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June 17, 2009 > Restaurant Review: Bombay Garden

Restaurant Review: Bombay Garden

By Denny Stein

In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I do not appreciate Indian food. Whether it is North or South, Eastern or Western Indian cuisine, it is all too fiery for me. But I have close friends who love Indian food and in particular, love to go to the Bombay Garden buffet. So last Sunday, I was talked into eating brunch at Bombay Garden in Newark. The Bombay Garden web site ( states that:

"It is a false notion that all Indian food is just "hot". All spices and herbs are used, not just for flavor and aroma, but for their digestive and nutritional values. Chilies are rich in Vitamin C, Methi revitalizes the liver. Ginger and Peppercorns aid digestion. Mint is refreshing while Coriander is good for the kidneys. Good wholesome food and good health are closely linked."

With this information in mind, I moved around the buffet, choosing a little of this, a little of that. Back at the white-clothed table, we signaled the server and asked for a basket of Naan, delicious: warm, puffy, sweet wheat-flavored bread baked in a cylindrical, clay tandoor oven. Fresh dough is thrown against the vertical sides of the oven, and turned with a sharp stick-like poker. As the Naan expands and cooks, it turns golden brown on the outside, staying soft and tasty inside.

My dining partner used Naan to push and scoop bites of Lamb Curry, Butter Chicken, Bangan Bharta and Mutter Paneer. To the uninitiated, Bangan Bharta is an eggplant dish. Eggplant is grilled, peeled, mashed, mixed with chopped tomato and onion and seasoned with ginger, garlic, coriander, garam masala, and coconut; very good for your health. Mattar Paneer, peas and cheese in a sweet and spicy sauce can also be ordered as Saag Paneer if you prefer spinach rather than peas. Both of these wonderfully aromatic dishes were a bit 'hot' for me but my dining companion savored every bite.

At a table next to us a large non-Indian family children were eating and chattering, with only one or two squeaks of "it's too hot." Clearly, they have acquired a taste for Indian food. Not to be outdone, I forged ahead into my Aloo Gobhi, cauliflower and potatoes that glow deep yellow from turmeric. A dry dish, the vegetables are cooked comfortably soft and do not sit in a spicy sauce. This suits me just fine. I have also discovered a savory Cream of Wheat offering, with the consistency of couscous that includes peas, corn and pistachios with sweet spices. I have been told that the Navratan Korma is a very mild, vegetable dish in a creamy sauce that any palette will enjoy.

The buffet offers several kinds of rice: white, Biryani, and a brown rice that is slightly sweet and has dried fruit and nuts. Like Goldilocks, I find the white too plain, the Biryani too spicy, but the brown rice is just right. Chicken is offered several ways: Tandoori Chicken, usually legs and thighs, marinated in yogurt and spices, and grilled in the tandoor oven and Butter Chicken, cut-up pieces marinated, grilled and then served in a gravy of butter, tomato puree, and various spices. Both of these chickens, apparently, hail from the central region of Delhi, and were "invented" by the owner of the Moti Mahal restaurant, who came from Peshawar in 1947 after the partitioning of the Punjab.

Raita is the saving grace for those of us who have tender tongues. Cool yogurt, mixed with cucumber, onion and bits of tomato, or mint, softens the heat of Indian spices. If it's not automatically served, request it, and mix generously with all your dishes, whether that's kosher or not. The manager told me that the kitchen can make a less spicy version of some dishes, if requested. While your erudite friends are feasting on the multitude of spice and herb seasoned specials and entrees, you can be satisfied with Raitia and chutney laced bites, salad, lovely breads, and best of all, dessert!

Indian desserts run the gamut from comforting to fantastic. Kheer, Indian rice pudding, made with milk, sugar, cardamom, and pistachios or almonds, is meta-pleasing to the point of addiction. Bombay Garden's soft serve mango ice cream is simple, bright orange, sweet freshness, while the fried cream and flour balls of Gulab Jamun, soaked in rosewater syrup, seem a strange and sinful treat to be eaten in secret.

So, even if you are a milquetoast when it comes to exotic menus, venture out to Bombay Gardens, with friends. Enjoy the rich yellow, red, and orange painted walls, the Indian art, and the Bollywood musicals playing on the big TV overhead. Try a bit of everything, with Raita, plus all the tea and dessert you want, for the low buffet price. Don't stay home when everyone else wants to eat Indian.

Bombay Garden
5955 Mowry Ave, Newark
(510) 744-6945

Also located in San Rafael, San Mateo, Santa Clara

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