In 2009, I ate Indian food out almost every week. This routine got scrapped coming into 2010 when I culled my frequency of dining out in favor of a more manageable credit card bill. It's a shame because curry runs (oh dear, just realized the unfortunate play on words there... get your mind out of the gutter please) are great, especially if you're starved or hung over.
To me, there should always be a bit of theater with having an Indian meal. It's like Greek or Italian. I want abundance, quantity, multiple courses, little sauce pots and stuff to dip. I want to be able to use my hands and share and chat with friends.
This is why I don't like getting takeaway curry or Indian from those 'fast food' places. Firstly, they taste like watery rubbish and secondly, eating out of a plastic container is nothing like the full blown feast I've come to expect.
My return to Indian food out was at Bombay Dhaba the other week. Like I said, it's been a while so I didn't want a disappointment.
The decor was gorgeous and my hopes rose as we were seated in a little corner, surrounded by tasteful Indian furnishings. The menu was on the exxy side but when you do something, you've got to do it right.
We went for the banquet. At the time, I worked out that it was cheaper than ordering curries individually but have since learned that my maths was flawed. It seems that when you really want something, your brain starts coming up with tricks to convince you to go with it.
The starters came out first on a sizzling plate. I've eaten at many different Indian establishments in Brisbane but this is the first time I've seen entrees on a sizzling plate. Sure it's just theater but that's what it's all about!
I particularly liked the meat samosas. They were huge and very flavorsome. The marinated baramundi was a bit too fishy (insufficiently masked by its coating of spices) but overall, I liked that these starters didn't FEEL too oily.
You are allowed to chose 2 curries as part of the banquet. We knew we wanted butter chicken. Yeh, yeh you can go on about how unauthentic and amateur that is. But have you TASTED a good butter chicken? I'll shamelessly order sweet and sour pork at a Chinese restaurant if that's what I'm in the mood for. Being of Chinese decent, I know it's not what we traditionally have at home but to me, good food is good food and it transcends cultural distinctions. Thank goodness for our ability to accept that sometimes, the best tasting dishes are the most basic because this butter chicken was AhhhMAZING.
Butter chicken - boneless chicken pieces cooked in tandoor oven then simmered in smooth sauce of tomato, cashew, almond and spices
I was so excited about the butter chicken I forgot to take a proper photo but the above is a sneak peak of my own plate... the butter chicken is the orange stuff top right
It was creamy and rich and slightly sweet. I love how butter chicken is mild but moreish. It goes great with rice and equally as good when you dip naan into it. Easy to see why it's a crowd pleaser.
For our other curry pick, we chose a lamb palak. The rationale is that there is spinach in here and I don't know... we thought it would be healthy? Make a more balanced meal? Something, anyway. The lamb curry was also delicious but definitely shadowed in comparison to the butter chicken.
We got 2 types of naan: garlic and plain. I've recently decided to avoid any garlic flavored things because the garlicky aftertaste just drives me crazy. I had the plain naan. It was... ok, I suppose but I've had really divine naan elsewhere (can't remember where, which is annoying) and this was only good because of the curry it was dipped in.
I wasn't sure if rice was included and was pleasantly surprised when it was brought out. I was more than surprised when I realized that the tub of rice was an individual serve and our table was handed 2 tubs. The rice was fluffy and fragrant and on this occasion, made a much nicer accompaniment to the curry than the naan.
Thing with curry is that the serving sizes looked small (a greedy part of me sighed in disappointment when the dishes were brought out) but they are very, very filling. We were more than stuffed with the 2 curries, 2 naans and 2 tubs of rice.
On the description of the banquet, it was stated that we could either have a 'choice of dessert' or Chai tea. We were thinking about what we would get and were planning to ask the waitstaff for more details. Noone came for ages, which didn't bother me because I was in a chatty mood but I can see this as being an issue for people with busy schedules or who are really keen on dessert. When a waiter came by, we weren't asked what we wanted but instead, given a plate of dessert. Hmm... so I guess there wasn't a choice after all?
The dessert was on one plate for us to share. I'll go right ahead and make another greedy comment: really wished there were 2 plates. Even if they made smaller servings. It's just that, it's not always suitable to share a plate with whoever you're eating with, if you get my drift.
The plate comprised of a kulfi, which is Indian evaporated milk ice-cream (usually flavored with cardamom and pistachios). I love kulfi. I always order it when we go to an Indian restaurant. I've also tried to make it myself at home and it sucked. This one was great. Intensely flavored, smooth and creamy. It's a very 'special' dessert and maybe not to everyone's taste but definitely to mine.
There were also 2 balls of gulab jamun (edit after reviewing photo: just one ball cut in 2) which is a sweet dough blob made of milk solids and soaked in syrup. I really liked this too but probably couldn't have eaten more than my allocated 1 because it is so sweet.
We loved Bombay Dhaba. Yes, it was a bit pricier than most Indian restaurants but the atmosphere was great, staff were efficient and friendly, food tasted amazing and the serving size was just right. Having said that, I wouldn't say no to extra kulfi ;).