Chana Masala Downtown Smackdown
Recently I found myself eating Indian for lunch three times in one week. Since I’d made home made chana masala, chick peas in a spicy sauce, for the first time a few weeks ago, I was curious how the restaurant versions compared. I made the ghee and toasted the spices and it turned out great- very easy for someone who is not an Indian chef. So, how did three Indian restaurants near my office fare in comparison?
Bombay Bistro Express is located in what I call the Dayton’s Arcade. I don’t know what it’s called now. It’s the hallway on 7th between Foot Locker and Candyland that deposits one right at the clearance women’s shoe rack in Macy’s. In itself, a clearance shoe rack within a few feet is a good reason to visit a particular restaurant. But, the food here is really good. It’s the same food as the higher priced Bombay Bistro Buffet in the Medical Arts Building. At the BB Express, you may choose five items including an array of vegetarian and non vegetarian entrees, naan, rice, and even a Mexican- Indian style taco (which I’ve never tried- although the idea of blending the spices of the two styles is intriguing.) The Chana Masala is slightly tangy, bright and very fragrant. The spices are fresh with a tiny kick and there’s a sheen of ghee over the top. It’s really good. And I do love eating under the constant loop of Bollywood videos.
The next place we tried was Kabob’s in the State Fare food court in Gaviide. Kebab’s also serves lunch buffet style and you can choose as many items as you can fit on the Styrofoam tray for a fixed price. The bonus is they also have some kind of soup or dal and desert included in the price. Though I love a buffet, it’s easy to lose sight of the individual entrees when they’re all mashed together. My other problem is although I’ve been given enough food for a week, I have no internal mechanism that tells me I’m full and just because it tastes good I shouldn’t eat the whole plateful. Call it the Chipotle Effect. The chana masala at Kebobs is rich and has less tomato than BBE. The spices are well balanced and overall it is pretty good. And if your co-workers have more pedestrian tastes, there’s a McDonalds and a Broadway Pizza place cross the room.
The third place we tried is the new Ipotle in the North Star building on 7th and Marquette in the Taco Bell, My Burger, Zen Box stretch. The idea is basically the same as the other places, choose two entrees and rice for a fixed price. Ipotli is a buck or two more expensive than the other places. On the plus side, you may substitute brown rice for white rice. On the down side, I am pretty sure there was Heinz ketchup in my mutter paneer. It was so sweet and tomatoe-y I couldn’t eat it. The chana masala was almost tasteless. The spices were totally flat- I think they were old and needed to be thrown out. My lunch mate, originally from Somalia said, “They have no business calling themselves an Indian Restaurant.” Seldom have I felt it a chore to finish a pile of chana masala- usually I anticipate some kind of special Indian food elation.
Chana Masala Round 1= Bombay Bistro Express wins with Kebob a decent second place. In the end, it’s a grand day when one can try three chana masalas within a block of ones cubicle.