Some of the area's best Indian cooking emerges from this stripmall kitchen.

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Hidden away in a White Oak strip mall, this Indian gem with native watercolors and purple sconces is a pleasant spot to while away a few hours. At lunchtime, the place fills up with cabbies, a good sign. They give way at night to extended Indian families, from sari-clad grandmas to infants with tiny rubies in their earlobes.

The cooking is fiery but not incendiary, aromatic but not overbearing. These are complex Indian hits made with passion–you can see the split cardamom pods, the toasted mustard seeds, the torn curry leaves.

Chef Anthony Binod's kitchen sends out some of the flakiest samosas and pakoras you'll come across as well as some of the lushest curries. The coconutty Goan fish curry has complex, layered spicing, and a shrimp curry laced with mustard seeds is remarkable for its depth of flavor. Even more-familiar plates, like smoky tandoori lamb chops, shallot-studded biryani, and malai kofta–the vegetable patties springy and delectable in a sauce of toasted almonds and cream–are done with finesse. Spicier picks–a tomato-based okra stew and the cheese pakora with a cilantro-mint-chili dipping sauce–breathe true fire.

As wonderful as the food is, Bombay falls short in some basics. The welcome could be warmer and the pacing of the meal a bit swifter–the lag between starters and main courses can be glacial. There's already plenty of time to savor every bite.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.