Sean Morris, President of Advertising Associates International, invited Yours Truly on behalf of The Tasty Island to attend a media menu tasting event yesterday evening (2.11.16) at the still relatively new/rebranded Bombay Palace in the Discovery Bay Center, Waikiki. Without further ado, here’s the media press release:
BOMBAY PALACE INTRODUCES HAWAII TO PAKISTANI CUISINE
The new Indian restaurant introduces flavors of northern India and Pakistan
HONOLULU – Bombay Palace opened late last year in November 2015 in the former Monsoon India space in the Discovery Bay Center, Waikiki. The restaurant specializes in northern Indian Halal cuisine from the Punjabi region of India, focusing on kebabs. Bombay Palace also includes a number of Pakistani dishes from the hometown of owner Imran Khan and his chef, Gul “Kenny” Khan. The restaurant, which specializes in kebabs and northern Indian dishes such as Vindaloo, Korma, Kadhai, Saag, and coconut curries, also showcases authentic Pakistani dishes not readily found in the islands. The restaurant also focuses on using ingredients purchased locally so they are the freshest, with nothing frozen, and all dishes prepared from scratch.
The menu at Bombay Palace is replete with northern Indian Halal dishes popular with locals such as Tandoori chicken made in their own clay oven, Butter Chicken, Lamb Rogan Josh (tender lamb in a home-made yogurt sauce), Fish Tikka, Baingan Bartha (tandoor-roasted eggplant cooked with tomatoes and onions), along with a variety of naan, paratha, and biryani. However, the restaurant has also decided to specialize in kebabs—rack of lamb, lamb Boti (boneless pieces of lamb), minced lamb, and chicken, all made fresh to order on a sizzling platter. To throw in a new twist, they decided to include a few Pakistani menu items, such as the Chicken Handi/Kadhai (“handi” refers to something made in a clay cooking vessel), which takes tender chicken cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onions, bell peppers, and spices. Other dishes from Pakistan include Dhaniya Chicken of Ghosht, a stew made with fresh cilantro, onion, a touch of tomato, and spices and Chicken Reshmi Kebab boasting a creamier marinade than the other kebabs. Most entrees are affordably priced from about $15 to $22.
“Being from Pakistan, it is difficult to find authentic dishes as well as Indian meals that we would traditionally enjoy at our home, so we thought we would prepare them for everyone to enjoy, since Hawaii is now our home,” says Imran Khan, owner of Bombay Palace. “Having been here for only a few years, we found that good kebabs are hard to find, so we decided to also focus on serving a good variety of skewered dishes.” A full bar is also available.
Bombay Palace is located at the Discovery Bay Center, 1778 Ala Moana Blvd., Space 213. Four hour parking is available for $1 with validation. The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, 365 days a year. For more information and reservations, call (808) 941-5111 or visit www.bombayhawaii.com.
Like Mexican cuisine used to be on Oahu, Middle Eastern/Far East cuisine is still relatively far and few between here, so every one that appears often draws a crowd of connoisseurs. I’ll admit, while I’m not a connoisseur, like most other exotic fare, I LOVE IT, irregardless of any specific country it originates from, whether it’s from Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, you name it. It’s all good as far as I’m concerned.
Which brings us here as mentioned previously to a menu tasting event, held Thursday evening, February 11, 2016 at their digs on the “mall level” floor (a staircase up from the street) at the foot of the Discovery Bay Center, Waikiki.
Owner Imran Khan explained to everyone at this media event how he worked himself up from entry level to the top in the same space when it was Monsoon India, all the way to becoming their general manager. He then bought the restaurant from the previous owner and renamed it Bombay Palace, modifying the otherwise same menu by adding dishes influenced from he and his Chef Kenny’s Pakistani roots.
In case you weren’t aware, Pakistan and India were once one nation until 1947 when the Partition of the British Empire of India and the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan occurred. That said, Imran further explained that the main difference between the two in a nutshell, is Indian cuisine is more focused on vegetarian dishes, while Pakistani cuisine is heavy on meats, especially Lamb and Chicken. Otherwise the spices, cooking methods and dishes in general are very similar to the same.
Before we get to the dishes, a look around the clean and tidy dining room, and it’s somewhat contemporary and reserved, without going over-the-top on themed kitsch, having just a few paintings that represent their culture.
Located right above Ala Moana Boulevard, not much to see out the windows except the hustle ‘n bustle of traffic heading in and out of Waikiki, with the Ilikai and Modern Honolulu Resort across the street.
OK, let’s sample some of the dishes Bombay Palace has to offer, starting with the Papadums, described as thin, crispy lentil wafers. They’re served with both a Mint and Tamarind Sauce.
At the profile angle above, you see the Papadum are folded in half pretty much like a taco shell, albeit a bit larger; I’d estimate about 12″ in diameter if it were unfolded in a round shape.
In the photo above is the Papadum, broken apart with some mint and tamarind sauce drizzled on them. They’re very thin and SUPER CRISPY, with a slightly roasty, toasty, charred flavor from the Tandoor oven they’re cooked in. And? AWESOME. As was a consensus from the three gals sitting with me, we all agreed we could eat a whole BAG of this stuff! It’s kinda’ like a tortilla chip, except more grainy and earthy due to it being Lentil-based, I’m guessing. Between the two sauces, I personally preferred the Mint sauce, as it had more viscosity, and was almost Pesto-like, while the gals preferred the sweeter, more nutmeg and cinnamon-like Tamarind Sauce. I just found the Tamarind sauce too thin, viscosity-wise, otherwise, I’d agree. I’ll simply conclude on this first dish that Papadum is one of those starters that are so delicious, regardless of them being thin and light, you need to restrain yourself, or you might get full on just that!
Next to land on the table was Bombay’s Spicy Tandoori Wings, described as tender and juicy wings marinated in rich spices, then cooked in a tandoor. That said, WHOAH, were they SPICY!
I’m a total “woose” when it comes to spicy-hot food, however even the gals sitting with me agreed these were pretty scorchin’. Other than that, they had fantastic char-grilled edges on the skin thanks to being cooked again in that 700ºF Tandoor oven, having an almost Hibachi Chicken-like quality in them. It was also very tender ‘n juicy.
Spice-wise, it’s complex, just like just about every other dish served at Middle Eastern/Far East restaurants. I won’t even begin to discern what those spices are, whether it be curry, cinnamon, Zataar, you name it, I just couldn’t pinpoint any of it, it’s that complex. Yet so ONO!
Next up, Keema Naan, leavened bread stuffed with ground lamb. Now when you look at this Naan, you don’t realize it’s stuffed with meat until you pull each cut piece apart.
While our server tried his best to describe the dishes he brought out, because they were serving a pretty large group of media folks, he didn’t get to every one, including this one, so I was surprised to find ground lamb stuffed in it.
And? Yum! To be honest, I actually came to this event not exactly in carnivore mode, however even though my mood didn’t dictate it, the nicely seasoned ground lamb totally matched with the perfectly executed Tandoor-fired Naan. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the seasoning in the ground lamb in this Naan, except to say maybe Cilantro? If not that, something similar to that flavor accent. Very nice!
Next up Chicken Malai Kabob, which what was noteworthy, was Imran’s passion for Malai, seemingly very enthusiastic about the “Malai” part of how this Kabob is prepared. Malai, being a cream they get from skimming the top of milk in special process. This Malai cream is then used to marinate the chicken (or whatever other meat) for over 24 hours to release the enzymes in the protein, tenderizing the meat.
You might think Kabob = food-on-a-skewer, however at Bombay Palace, their Kabob’s are served on sizzling platters, no skewer attached, as is with their Chicken Malai Kabob.
I didn’t detect any extensive use of spices on the Chicken Malai Kabob pieces, however, like what would turn out a highlight of most of the dishes we were served, this again being cooked in that fabulous 700ºF Tandoor oven gave it this fantastic char-grilled flavor. In retrospect, I would have perhaps put some of that Mint and/or Tamarind Sauce on each piece for a nice flavor contrast and extra “kick”.
Next up, Shrimp Dhaniya, a special order item, that as advertised, really does use LARGE shrimp tails!
I’d say about a U-13/15 shrimp tail came out of this Shrimp Dhaniya (x several tails). And it was pretty juicy ‘n sweet. Not optimal, but not bad, considering the large crowd just two people in the kitchen were cooking for on this evening.
Spice-wise for the Shrimp Dhaniya’s sauce, again, so complex, it’s like the computer circuit board of culinary art, yet ultimately it gets the job done. I’d say kinda’ peppery, kinda’ tomato-ee and very earthy.
Next up, Palak Paneer, which above is Sean Morris’ photo, where he clearly was able to catch the dish while the Cottage Cheese crumbles on top were still intact.
The Palak Paneer served to us at the event on the other hand had the cheese already melted within the Squid Luau looking “stew”. And that’s where I was immediately thrown off, as I kept expecting this to taste like Squid Luau! Being the green color is from stewed-down spinach leaves, naturally, references to Taro-based Luau leaves would have anyone such as myself who grew up in Hawaii think this was Squid Luau, throwing off my palate’s expectations! However in flavor, it doesn’t resemble Squid Luau at all, but is more this “hodge podge” of spices and earthy green, combined with a very subtle accent of richness from the melted-in cottage cheese.
Bowls of Bombay Palace goodness were a trend for the next set of dishes, where next up was their Sookhi Sabzi, described as mixed vegetables cooked in light spices. Surprisingly being in vegetarian mode right now, I wasn’t really getting this dish, however Makamae was totally into it, noting this one being one of her faves of the evening.
Being we have several stew type of bowls just served, to compliment that as a foundation, next up we have Rice Pulao, essentially being Jasmine Rice seasoned with again, complex combination of spices I won’t even try to pinpoint.
Above is Bombay’s Palaak Paneer, Shrimp Dhaniya and Sookhi Sabzi, served over the Rice Pulao. Which to be honest, at this point, the complex spices they use were so convoluted, I for one couldn’t make any discernment of any particular dish. All I know is everything in the sum of its parts was absolutely DELICIOUS!
Like the Chicken Malai Kabob, the Lamb Shish Kabob arrived on the table on a sizzlin’-hot platter, with a bed of thick-sliced onions and red and green bell peppers. Nice!
As I said, I came to this event more in vegetarian than carnivore mode, so I wasn’t all over this. However I can definitely say they were wonderfully spiced morsels of ground lamb goodness, being more like a lamb sausage if you will, with complex Middle Eastern/Far East spices in the mix. And once again, that scorchin’ hot Tandoor oven gave them this fantastic char-grilled, smokey edge. Good stuff for sure, if you’re a fan of Lamb Shish Kabob.
Just when we had thought the first Naan dish with ground lamb in it was all there was to sample, they went and surprised us towards the end of the even, bringing out Garlic and Cheese Naan. And I personally was LOVIN’ THIS NAAN! It’s like your standard garlic bread taken to a whole nother level. And that’s all I have to say about that. If you know Naan, and you know cheesy-garlic bread, you know exactly what I’m tryin’ to describe here. HIT THIS!
Finally, the good folks at Bombay Palace close us out with their Lamb Rogan Josh, which as exotic as it sounds, is essentially a Lamb Curry Stew.
There were nice-sized cubes of very tender, noticeably bold-flavored lamb within this Lamb Rogan Josh. Creamy?
For sure, with a very subtle hint of what me and Makamae thought tasted like coconut milk, however it was probably their Malai cream they used, along with/is their Yogurt.
That said, Bombay’s Papadum with Mint Sauce, Lamb Rogan Josh, Garlic Cheese Naan and Shrimp Dhaniya were my faves of this particular tasting event.
Huge mahalo to Sean Morris and his lovely wife Lena for all their hard work putting this event together (amongst many more!). And of course mahalo to Imran Khan, Chef Gul Kenny Khan and the entire staff of Bombay Palace for holding such a successful menu tasting event. Excellent job!
Summing it up, I give Bombay Palace 4 SPAM Musubi (excellent!). The food is mostly “hit”, with only a few misses, likely on my end, as my palate is a bit finicky with this style of cuisine. Service was very friendly, albeit a bit slow out of the kitchen. However owner Imran did explain it’s that way by nature, as most dishes are cooked to order FROM SCRATCH, not made in bulk and kept in warmers. The ambiance is clean and hip, without being too kitsch.
Bombay Palace is definitely one of those restaurants you want to return to try as much as you can on the menu for the full experience.
1778 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: (808) 941-5111
The Tasty Island rating:
(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)
• Bombay Palace – Yelp user reviews