Bombay Cafe

Hello, Thali! With cholas (center) and green beans (top)

Hello, Thali! With cholas (center) and green beans (top)

Thali Two: With palak aloo (center) and eggplant deva (top left)

Thali Two: With palak aloo (center) and eggplant deva (top left)

Chilis optional: Uttapam with coconut chutney

Hold the chilis: Uttapam with coconut chutney

Light and puffy: Pappadums with pumpkin chutney

Light and puffy: Pappadums with pumpkin chutney

To our growing repertoire of Indian restaurants, we may now add Bombay Cafe (12021 Pico Blvd., near Bundy), a sophisticated, innovative Sawtelle eatery that we discovered, by chance, a couple of months ago. Our meal tonight, our third, began with house-made pappadums, which unlike the usual dry, flat, salty lentil version, were light and puffy, conjured from a rice flour lightly seasoned with chili and cilantro and great for dipping in the sweet and spicy pumpkin chutney. Our mango lassis, meanwhile, were creamy, tangy, and sweet. For an appetizer, we ordered the vegetarian uttapam, a semolina griddle cake topped with tomato, onion, and cilantro (we asked the kitchen to hold the chilis) that was golden on the bottom, light and chewy on the top, and served with a creamy coconut chutney that tasted as though it had just been scooped from the shell. For our main course, we ordered two vegetarian thali plates, each of which came with a choice of two vegetarian dishes, plus a hearty lentil dal; fluffy basmati rice; puffy, tender naan; kachumber, a refreshing, peppery salad of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and green chilis tossed with lemon juice and cilantro; and a raita, a cool, creamy, tangy mixture of yogurt, cucumber, and onion. For our two dishes (times two), we chose cholas, chickpeas cooked in a mildly spicy tomato sauce with onions and ginger; green beans, chopped and flavorful without being overwhelmed by spices; palak aloo, potatoes in a sauce of pureed spinach seasoned with cumin, ginger, and garlic; and, most striking of all, eggplant deva, sautéed slices layered with fennel-flavored tomato sauce and drizzled with garlic-ginger-infused yogurt. For dessert, we enjoyed a Nilgiri sundae, scoops of vanilla ice cream floating in a coffee bath and topped with pistachio-flecked whipped cream, a suitably rich finish to a vibrantly flavorful but not too heavy meal. With its emphasis on light, fresh cuisine, Bombay Cafe stands out in the crowd. Give it a try and be sure to peek into the open kitchen. The colors and aromas will make you glad to be there even before the first dish arrives.


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