat crisps topped with potato, garbanzo beans, moong lentils, and onions, and drizzled with tamarind, mint, and garlic chutneys. It's a mixture of sweet and spicy, crunchy and soft, all of which lend to a potpourri of satisfying flavors.
Pani puri is another favorite — a small, fried whole-wheat puff shell containing potatoes, moong beans, and tamarind chutney gets dipped into a spicy mixture of masala water. To enjoy pani puri, devour the entire bite-size shell at once. And don't worry about being rude; a key element of eating chaat food is how you eat it, and using your fingers is a part of the experience. It's reminiscent of the hustle on the crowded pathways of Bombay, since street food is the consummate grab-and-go dining.
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Although chaat is a key attraction at Om Bistro, the restaurant also offers South Indian specialties like dosa. An oversized but thin and crispy lentil crepe comes filled with a spicy pea, onion, and potato mix and served with coconut chutney and sambar. Adventurous diners have the option to fill the crepe with paneer, or farmers cheese; chocolate and cheese; or with Chinese noodles. For those with heartier appetites, dishes like paneer tikka masala, malai kofta, and other vegetable curries come paired with naan or rice.
As a bonus, every specialty offered on the menu is vegetarian, and chef Pariyush Choksi makes his entrees true to what he experienced in his native Ahmedabad. With no formal culinary training, Choksi learned how to cook by following his passion for creating pure vegetarian cuisine.
18631 North 19th Avenue, Phoenix
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.