Written by Hulda Lawrence
There is no more enticing doorway in New York City than that of Bombay Palace at 30 West 52nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, (212 541-7777). It is hardly surprising, since the etched glass door leading diners within is modeled after the entrance of Jaipur's City Palace. The lush décor with plush carpeting and the wonderful portraits of royals which line the walls present a warm and inviting ambience. Next year, Bombay Palace will celebrate its 25th year and has recently been thoroughly refurbished, but the huge tank of tropical fish remains and the food is as good and varied as ever.
The cuisine of India is influenced by many cultures. During the Seventh Century when Muslims came to India to spread the laws of Islam, they introduced cumin and mustard. When the Pope divided the world between Spain and Portugal, India was designated to Portugal, and the Portuguese who settled in Goa brought hot chili peppers with them; Tandoori cooking which originated in Persia was brought to India by Genghis Khan.
The other day at lunch we began with tastes of several appetizers. In addition to traditional dishes such as Samosas and Chicken Pakora, we were delighted with Prawn Patio - shrimps sautéed with spices and placed on a smaller naan. It is rather like an Indian version of a pizza and is extremely good. Diners with larger appetites can share platters of assorted appetizers. Non-meat eaters can sample mixed Vegetable Pakoras. Appetizer prices are $3.95 to $12.95. We sipped Pinot Grigio, an ideal wine for these spicy foods. Incidentally there are a number of wines available the glass or by the bottle.
For our main course, we shared a delicious Chicken Korma Kashmiri done in a cream sauce with almonds, ginger and nuts. With this dish, we shared an order of Vegetable Biryani of fresh vegetables and flavored with saffron, nuts and raisins. This biryani is on my list my favorite dishes; the rice stays moist and the mix of flavors and spices is exceptional. Other rice dishes, all based on basmati rice, include Peas Pulao with fresh green peas; Shahjahani Biryani done with chicken; Nawabi with lamb; and Shrimp Biryani. Rice prices start at $3.95 for plain steamed rice to $18.95 for Shrimp Biryani.
There is a full selection of Indian breads from Naan and Roti to Kulcha, stuffed with vegetables, garlic or cheese. Each is brought to the table hot and enticing.
Our dessert was Malai Kulfi, Indian ice cream that is not too sweet, but full of flavor. Other desserts are Gulab Jamun, milk dumpling with rose water syrup; Rasmali, homemade cheese with pistachios; Carrot Halva and vermicelli Kheer, noodles cooked with sweetened milk topped with dried fruits and saffron. Desserts are $4.95.
Tandoori specialties are Fish Tikka, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka - cubes of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and, like all tandoori dishes, it cooked in the clay oven. There are Vegetable Kebab, Lamb Kebab and Chicken Kebab. Seekh Kebab is mildly spiced minced lamb skewered and grilled over charcoal as is the Vegetable Kebab. Tandoori prices are $14.95 to $19.95 for the fish.
There are a number of seafood specialties, like Fish Malabari, a fish curry traditional in Malabar South India; Bombay Fish, in a light curry sauce with onion and tomato; Prawn Vindaloo, a Goa dish consisting of large prawns cooked with very hot spices; and Shrimp Jalfrezi, shrimp with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and coriander. These are $18.95 to $24.95.
Chicken dishes range from Chicken Tikka Masala, barbecued cubes cooked with tomato, onion and yogurt; Chicken and Spinach; Chicken Vindaloo in hot curry sauce; and Chicken Jalfrezi, strips marinated in spices and sautéed with tomato, onion, bell pepper and broccoli. $15.95 and $16.95.
Lamb dishes are dine, similarly to the chicken, but there also is Rogan Josh, chunks of lamb cooked in a rich almond sauce with fragrant spices; Lamb or Beef Vindaloo cooked in a vinegary sauce; Lamb Bhuna Punjab, chunks cooked with onion, tomato and fresh herbs; and Goat Masala with tomato and onion in North Indian style.
For those who prefer vegetable dishes, there is Palak Paneer, cheese cooked in creamy spinach sauce; Mushroom and Peas with cashew nuts; Chana Peshawari, chickpeas simmered with tart pomegranate seeds and cooked with onion and tomato; Jeera Aloo, potato cubes with cumin, mustard seeds, other spices and simmered; Paneer Shahi Korma, homemade cheese cooked with onion, bell pepper, tomato and spices topped with fruits and nuts; Cauliflower and Potatoes; Dal Makhani, black lentils and red kidney beans sautéed with tomato, ginger, cumin, onion and garlic; and Navratna Korma, assorted vegetables cooked with dry fruits in a light creamy sauce. Vegetable dishes are $8.95 to $11.95.
There are four takeout lunch specialties available from noon to 3 p.m. at $9.95: Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Curry, Chicken Curry or two vegetable curries with vegetable of the day, saffron rice, naan and garden salad. For those who prefer a buffet lunch, at $12.95 it is ready and waiting on the lower level of the restaurant.
Chefs Avtar Thind and Balbir Singh have a tremendous menu with something for every taste. Portions are generous and service is excellent. You can hear and see the sizzle of the tandoor foods as they arrive.
Hours: Lunch Daily noon to 3 p.m.
Just off Fifth Avenue at 19 West 49th Street is The Sea Grill, a Restaurant Associates creation with a marvelous location in Rockefeller Center (212 332-7610). From its handsome interior, designed by architect Adam Tihany, one can relax, have some fine seafood or fish and gaze at what's doing outside. One reaches the Seal Grill by way of a private elevator that swiftly whisks diners to the lower level. Through its wide windows there is much to see. For the fall and winter months, ice skaters perform, and during the warmer clime it is a big outdoor dining/drinking oasis. For the entire year, the beautiful, gilded bronze statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship oversees all activities.
During a recent lunchtime, we descended to the Sea Grill and were greeted by Eamon Manley, the director, as we were seated. Our waitress, Janet, originally from Los Angeles, was most helpful, answering all of our questions and making suggestions on ordering. The sparkling water that we drank was Saratoga Blues and very good it is.
The luncheon menu is a la carte and we could not resist a cup of the Sea Grill Chowder with lobster, shrimp and clams. This was a noble soup with a wonderful flavor and taste. It was not too dense, and one can enjoy the separate identities of the seafood included. Another appetizer we sampled was Salmon Poached in Olive Oil accompanied by a Tomato Mint Salad and Cucumber Dill Sauce. Appetizers also include Roasted Beet Napoleon, Chilled Jumbo Asparagus, Cured Salmon Belly Tartare, Carrot Ginger Soup and Baby Lettuce Salad. Appetizers are $9 to $11.
The Seafood Bar Platters intrigued me, and I could not resist having three of the oysters presented. They came from Fire Island, Peconic and Kumamoto, Washington and were exceptional. They were very fresh and seemed to have just been pulled out of the sea. Other seafood include Jumbo Shrimp, Crabmeat, Blue Island Clams and Mussels. They can be ordered by the piece or by the platter. Oysters are $2.50 each; Shrimp are $4 each; Crabmeat is $15 per order and Clams are $1.50 each with mussels $5 per order.
Plancha Specialties are featured. La Plancha is a chrome plate from the Basque area that needs less oil for sauteing. The catch of the day is grilled and our "catch" was Dover Sole which was delicious. Its beurre blanc sauce was great. The sole was $32; other fish prepared this way are $25 to $27. With our fish we had Pinot Grigio for my companion and an outstanding Riesling, Loosen 'Dr.L' from Mosel for me. Wines are by the glass and there is a fine assortment from $8 to $12. Wines are also available by the bottle.
We tasted Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, one of the chef's Signature Dishes, and Crisp Fluke Goujonettes with a curry sauce. Other main courses are Seared Tuna with Truffle Sauce, Grilled New Bedford Sea Scallops, Grilled Salmon and for the non-seafood eaters there is Grilled Amish chicken with Sherry Vinaigrette. Prices are 22 to $28.
A sushi and sashimi menu at $4 per piece with eel, fluke and tuna and sushi rolls can be ordered.
Side dishes are Portobello Fries, Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus, Haricot Vert with Hazelnut Butter and Garlic-Chili Spinach, $5 to $10.
Desserts there are aplenty. We thoroughly appreciated Cognac Crème Brulee with lots of flavor and Warm Chocolate Steamed Pudding with a good pistachio ice cream. Other dessert delights are Key Lime Pie, Banana Strudel and Chocolate Mocha Chiffon Cake. Lovely miniature cookies, assorted ice creams and sorbets are available. Desserts are $9 to $11.
There is a private room for twelve, but tables are good-sized and the atmosphere is airy and lovely, Executive Chef Ed Brown has developed a fine menu to suit the tastes of even the most finicky diner. Each day fresh fish is brought. Treated to his ministrations and ends up being outstanding. His sauces are wonderful.
Hours: Monday through Friday Lunch 11:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.