Here’s the trick to crafting a happy outing to Roswell’s Bombay Brasserie: Decide at the outset which Bombay Brasserie you want to go to.
Do you want the all-you-can-eat weekend buffet groaning with all manner of Indian standards? It’s there for you.
Perhaps you want just the opposite. You want date night, not family night; small plates, spice-spiked cocktails and an exotic view — in this case, of a pair of bell-shaped, copper-sided tandoori ovens. Well, just saunter over to the other side of Bombay’s sleek, modern dining space. Turn your back on that steam-belching buffet and the dining tables big enough for a dozen. Hop onto a tall lucite stool and order from the tapas and cocktail menus.
Hey, maybe you didn’t even want Indian food. You voted for Chinese! Guess what? There’s a fusion menu — featuring dishes like Gobi Manchurian and chilli baby corn — just for you.
Me? I went wanting to try a little bit of everything. Now that I’ve recovered, I can only say: Do as I say, not as I did, lest your head explode from all these options.
I’ll knock one of Bombay’s offerings out of contention from the get-go: the buffet, all three tables of it. The food looks gorgeous and the whole set-up is pristinely tidy. Hotel pans are laden with tandoori and biryani and dals and, oh, does it all look enticing.
But, in the end, a steam table is a steam table, and most of the food in this epic lineup ends up either soggy or dryly overheated. Meant-to-be-crisp items are soft and the spices lack zip. This is the universal law of buffets, and not even this lovely looking one can break it.
The food we ordered from the menu tended to be better — but not with much help from our server, who seemed stymied by my query about her favorite dishes. Maybe she was just as overwhelmed by the voluminous menu as I was. (On the other hand, the servers were diligent about whisking away our spent buffet plates and only forgot to bring one dish from our large order — the edible Szechuan spoons. I’m still wondering about those mysterious spoons.)
Ordering the onion rava masala dosa was a no-brainer. Sometimes, a dosa (a thin rice-and-lentil-based stuffed pancake) is just an oily vehicle for the goodies rolled up inside it. Ours was uncommonly savory; good enough to eat on its own. We didn’t, because the tender onions inside were sweet and irresistible. Dipping greasy pinches of the dosa into the accompanying sauces — one red and hot, the other cool and coconuty — we devoured the whole thing.
Another familiar dish done well: the tandoori chicken dipped out of those showy ovens, which were imported from Jaipur. So much tandoori tastes milder than it looks with that vivid red skin, and that was the case here, but the chicken was also tender and charry, a cozy comfort.
Not so cozy, in a good way, was the baigan ka bharta, a homely brown stew of tandoori-charred eggplant and onions. A hint of sweetness, a ton of smokiness and a stealthy spicy kick that blooms in your mouth a moment after you’ve taken your first taste — it’s one of those dishes that feels almost too much to take in large doses. But it’s also too tasty to stop after the standard critic’s three bites.
And then there were the dishes that we ordered because they weren’t so standard, at least in an Indian restaurant. We had South Asian momo (dumplings) from the tapas menu — supple, springy and stuffed with a chive-heavy dollop of crunchy shredded veg. They’re fun on their own, and an eye-popping mouthful when dunked into their chili-laced sauce.
There were Desi-Chinese hakka noodles, stir-fried and dotted with jewel-colored veggies. They had a lightness and a kick that elevated them above usual lo mein, even though the dried, stringy chicken wafers tucked among the rustic noodles reminded me of not-great takeout.
This makes me think that the next time I go to Bombay Brasserie, the option I’ll choose might be meatless. I want veg-packed pakoras and puris and a big pile of spicy crispy okra called kurkuri bhindi.
Then again, maybe I’ll be in the mood for something different. I might be craving cold-weather Indian comfort food — earth-toned, saucy and homey.
No worries. At Bombay, I know I’ll have that option — and many more.
Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; dinner, 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5-10 p.m. Sundays; buffet: 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5:30-9 p.m. Sundays. 900 Mansell Road, Roswell. 770-299-1634, bombaybrasserieatl.com.