A little spice, a lot of nice

Bombay Indian Cuisine comes to the Vineyard.


Several months ago, when the news came out that an Indian restaurant would be opening on the Island, I couldn’t be more excited. Bombay Indian Cuisine, which had been operating as a takeout operation this summer, was taking over the Smoke and Bones space on Oakland Avenue in Oak Bluffs, and planned to be open year-round. It’s not that I am an Indian food aficionado, although my last exposure to an Indian restaurant was most memorable.

Several years ago the boats were canceled because of a snowstorm, and I was forced to spend the night in Falmouth. I went to the Golden Swan Indian Restaurant, and while the food was delicious, what happened after dinner made it a night for the ages. By the end of the evening there was 2 feet of snow on the ground, and I was the only diner in the restaurant, and the mostly Indian staff gathered at the bar to watch a Bollywood movie. When I was finished with my meal I joined them as they sang and danced, and gave it the full “Slumdog Millionaire.”

While not expecting the full-Bollywood experience at the Bombay Indian restaurant, I talked to the owner and chef, Austin Grande, and he gave me a taste of just what I could expect. As of a few weeks ago, Chef Grande told me, the restaurant was open for takeout only, but due to some permitting problems it was not officially open for sit-down dining. But then he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He offered to let my party dine at the restaurant and the kitchen staff would come out and serve us our food.

Our party consisted of myself and my wife Joyce, and our son “Spike” and his girlfriend Lucy Chen, who were here visiting from Ridgewood, Queens. Prior to eating we sat down with Chef Grande, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable fellow with a broad smile and a light brown beard, and he filled us in on some of the items on the menu.

Our table decided to start with the Lemon Ginger Lobster Rangoon. The appetizer featured a fried lobster wonton with lemon ginger, cream cheese, and scallions. The dish was delicious, a little hot, and kind of sweet. Grande said that the dish was technically not Indian, but he intentionally didn’t want to start people off with a dish that was too fiery.

I ordered the Korma as my entrée, a sweet, coconut-based curry finished with rosewater and yogurt over chicken, although you could have it with lamb, paneer cheese, or vegetables. I accompanied the Korma with Basmati Rice and my favorite, Naan bread, to mop up the curry. Chef Grande informed us that he will soon be getting a clay tandoor oven that can cook at heats up to 900°, making the Naan even fluffier and more bubbly. The tandoor oven will also let him prepare specialties like Tandoori Chicken.

Chef Grande said, “Korma is one of my favorites. We toast cashews and sweet potatoes, and blend them slowly into a sauce, which makes it velvety.”

Lucy, who is originally from Taiwan, grew up eating what we might consider more exotic foods, and ordered the Rogan Josh, a Kasmiri curry with chilis which could run a little on the spicy side. Chef Grande said they use habanero peppers that he sources from up-Island, which can bring out the heat, but are not bitter. 

Lucy thought that the Rogan Josh was a little spicy, but certainly not overwhelming. We also ordered Raita for the table, a cucumber and garam masala–spiced yogurt dish which traditionally serves as a cooling foil to the warm spice-laden flavors of many Indian dishes. I’ve always found that the contrast between the spicy Indian flavors and the soothing taste of yogurt was one of my favorite parts of Indian cuisine.

Joyce decided to go with the Tikka Masala, which Chef Grande said was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Tikka Masala is a creamy yogurt and tomato-based curry which Joyce said was not too spicy, just spicy enough. Coincidentally, on Dec. 22, The New York Times published the obituary of Ali Ahmed Aslam, who was said to have invented Tikka Masala in a Glascow restaurant called Shish Mahal. 

Actually, the origin of the dish is the subject of much debate, because of those who question how such a popular Indian dish could come from the British Isles. In The New York Times’ inimitable style, they explain, “It was a case of simultaneous discovery — a delicious inevitability to so many restaurant kitchens, advanced by shifting forces of immigration and taste in postwar Britain.”

So there. 

For Spike’s entrée, he ordered the Chana Masala, a medium spiced onion-tomato Masala with chickpeas. Spike said that the Chana Masala was very good, but his favorite was the lamb Korma. 

For dessert we all ordered the Gulab Jamun, a fried beignet with rosewater and cardamom syrup. Gulab Jamun, or variations of it, are among India’s most popular desserts, and are often referred to as “Indian doughnuts.” We all found Gulab Jamun the ideal topper to our delicious Indian dinner.

Not quite as good as watching a Bollywood movie in a snowstorm. But nonetheless, really good.

All food at Bombay Indian Cuisine is prepared onsite, and where possible, sourced on the Island. Prices range from Lamb Curry entrées at $24, chicken entrées $19, vegetable entrées $17, and Paneer Cheese entrées $19, with extra for sides. Visit bombaymv.com for the menu and further information.