The Bombay Grill near the intersection of routes 155 and 9 is a busy place at lunchtime because their buffet Tuesdays to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a fair price at $7.95, and the food is very good.
You may remember Bombay Grill at the Colonie Center food court. Owner Naeem Yousuf moved from there to this convenient location in Latham about six months ago.
WHERE: 571 Watervliet Shaker Road, Latham. Phone 783-7838
WHEN: Lunch, Tuesdays to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.; dinner, every day from 5 p. m. to 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $29
MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu available.
Companion Hannah and I visited the small, tidy restaurant recently to join the crowd for delicious Indian, Pakistani and Afghan cuisine. We were greeted warmly at the door and invited to choose a table. We settled at a table for two near a window dressed with gauzy, wine-colored curtains, and the server instructed us to help ourselves to the buffet.
It’s as easy as that. Sit down, help yourself. But wait, Hannah had her heart set on kebabs, and a quick inquiry of the server revealed they weren’t on the buffet that day. So, in addition to the two generous lunches, we got a wholly unnecessary and very wonderful extra plate of chicken chapal kebab ($9.95).
But back to the buffet. On a long banquet table covered with a white tablecloth, against the long wall of the restaurant is an impressive row of gleaming, round chafing dishes. Pick up a heavy white buffet plate and start at the right, where you’ll find salad and sauces. We could choose between a fresh green salad with lots of fresh vegetables and a cold potato-and-chickpea salad.
We each took a few crispy vegetable pakora and proceeded on to the biryani, strongly seasoned rice with bits of vegetables. “Wedding food,” said Hannah, smiling. “You always see it at weddings,” she explained.”
Bombay Grill’s buffet features four vegetarian and three meat dishes, and the choices vary from day to day. We filled our plates with bright red tandoori chicken chicken tikka masala, along with a spinach dish called palak.
We arrived back at our seats to find a basket of warm naan, soft and puffy bread cooked directly on the wall of the tandoor oven. Although you can order naan with garlic, onion, cheese, chicken or spinach, the plain bread is delicious on its own.
The pakora were especially good. The fritters made with bits of mixed vegetables are fried until brown and crispy. We had seconds.
Tandoori chicken has a characteristic red-orange color from paste rubbed onto the meat before cooking. Because the brick-and-clay tandoor oven cooks at such a high heat, the meat cooks quickly, sealing in juices, and Bombay Grill’s tandoori chicken is quite moist. It was spicy-hot, too, not so much that it took over the taste of the chicken, but enough that I was glad to have a cold drink at hand.
Chicken tikka masala is made with tandoori chicken meat, onion, pepper and cashews in a creamy mild sauce, and Bombay’s version is excellent. The pink sauce was thick and very rich, the meat soft and flavorful. It’s what I’d order for dinner.
Hannah tucked the hot food into the soft pockets of the naan, which seemed to be a very sensible thing to do. The tikka chicken masala with its creamy sauce was especially well-suited to that.
The “wedding rice” had a spicy kick to it, more than you’d expect from its simple appearance that made you look at it, and taste it, again.
When the chicken chapal kebab arrived, we paused to admire the large, fried patties and colorful salad. The moist chicken patties were the size of big, flat hamburgers, but that’s where the similarity ended. These are made of minced chicken and seasoned with coriander seed, pepper, ginger and cilantro, I think, then pan-fried.
I was impressed with the side salad that managed to fit greens, tomato slices, carrots, red cabbage, lime and fresh cilantro into a small space on the side of the plate. The sweet dressing complemented the tangy lime. Like everything else we had, the dish had a lot of flavor packed in.
The service was attentive, our water glasses were topped off and the buffet was constantly refreshed. Our server checked to make sure that everything was to our satisfaction, hopefully to our delight. He brought us extra naan and encouraged us to try their dessert: rice pudding. “It’s a specialty,” he said.
We spooned the cold white liquid from the shiny serving dish into bowls. Now, it’s not the thick rice pudding like my mother makes, which is mostly rice with lots of rum-soaked raisins, but it is like someone else’s: “It tastes just like my grandmother’s,” said Hannah, her eyes widening. Made with more liquid than rice, and certainly more interesting, Bombay Grill’s pudding is sweet. Very sweet. But to Hannah, it was just right.
Our meal was pleasant and very satisfying; we were filled but not stuffed, and Hannah had a package of leftovers to take home. The tab, including a soda, came to a few cents over $29.