Bombay away! Kansas City’s Taj Mahal restaurant is hardly the only American business boasting that famous name. Donald Trump‘s Indian-style casino and hotel complex in Atlantic City is called Trump Taj Mahal and features several restaurants, including a coffee shop called the Bombay Cafe that serves American dishes with Indian names, such as the Bombay cheese steak (the same sandwich is called a Philly cheese steak once you cross over the state line into Pennsylvania), a Bombay Burger, and, of course, an all-you-can-eat Bombay buffet.
Kansas City has its own Bombay Cafe (in the Glenwood Manor Shopping Center, 9036 Metcalf Avenue), but this one serves truly Indian cuisine. Before the name change, several years ago, this restaurant had a long run as Mother India. The decor hasn’t changed much from its earlier incarnation: whirling fans, a bubbling fountain, burgundy upholstered booths and chairs, and vibrantly patterned carpeting.
The food is excellent, although the service ranges from mildly indifferent to downright condescending. That attitude can make even the spiciest and most tender Chicken Jalfrazi ($10.50) — made with peppers, tomatoes, cumin, and chopped broccoli and named for officer Colonel Frazer of the British Raj — a tough dish to swallow.
The Bombay Cafe’s flavors are intense; even the iced tea tastes robust. The wedges of garlic naan ($2.95) have a solid garlic bite, and even the sweet mango chutney kicks a little.
And if you’d like to imitate some of your favorite Bombay Cafe dishes at home, just take a short stroll across the parking lot to the new, well-lit Indian grocery store, Ambica Foods (9054 Metcalf Avenue), which sells both Indian and Pakistani items. Past the glass door, the long, narrow store’s shelves are richly laden with all kinds of imported foods, spices, condiments, and oddball items, such as tubes of Ipco Creamy Snuff (whatever that is) and lots of Indian CDs and videos.
If you’re uncertain about your culinary skills, you can just buy packaged mixes for masala sauces and tandoori chicken and, over in the refrigerator case, frozen chicken biriyani and vegetarian jaipuri dinners. Ambica also has those sweet, soft gulab jambun pastry balls frozen or in a packaged mix. For a sweet tooth that demands more immediate relief, the store’s shelves are well-stocked with Calcutta-made Brittania cookies (clearly the Little Debbie Snack Cake line of the Hindu world) wrapped in foil.
Ambica has hundreds of glass jars of pickles, chili pastes, and sauces, sacks of lentils, packets of spices and seeds, and all the other ingredients necessary for whipping up a platter of Aloo Mutter or Chana Dal on your own stove.
It’s a small world after all: India’s neighbor China has its own distinct cuisine — and it’s rarely paired with European wines. But Bo Ling’s on the Plaza (4800 Main Street) combines Chinese food and German wines October 9 through 29 for $35 per person. The restaurant plans to pair German Reisling wines with such appetizers as Shao Mei (pork, shrimp, and black mushrooms in a spicy sesame-oil sauce) and three possible entrees: Sichuan Xu Hsiang Shrimp, pork tenderloin stir-fried with chili peppers, or rice noodles with chicken in a black bean sauce.
Next stop on the International Love Train: French wines combined with White Castle hamburgers and Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfaits! People get ready!