NYC Restaurants

Bombay Talkie


189 Ninth Ave (at 21st St)
New York, NY, 10011
(212) 242-1900 Map

Cuisine: Indian

Menu:   View the Menu

Reader Ratings:

Cititour Review:

With the recent opening of Devi, and the continued greatness of places like Tamarind and Tabla, the high end of the Indian fare spectrum in New York City continues to impress (and to cause me to eat way too much rice and naan). Bombay Talkie, a cool, modern duplex that is an ode to the glory of Bombay’s streetfood and teahouse cuisine, falls somewhere in between the lofty goals of places like Devi and Tamarind, and the simple, more authentic tandor joints of 6th Street, like Brick Lane Curry House. But with walls lined with wild, colorful oversized canvases of reproduced Bollywood movie posters, flat screen tellies playing Bollywood’s best, a global beat soundtrack mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Andres Levin, and a long communal table where flirty jewel-toned cocktails ease neighbors into close conversation, Bombay Talkie is certainly the most chic Indian haunt to open in recent memory. It is filled with a fun, fizzy energy that is infectious. I would compare it to an Indian version of Sushi Samba; you can almost taste the next locations in Miami, Chicago and LA.

The menu at Bombay Talkie, created by culinary consultant Jehangir Mehta (the pastry chef from Aix, who grew up in Bombay), is divided like a culinary road trip between Street Bites (apps), From the Roadside (entrees), and Curbside (sides, naan, rice and vegetables). Jehangir’s pal and Aix chef and sommelier Didier Virot has selected a modest wine list that pairs up nicely with the menu. The hook at Bombay Talkie though is that all wines come in at one (gentle) price point only—$7 per glass and $28 per bottle. We started with Street Bites and found these to be the best section on the menu. Kathi Rolls ($7 each)—sort of like thin burritos—were terrific. Warm flaky flatbread wrapped around cylindrical meatballs of spicy, mint-accented lamb, or sweet and sour bits of moist chicken, are served with a pair of raitas (yogurt based sauces)—one heated up with pink peppercorns and the other sweetened with shredded coconut. Dosas ($8 each) arrived in large, lacy semicircles and were torn into with little restraint, topped with white and red coconut chutneys, and polished off quite quickly. We loved the one filled with a peppery coconut and mustard seed chicken, but there are others that impressed as well, like the one stuffed with tart minced lamb.

The Papdi Chat ($5)—crispy and delicate flour purses the size of golf balls—are stuffed with diced potatoes and chickpeas and drizzled with a zippy tamarind yogurt sauce. We made quick work of these as well. Things got a bit less sure in the category “From the Roadside” (all $11, served with naan or rice; quite a deal when you think about it). We all liked the Nil Giri Coconut Kebabs—small moist lamb meatballs rolling around in a creamy piquant coconut and mustard seed sauce, and the Five Spice Shrimp, flash-sautéed in a thick richly flavored paste made from cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, and fenegreek. But the Fish Patia—a meaty fillet of red snapper that looked promising in a smashing red glaze of tomatoes and onions—smelled so fishy that the four of us—Kiri, Susie, Jamie, and I—just sort of stopped, forks poised in midair, inhaled the rare odor, reconsidered, and returned our forks to their starting position next to our plates. And while we didn’t mind the Clay Oven Chicken—kebabs roasted in the tandoor with a masala sauce—the pink-hued chunks of meat were utterly forgettable.

In terms of sides, the naan were lovely—puffy and gorgeous in texture with one seasoned with cilantro and red chile flakes, and another lifted up with onion and sesame seeds. But the Mustard Rice, while perfectly cooked, was bland. We preferred the Pulao, more of a Persian-style rice—silky grains of softly spiced basmati rice given a sweet and nutty accent with caramelized onions. Curbside plates were also hit or miss. The Aloo Gobi ($5), usually one of my favorite dishes—cumin and chile-spiked cauliflower and potatoes—suffered from complete lack of seasoning. Did the chefs forget about the cumin and the chiles? What happened here? The dish was such a disappointment, tasting like dull, mealy potatoes and little else. But we licked the bowl of Chole Peshawari ($5) clean. This is a condiment/stew made from garbanzo beans cooked in a bold tomato, ginger and garlic paste given some real zoom with green chiles. This dish should be ordered in double portions, and attacked with pieces of naan employed as an edible utensils.

Aside from a somewhat uneven kitchen, Bombay Talkie unfortunately also suffers from a logistical problem that plagues diners seated upstairs. To make its way up to the second floor, your food must be carried past the front door, and then up the stairs. This is not only a logistical nightmare for people coming into the restaurant, but it is also the cause of cold food upstairs. Indeed, you try walking hot food in front of a door constantly opening to sub-zero temps and see what happens. They need to get covers for the trays to trap the heat, or look into some alternate way of getting the food up there, because much of what we ordered, by no fault of the kitchen, was cold by the time it made it to our table. While there were issues with my meal at Bombay Talkie, there were enough positive moments along the way to make me believe that the kitchen will get it together, and that the bumps in this early road will be smoothed out. The energy is right, the vibe is sleek and hip, and some of the food has real soul.

Review By: Andrea Strong

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Entree Price: $10-15

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