I know I’m not alone in getting the autumn blues. By early November, the new-penny shine is off the new school-year routine and the brightly colored leaves are off the trees. The days are short with no snow yet to cast a glow on the darkness. Worst of all, we’re not quite close enough to Christmas for eggnog therapy.
So I turn to the next best thing: comfort food. And what’s the most comforting food of all? Takeout, of course.
I kid. Sort of. I think everyone can appreciate the appeal of a meal you don’t have to cook that can be eaten in your pajamas. But even my family can get sick of tacos and pizza. So I was thrilled when Bombay Deluxe, the old-school, midtown Indian stalwart, opened an outpost in South Anchorage. Because, Indian cuisine, takeout or not, is one of the most comforting foods I can think of.
It’s the scent of the spices that make me associate Indian food with the cozy weeks before the holidays. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves are all evocative of fruit-studded cakes, mince pies, and mulled wine. In any event, I began to feel just a wee bit festive when I walked in for the first time to pick up my order.
I ordered and prepaid online, tip and all, so I formed my impressions quickly. The new location is more a fast-casual café than an eat-in restaurant, with just a handful of tables in a bright, slightly sterile but gleamingly clean dining room. But the heady, spicy scents drifting out from the kitchen are warm and inviting and recall the pleasingly dated comfort of the midtown location, with its high-backed booths and wood paneling.
Happily, the aromas followed me home. We started with a few shared appetizers — vegetable pakoras ($7.95), samosas ($8.95), an order of papad ($3.95), and of course, naan ($7.95). The pakoras — little chickpea fritters — are crispy on the outside, with just-tender vegetables inside. The batter is salty and savory with just enough heat to add interest and to make you crave another. The vegetable samosas — perfectly golden brown little hand-held pies — have a delicate pastry exterior but hide a hearty filling of peas and seasoned potatoes. And I’m a particular sucker for papad, the almost translucently thin chickpea crackers that melt on your tongue as you crunch. Papad, dipped in Bombay South’s cool and fragrant raita ($3.95) is my ideal snack.
My family fought tooth and nail for the last piece of naan because carbohydrates are on our family crest. I personally found it to be a bit on the thick and chewy side – not the light, ephemeral bread that I think of when I think of exceptional naan. This was more like a pita. Tasty enough but less delicate than I had hoped (especially for the price).
All was forgiven when I had my first bite of shrimp biryani ($20.95). Plump, grilled shrimp, atop a rice dish studded with fruit, cashews, and loaded with aromatic spices. Every bite is a different flavor and texture experience. I particularly love the long-cooked cashews, which take on a texture evocative of boiled peanuts. For reasons I can’t quite explain, the tenderness of the cashews brings out a subtle vegetal quality that’s entirely missing when the nuts are used as a crunchy element.
The chicken curry ($17.95) was light and brothy, with lots of flavor but not quite enough heat for my palate (most dishes are served mild unless you request an uptick in spice — I’ll remember to do that next time).
Lastly, the Navratan curry (Navratan translates to “nine gems” representing the fruits, nuts and vegetables in this vegetarian dish) was packed with flavor and had a richer, creamier base than the meat-based curry. My meat-avoiding daughters were thrilled to have so many options on a single menu and polished the dish off with impressive efficiency.
A week later we were back. A busy week and good memories of our first meal led us to another Bombay South-catered family dinner.
This time, my daughters shared the vegetarian biryani ($19.95) because they had been jealous of my shrimp dish from the prior week, as well as the salmon masala ($25.95). My carnivorous husband and I shared the chicken makahni ($21.95) and lamb vindaloo ($22.95).
The biryani was as good as I remembered it and the masala boasted a generous portion of perfectly cooked salmon filet swimming in a thick, rich curry sauce.
We loved the vindaloo sauce — bright, tangy and comparatively spicy — and the thick chunks of potato are the perfect little sponges to soak up the sauce. But I found the lamb to be a bit dry and chewy. Happily, the star of the meal, the chicken makhani, otherwise known as butter chicken, was exceptionally tender. This dish manages, magically, to be both creamy and light. Its similarity to a vodka sauce inspired me to toss the leftovers (what little there were) with some pasta the next day for a quick and easy lunch.
Indian cuisine requires the deft handling of both bold and subtle spices. When done well, the dishes resonate, leaving you with an enigmatic sense memory of flavor and aroma. I say this because writing about these dishes, days after enjoying them, has brought back the scent of the whole cloves and cardamom pods in a way that I think is unique to this cuisine. In other words, I’m getting hungry and I’m already planning my next meal at Bombay South. But first, let me put on my pajamas.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 4-9 p.m. Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday
1120 Huffman Road