Hold onto your hats, true believers, because I’m bringing you a review of my favorite new restaurant to open so far in 2021. Five months into the year, I’m pleased as punch to profess that Orlando has a big hit on its hands with Bombay Street Kitchen, a beautiful new Indian restaurant located on South Orange Blossom Trail near the Lancaster Road intersection, directly next door to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Tortas El Rey. It takes a special schlep for me to get down to that side of town, but it’s so worth it, more now than ever before.
I can’t rave enough about this place, and I had to visit it twice, a week apart, just to try as many dishes as I could to do justice to it in a review. Bombay Street Kitchen boasts a huge menu, covering cuisine from all over the Indian subcontinent, a stark contrast against many other Indian restaurants that focus on a certain geographical area. My Saboscrivner suggestion is to study the multitudinous menu options in advance. The good news is that a lot of the dishes are extremely reasonably priced, and it is an ideal place to go with a group of fully vaccinated, like-minded, culinarily curious colleagues and compatriots, so you can order multiple dishes and share everything.
Or, you can go alone and still order multiple dishes, as I did for my first trip there this past weekend, for an early Saturday lunch. I arrived right when it opened at 11:30, and I ate like a king, or at least a man who just got out of prison. The dining room is gorgeous — modern and very colorful.
I started with an order of pani puri ($7), puffs of crispy, hollow, paper-thin fried bread stuffed with seasoned potatoes, and served with two bottles of tangy water to splash into them before eating. The brown bottle is sweet and the green is spicy. This was a new dish to me, one I learned about while watching the delightful kids’ show Waffles + Mochi on Netflix, where two puppets travel around the world learning about food. Despite being child-free by choice, my wife and I enjoyed the hell out of the show, and I never forgot Waffles and Mochi singing about a “pani puri party,” so I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad those puppets hipped me to the popular Indian street food, because it was so good! The whimsical plating in the little cart adds to the pani puri party atmosphere here. Since there were eight pani puri puffs, I was methodical and tried two plain, two splashed with the sweet water, two splashed with the spicy water, and two splashed with both. I couldn’t even tell you which one was best, because I loved every possible permutation.
When I saw keema pav ($11) on the menu under “bigger plates,” I was intrigued. The description simply read “pav bread, minced lamb, onions.” Well, I love bread (despite not knowing what pav bread was), lamb, and onions, so I was an easy mark. Then this beautiful platter arrived, with three perfect little buns, a bowl of what looked like chili, and some diced tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, and shredded red cabbage, Was it really a make-your-own sandwich kind of setup? I never would have expected that, but this was one of those rare times when I took a wild guess on a menu and was rewarded with a new take on a familiar, beloved comfort food — in this case, sloppy joe sandwiches. The pav bread was like perfect little hamburger buns with smooth, shiny crowns, the ideal size for sliders. The cut sides were lightly grilled (as all good burger buns should be) and dabbed with what looked like a cilantro-mint chutney (the green sauce) and another sauce that was really good. The minced lamb was served as a spicy chili, not that different from the chili I love to make at home the minute Florida temperatures dip below 70 degrees. As much as I love to cook with ground lamb, I’ve never used it in my chili before, worried that the unique gamey flavor of lamb would get lost amid the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices I use. This wasn’t the same familiar chili or sloppy joe recipe most Americans would know, but it was a comparable dish, and the lamb flavor came through. This picture is much prettier than what my assembled “sloppy joes” would eventually look like., but they were so delicious and fun to assemble. Looking it up later, I learned that “pav” just means bread, but it comes from the Portuguese word “pão” for bread, since Portuguese explorers (colonists) brought their bread recipes to India. I have enjoyed all the Indian breads I’ve tried before — naan, roti, parathas, and kulcha — but pav was completely new to me, and yet completely familiar.
Speaking of which, since I wasn’t expecting the pav to be familiar buns, I also ordered chilli naan ($4), the soft, warm, fresh bread baked in a clay tandoor oven, that goes so well with any Indian dishes. For some reason, I was expecting it would be stuffed or covered with chunks of spicy peppers, maybe cooked or maybe pickled, but it was just sprinkled with dried chili flakes, like what I often shake onto pizza. Still, it was great naan.
Longtime readers (The Saboscrivner Squad, aka Saboscrivnerinos) know I like to eat and review onion rings anywhere I go. I have a whole category for those reviews, accompanied in my mind by a DJ’s obnoxious air horn sound effect:
RING THE ALARM!
BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! BWAA BWAHH BWAAAHHHHHH!
Of course Bombay Street Kitchen doesn’t serve onion rings, but they have the Indian equivalent: crispy, deep-fried fritters called onion bhaji ($5), which featured some unfamiliar but very welcome spices in the batter and served with cool cilantro-mint chutney (green) and sweet, sticky tamarind chutney (brown). I loved these, needless to say.
I should note that I had a new, fun, cool experience on my first visit to Bombay Street Kitchen. A family of three was seated near me as all of my dishes were being walked out of the kitchen. The father asked me what everything I ordered was, and me being me, I very enthusiastically told him what I got, what was in it, and how much I was enjoying it. When the server came by to take their orders, he told her to just bring him everything I got. I felt so validated, especially when I asked them how they liked everything. I can’t speak for the mom or the teenage daughter, but the dad seemed over the moon with all of our selections. He said “You should be a food writer!” Of course, me being me, I told him I did write a local food blog. On my way out, I found a receipt in my pocket (ever the professional), wrote down http://www.saboscrivner.com, and dropped it on their table. So I says to him, I says “If you’re ever REALLY bored, you should check out my food blog!”
On my second visit today, I met two friends from the Orlando Foodie Forum, a delightful couple who are the coolest people, who make me feel cooler just by being friendly and welcoming toward me. I met them for the first time in a local French-Vietnamese bakery, Paris Banh Mi, almost two years ago, and somehow they recognized me just from being Facebook friends. Today was the first time we ever actually hung out and shared a meal, but hopefully not the last.
We started out with refreshing mango lassis ($3.50 each), and I made mine last, to help neutralize any spicy food ahead.
My friends, much hipper and more worldly than I, have had pani puri before, but I had to order it again to share the pani puri party with them, so they could try Bombay Street Kitchen’s take and check out the little cart:
One of my friends also ordered the lamb keema pav today, and they dug into making their own little sloppy joe sliders with the spicy ground lamb “chili.” As much as I liked it last weekend, I stayed out of theirs and let them have all the fun with it this time.
I had my eye on the Szechuan chicken hakka noodles ($11), but my friend ordered it and let me try it. I was introduced to Indo-Chinese food at Rasa, a really nice Indian restaurant I discovered and reviewed in early 2020, just months before it closed permanently. I’m glad Bombay Street Kitchen isn’t going anywhere, because this was one of my favorite dishes of the day. The rice noodles had just a little heat from the chili sauce they were stir-fried in, but nothing overwhelming, like I was expecting from the Szechuan designation. The chunks of chicken were crispy and savory, and there were nice, tender-yet-crunchy slices of stir-fried onion and multicolored bell peppers mixed into the dish. I always gravitate toward noodle dishes, and this is one I will remember and return to.
I had been curious about the chicken momo ($9), a Nepalese dish of pan-fried chicken dumplings. They tasted even better than they look, and they weren’t spicy, like I had been expecting.
My friend was excited to see chicken lollipops ($9), so he ordered the dish of chicken “winglets,” rubbed with chili and spices and fried until crispy. Normally I’d pass on a dish with that description, thinking that I could try fried chicken wings anywhere, but I’m so glad he ordered this and let me try one. It was so great — very crunchy, tender and juicy, and extremely well-seasoned, with the perfect amount of heat. Absolutely delicious. Much more interesting than the name let on.
But wait, there’s more! My one friend ordered the masala dosa ($9), a gigantic, crispy rice crepe stuffed with yellow curry-spiced potatoes and curry leaves. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, looking at this thing, but this dosa is the kind of thing that would draw everyone’s attention in the dining room when a server walks it out to your table. I quote the great thespian Jason Statham in the 1998 Guy Ritchie film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels: “It’s as long as my arm. I wish it was as long as something else!”We all pulled pieces off this colossal crepe, and dipped our divided dosa in a lentil-based vegetable curry called sambar, along with coconut chutney (in the smaller cup). No double-dipping was done.
Dosas are a South Indian street food specialty I tried for the first time in 2019, at the Hindu Temple cafeteria in nearby Casselberry. As long as we were ordering so much food to share, I couldn’t help ordering a second dose of dosa, specifically the street special dosa ($11). This one didn’t arrive looking as staggeringly stupendous, because it was already neatly sliced into three equal pieces, but it was still a huge overall portion. It had the same pleasing, paper-thin, crispy texture, but it was stuffed with a variety of vegetables, not unlike an Indian burrito. This one was another hit with all of us, and new to all of us as well.
I had never heard of xacuti (pronounced “za-COO-tee”), but it is a curry dish my friends love, made with coconut masala gravy. You can order xacuti with chicken for $15, or fish, shrimp, or goat for $17. They ordered it with goat and let me try it, and for that, I was grateful. I developed an appreciation for spicy lamb curries like vindaloo and rogan josh at my usual Indian restaurant, Moghul, but never had anything like this before. The goat had a few small bones, but the meat was so tender, the bone chunks were easy to pull out.
I had to order onion-garlic naan for us to share ($4), and it went so well with the xacuti and the other sauces we shared.
I realize this has been a long review, but this was also after two visits to Bombay Street Kitchen, a week apart. And the second visit had three people ordering multiple dishes to share, so I pass all of our accumulated knowledge and experience onto you, stalwart Saboscrivnerinos. Like any good nerd, I tend to get enthusiastic about the things I love, especially when something is new and novel, broadens my horizons, brings new experiences, and changes my world for the better. Well, I hate to overhype anything, but this restaurant is worthy of every bit of hype, praise, enthusiasm, and excitement it garners. Every single dish knocked it out of the park — or the cricket stadium, if you will.
Back in 1985, before some of my dozens of readers were even born, a rock group called The Power Station sang “Some like it hot, and some sweat when the heat is on.” Well, no matter which of those you are, whether you love spicy food or hate it, you’re going to find a lot of flavors to savor at Bombay Street Kitchen. If you’re a vegetarian or an omnivore, if you crave new foods to try or take comfort in the familiar, if you’re an Indian food aficionado, the most casual of diners, or worried you’re stepping a little too far out of your culinary comfort zone, you’re coming to the right place. I give Bombay Street Kitchen one of my highest possible Saboscrivner Seals of Superiority, so come join the pani puri party!