I've eaten at many Indian restaurants in town and I enjoy them all, but Bombay Brazier is different. This is a dining experience. The owners, G. and Rip, bring style and class to a cuisine popularized by buffets, Americanized dishes and rushed, over-crowded dining rooms
G. and Rip aren't newcomers to the restaurant scene. They own the original Bombay Brazier in Lexington, Ky., and a pizza place in Frankfurt, Ky. (pizza sells, can’t blame them).
What's their philosophy? Northern Indian recipes done the only way they know: authentically. From the décor to the friendly staff to the generous wine and cocktail menu, they strive to provide guests with an evening out, not just dinner.
We arrived early for our reservation and sat at the bar for a drink. I ordered the Brazier Special ($8.50): vanilla vodka, Kahlua and coconut milk (a White Russian done right, Rip said). My companion ordered an Indian lager, Flying Horse ($7.50). As we relaxed and discussed the possible symbolism of the artwork, we were served papadum and three chutneys. Papadum is a crisp, peppery cracker and the chutneys serve as a fantastic palate opener, featuring a fresh mint and cilantro puree, sweet onion and tomato, and a tangy tamarind and raisin concoction that's my favorite.
G.’s brother and chef, Mickey, explained that the spot used to be Jimmy D’s Steak House and sat empty for four years. They painted, refinished the floors and built a beautiful wine room, where we were seated for dinner. My only complaint about the entire evening is that the lighting was too dim, but when you order as much food as we did you might not want others to bear witness.
The Papadi Chaat ($9) came highly recommended by G., so we began with that and Vegetable Pakoras ($4).
The Chaat hit all the right notes — crunchy, sweet, savory and tangy.
Papadi is a thin, crisp bread with chick peas, potatoes and onions, all topped with the delicious chutneys mentioned earlier. It sounds similar to our papadum opener, but the flavors coupled with the bread took it to a whole new level. Pakoras, fritters made with chickpea flour and a variety of vegetables, is a satisfying appetizer and, as I order pakoras with every Indian meal, I can say that these were fresh, moist and delicate.
There are so many tantalizing entrée options that we had to order three. We had to. For meat entrées, you choose your sauce (a variety of curries, cream-based sauces and coconut-based sauces, just to name a few) and add your protein: chicken, lamb, beef, shrimp, salmon, paneer (Indian cheese) or prawns ($12-$16). G. recommended the Jalfrazi, a dish with vegetables and a ginger and garlic sauce.
We opted for lamb, because how often do you really get to eat lamb? The Tandoor selections caught my eye, but I already had my heart set on the Vegetable Korma (vegetables, a light cream sauce, and spices; $14). So I ordered the Vegetable Korma and Tandoori Prawns ($18).
I've never been happier in my life. Our table was brimming with rich aromas, bubbling sauces and steaming prawns. Tandoori is a method of cooking that involves a Tandoor, a clay oven used for baking meats, naan and other breads. We ordered a plain Naan, too ($2.50). That Korma sauce isn’t going to soak itself up, you know.
I ignored the sautéed onions and peppers on the Tandoori Prawns plate and dug right in. The prawns were succulent and had the taste only a clay oven can provide. After devouring five or so, I moved on to the Vegetable Korma. Coriander, cumin, tomato purée, cream, nuts and raisins make this dish decadent and it was begging to be mopped up with naan. The Lamb Jalfrazi, with its chunks of perfectly cooked lamb, is a hearty dish with a complex ginger and garlic sauce that made for a perfect next day snack tucked into the leftover naan.
I was ready to throw in the towel, but when the waiter described the homemade Pistachio Ice Cream and the Gulab Jalum, the towel was neatly tucked back into my purse. The Pistachio Ice Cream ($5.50) was rich and full of pistachios and, I dare say, gives Graeter’s a run for its money. As for the Gulab Jalum ($5.50), how can light and airy fried dough balls bathed in sugary, simple syrup ever be bad?
If you're leery of Indian cuisine, you must give Bombay Brazier a try. And if you've visited Indian restaurants in the area and, while impressed with the food, find the décor and ambiance drab and uninspiring, make the trek to Montgomery and have the best Indian meal Cincinnati has to offer.
Come on, now. You’re allowed to eat Indian outside of Clifton.
Go: 7791 Cooper Road, Montgomery
Hours: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. daily
Entrée Prices: $12-$28
Red Meat Alternatives: Varied
Accessibility: Fully accessible