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Erik and Kira Eat Bombay Cafe

(Update: Bombay Cafe closed in August of 1014 and was eventually replaced by Amrit India. We have no idea if there is any connection between the old restaurant and the new one. -Erik, February 22nd, 2015)

Bombay Cafe. Thursday, May 22nd, 2014. Dinnertime.Kira at Bombay Cafe

Kira and I have been to Bombay Cafe a number of times, both at it’s old location and at its new one. Sometimes when a restaurant moves, it’s just a matter of location and decor. The new spot on the northeast corner of the Square* is more certainly more convenient and visible, and it allows for some outside seating too. The cafeteria-style interior of the old location has been replaced with something a bit more restauranty, with orange walls and plenty of wooden furnishings. If you look closely, you can still see the Quiznos trash cans and sneeze guards. But the move has brought other changes too.

*For those who are new to Bloomington, “the Square” refers to the area around the Monroe County Courthouse, between Kirkwood Avenue and 6th Street and between College Avenue and Walnut Street. It’s the center of the downtown area.

Left: naan. Upper left tray: goat curry. Upper right tray: coconut chicken. Lower left tray: daal.

Left: naan. Upper left tray: goat curry. Upper right tray: coconut chicken. Lower tray: rice and dal.

Some of my friends bemoan the loss of the freshly-prepared dishes of the old Bombay Cafe, but I don’t think anyone misses the long wait times for the food. As it stands now, all the dishes are prepared ahead of time, and you can pick and choose whatever combination of dishes you like. But the quality of those dishes is still outstanding, and I don’t think anyone would complain if it hadn’t once been otherwise. The particular dishes on offer vary from day to day, so if you want something in particular, make sure you check on their Facebook page first. But there’s always at least a few vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Upper right: daal. Lower left: chicken tika masala. Lower right: some kind of cheese dish.

Uppe: rice and dal. Lower left: chicken tika masala. Lower right: some kind of cheese dish.

Kira and I are both fond of the butter chicken, but on this particular trip, we wanted to try some different things. I had goat* curry and coconut chicken, while Kira tried the chicken tika masala and some kind of cheese dish whose name I can’t remember. The goat curry was a little too spicy for me, but not for Kira, although she wished it had more meat in it. The coconut chicken, chicken tika masala, and cheese dish were excellent. The naan is always tasty, if sometimes a little burnt around the edges. I’m not usually crazy about dal, but I like Bombay Cafe’s dal. The owner told us that they’d dropped the old family recipe in favor of a more complex flavor that has a few bits of veggies thrown into the usual mix of lentils. If you’re sensitive to spicy food like I am, I’d stick to the dishes that they tell you are “not spicy”. Some places I can handle “not very spicy” or “only a little spicy”, but Bombay Cafe is not one of those places. When in doubt, the staff will be happy to provide a taste of any of the dishes they have.

*My notes say “gort” curry. I’m not sure if this is my typo or if I was faithfully recording a mistake on the label. This review sat half-written in the queue for a long time, so my memory isn’t very fresh.

Erik, at Bombay CafeI do regret that I never got a chance to try some of the odder-sounding items on the menu at the old location. They’ve still got a sign that advertises “innovative Indian food”, but most of the dishes they offer now aren’t exactly what I’d call “innovative.” Although it is one of the few places in town that regularly serves goat meat. (Although to be honest, when it comes to curry, I can’t really tell much of a difference between the various different kinds of red meat.)

If the owner is there (and he almost always is), he’ll also be happy to talk your ear off about the food (or about anything else too). He’ll tell you if a dish is traditional everyday Indian food, or if it’s really only eaten on special occasions. If you ask, he’ll talk about the trials and tribulations of running a restaurant, from why he decided not to dump his Quiznos franchise for his own restaurant to why he doesn’t have a cash register. Fortunately, he always maintains an air of friendliness and helpfulness, so I enjoy engaging him in conversation whenever I’m there.

The “combos” come with naan, rice, dal, and two dishes. The regular size is usually enough for me or Kira, and will cost you eight dollars. If you opt for the large combo, it will cost you somewhere between twelve and fourteen dollars, depending on whether you get vegetable, chicken, or other meat dishes Even though you’ll order your food at the counter, they’ll ask you to pay when your’e done eating. It’s really easy to forget, and I’ve almost walked out the door without paying on more than one occasion.

Making a crêpe at Bombay Cafe

Erik eating a crêpe at Bombay CafeProbably the best new addition is the shawarma and crêpe stand that appears outside the Cafe on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. We’ve never had the shawarma, but when we visited, I insisted on trying a banana-Nutella crêpe. It was fun to watch the crêpe-maker at work, and he graciously allowed me to take lots of pictures while he worked. And of course it was very tasty.

So here’s the short version: Consistent quality Indian food at a good price; not as freshly prepared as it was at the old location. Don’t forget to pay on your way out. Also: crêpes!

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Bombay Cafe (closed)

Exterior of Bombay Cafe, with crêpe stand out front (Update: According to their Facebook page, Bombay Cafe closed for a week in August, 2014, but has not been open since (6 weeks later), and is not responding to questions on FB. If closed, this would become the millionth restaurant that has closed after we reviewed it. Ok, maybe just the 7th, but that seems like a lot. Either way, we will miss it if it truly is gone. -Kira, September 17th, 2014)

(Update: Bombay Cafe never reopened and was eventually replaced by Amrit India. We have no idea if there is any connection between the old restaurant and the new one. -Erik, February 22nd, 2015)

Bombay Cafe is has closed, becoming the millionth restaurant that has done so after we reviewed it. Ok, maybe just the 7th. But that seems like a lot. Either way, we will miss it.

An Indian restaurant/café featuring “innovative Indian food”

Location:
124 N Walnut St
Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 200-9999

Hours:
Closed

Website: http://www.bombaycafe.net (their Facebook page is more up-to-date)
Menu:
 changes daily (see their Facebook page for today’s menu)

Prices:
$8 – $15

Review Summary:
Consistent quality Indian food at a good price; not as freshly prepared as it was at the old location. Don’t forget to pay on your way out. Also: crêpes!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Asian, Cafe, Closed, Indian, Info Pages

 

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Best Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisine 百味

The sign reads "百味 Best Taste"A sit-down restaurant featuring authentic Chinese cuisine

Location:
109 W 4th St
Bloomington, IN 47404

Hours:
Daily: 11:00am – 10:00pm

Prices:
$10 – $20

Review Summary:
Overall, we thought that despite the somewhat slow service, the food was excellent and interesting. The “authentic” description is well deserved, as near as we can tell. We’ll definitely be back soon. Bonus digression: Erik tries to decipher the Chinese characters on the sign.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Asian, Chinese, Info Pages, Sit-down

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Best Taste

Best Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisine. Saturday, May 27th, 2014. Dinnertime.

Erik, trying to find the best way to eat his dish.You might have a hard time finding Best Taste online as it’s brand spanking new. At the time I write this (May 31st, 2014), the only online evidence for the existence of this Chinese restaurant is a Yelp profile. It doesn’t seem to have a website, a Facebook page, nor does it appear on Google Maps (but I’ll fix that soon enough). And yet it exists. Specifically, it exists in downtown Bloomington, tucked in between the 4th Street parking garage and the Serendipity Martini Bar. The place is so new that their sign only went up a few days before we showed up.

I’m a bit of an amateur linguist, and so I can’t help but try to compare the English and Chinese names of the restaurants. If you don’t share my fascination, you can skip to the next paragraph. Best Taste’s Chinese name is 百味, which is probably pronounced bǎiwèi. (For the record, I don’t read or speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or any of the Sinitic languages. What little I do know comes from playing mahjong or is carried over from Japanese kanji. Most of this, I figured out through internet research.) By itself, the first character 百 means “hundred” or “many”. (I actually knew that one without looking it up!) The second character 味 means “taste”."百味 Best Taste" If you type “百味” into Google Translate, it will tell you that it means “Subway”, but that’s kind of misleading. Near as I can tell, the weird translation is mostly due to the fact that the sandwich chain Subway uses the name 赛百味 (sàibǎiwèi). For the record, Best Taste isn’t underground, and it doesn’t serve $5 footlongs.

Anyone still awake? I guess I can get back to the restaurant review now.

Kira's impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

Kira’s impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

On its old temporary sign, Best Taste advertised “Authentic Chinese Cuisine”, and as near as we can tell, they deliver upon that promise. Of course, neither of us has ever been to China, but we picked up on a couple promising signs. Firstly, the vast majority of the customers were not speaking English to each other or to the servers. Secondly, the menu had plenty of items that were clearly not directed at the standard stereotypical American customer. Some of the less common dishes included “Fried Pig kidney, Pig liver, and Chicken” and “Fried Lamb Testicle with Cumin”. I was impressed that they included an English translation of every item on the menu. Many Chinese restaurants seem to assume that such dishes are so unappealing to Americans that they don’t even bother translating them on the menu. I was also impressed by how few Chinglishisms there were on the menu. Apart from some capitalization oddities and a few slightly non-idiomatic translations (e.g. “Larger Intestines” instead of “large intestines”), the only confusing things were the “Stir Fried Shredded Pork with Capsicum” (are those supposed to be bell peppers or chile peppers?) and “Sautéed Beef with Agrocybe Cylindracea”. (I had to look that last one up. Apparently that’s the scientific name for “poplar mushrooms”.)

"Iron pot" with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

“Iron pot” with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

But there are plenty of less adventurous things on the menu that are still interesting, like hot pots (where they bring a pot of broth on a burner and you cook meat and veggies right at your table) and what they call an “iron pot” (basically a meal served in the wok it was cooked in). Upon the server’s recommendation, I ordered the “Brisket with Potatoes Iron Pot” which we both found delicious and greasy (in a good way). In addition to the beef brisket and the potatoes, the dish featured fresh chopped cilantro, which added a nice aroma, but was maybe a bit too strong a flavor to be eaten directly. It came with doughy bits of bread that were very handy for sopping up all the wonderful sauce and grease. I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of bread product. It reminded us of steamed dumplings.

"Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus", also featuring cucumbers.

Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus

Kira also took a recommendation from the server and ordered the “Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus.” The “black fungus” in question appears to be black mushroom. The green vegetable in the dish which looks like zucchini is actually cucumber, which was both surprising and surprisingly good. Kira and I both liked the dish, but the brisket iron pot was definitely the winner. It’s been a whole week since we ate there, and my mouth is salivating at the memory of it.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

Our server gets bonus points for coming up with good suggestions, knowing the correct way to put a straw into a can of soda, and for his Cosmo Kramer t-shirt, but service was a bit slow and it was very hard to flag someone down, despite the small dining room. (We also think that he should have worn his belt a smidge higher on his waist. Note: we did not take pictures of that.) Even though the place was pretty busy, a little more eye contact with the customers would’ve made things a lot easier.

Overall, we thought that despite the somewhat slow service, the food was excellent and interesting. The “authentic” description is well deserved, as near as we can tell. We’ll definitely be back soon.

 

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Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Kira, standing in front of Bangkok Thai CuisineA sit-down restaurant featuring Thai food

Location:
2920 E Covenanter Dr
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 333-7477

Hours:
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Thursday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Website: http://www.bangkokthai.biz
Menu: http://www.bangkokthai.biz/#!menu/c5hf

Prices:
Lunch: $10 – $12
Dinner: $11 – $17

(Information updated May, 2014)

Review Summary:
Ultimately, I’d say that we were satisfied by Bangkok Thai Cuisine, but given the many excellent options we have for Thai food in Bloomington, we probably won’t be back there very often.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Asian, Info Pages, Sit-down, Thai

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Erik, eating curry at Bangkok Thai CuisineNow that we’re back, Kira and I will be trying something a little different. Instead of us each writing a separate review, we’ll pool our thoughts together in a single review. I (Erik) will probably be the one that does most of the writing, so you can blame all the rambling tangents on me. But I’ll do my best to make sure that both of our opinions are properly represented here.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine. Sunday, May 11th, 2014. Dinner time.

Bloomington has a lot of Thai restaurants: Esan Thai, Siam House, two different My Thai Cafes, Delicious Thai Kitchen, and now Bangkok Thai Cuisine. (I’m not even counting the recently closed Thai restaurants Basil Leaf and A Roy D.) Kira, eating crab Rangoon at Bangkok Thai CuisineWe love Thai food, but most of the existing restaurants are pretty good, so we weren’t actively looking for more options on the Thai cuisine front. But we do what we must for our readers.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine is in a somewhat hidden location, tucked behind the east-side Kroger on Covenanter Road, a street that doesn’t get a lot of traffic. And so it’s no surprise that restaurants in this location don’t tend to last very long. The first time Kira and I ate at here, it was called Limestone Grill, and it was a pretty fancy place. The second time we ate here, it was Nadia’s Bistro, and it specialized in locally-produced ingredients. But the decor hadn’t changed very much and it still felt like a pretty fancy place. Now that it’s a Thai restaurant, the decor is still very similar (including the one wall that is covered in some sort of abstract faux-stone relief mural),

Some sort of abstract faux-stone relief mural. so it feels a bit more upscale than it might otherwise. They’ve made a few changes, like the bamboo-style chairs, presumably to ensure that the customers don’t forget that they’re in an Asian restaurant. Kira has put forth the hypothesis that it’s all really the same restaurant and that the cook just gets bored every few years.

Chicken satay (upper left), fried tofu (bottom right), crab Rangoon (left and right), spring rolls (upper right and bottom), and three sauces (from left to right: sweet and sour, cucumber, and peanut)

Chicken satay (upper left), fried tofu (bottom right), crab Rangoon (left and right), spring rolls (upper right and bottom), and three sauces (from left to right: sweet and sour, cucumber, and peanut).

We ordered a sampler for our appetizer, which came with chicken satay, spring rolls, fried tofu, crab Rangoon, and three sauces (peanut, cucumber, and sweet and sour). The chicken satay was good, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a chicken satay appetizer that wasn’t. Even though I’m not usually one for spring rolls or egg rolls, I really liked the spring rolls here. Kira recommends using the cucumber sauce on the spring rolls, even though sweet and sour would be more traditional. As usual, the tofu is really just another vehicle for the sauces, which were good, but not unusually so. Kira thinks that the wonton wrapper was a bit on the chewy side, and I suspect that crunchier would’ve been better, but I still liked it. My usual complaint about crab Rangoon is that it’s mostly stuffed with cream cheese with barely any crab*, but no such problem here.

*Yes, I know that it’s usually processed whitefish and not meat from an actual crab, but my point still stands.

Yellow curry with chicken, carrots, potatoes, and onion.I ordered the yellow curry (with chicken, carrots, and potatoes), and I was pleased to find that there was no shortage of chicken. In fact, they might’ve gone too far in the other direction and shorted me on the vegetables. Kira ordered the pad Thai because you can’t go to a Thai restaurant in the U.S. and not try the pad Thai. It might be cliche, but it’s still our favorite Thai dish.  Kira thought that the noodles were a bit on the chewy side and that the sauce tasted a little too much of peanuts. I didn’t mind the flavor (peanuts go well with pad Thai, in my opinion), but if I ever get the craving for pad Thai in particular, this won’t be where I go.

Yellow curry in its native habitatWe both ordered our dishes with a spiciness** level of two out of five stars. (I have no idea why this is something that only happens at Thai restaurants. Ten minutes with Google has failed to answer this question. If I ever figure it out, dear readers, I’ll be sure to let you know.) Deciding on how many spiciness stars at a new restaurant is always a difficult decision for someone like me. I do like the flavor that often comes with a little bit of heat***, but if it gets too spicy, I simply can’t finish the meal. I’ve tried to just grin-and-bear-it before, but then I just end up feeling ill. Kira is somewhat more tolerant of spiciness, but not by much. A two-star curry or pad Thai is sometimes perfect and sometimes a smidgen too hot for me. Pad ThaiAt Bangkok, the pad Thai was probably a little too spicy for me and just fine for Kira. Neither of us could detect any heat at all in the curry. Your mileage may vary, but you can use our experience as a reference point.

**I’m well aware that there are two meanings of the word “spicy”. I think it’s perfectly obvious which meaning I’ve intended here. Sadly, ordinary colloquial English does not have a simple, unambiguous way to refer to the sensation brought on by chemicals like capsaicin. Scientists use the word “pungent”, but to me, that usually means strong smelling, so it’s still unambiguous.
***The same goes for the word “hot”. Anyone who decides to deliberately misinterpret me here is the bad kind of pedant. And coming from a self-admitted pedant, that’s a nasty insult.

The service was friendly and prompt, but mostly unremarkable. We asked for some extra rice to take home with our leftovers, which was happily provided. We expected there would be a small charge for that, but we also expected the server to mention how much that charge would be before heading off to get the rice. There was, but he didn’t. It turns out it was $2, which feels a bit on the steep side to me. Dinner entrées are in the $11 – $17 range and lunch entrées are $10 – $12. These prices are comparable to the other Thai restaurants in town (although Delicious Thai Kitchen is slightly cheaper).

Ultimately, I’d say that we were satisfied by Bangkok Thai Cuisine, but given the many excellent options we have for Thai food in Bloomington, we probably won’t be back there very often.

(Note: We’ve decided to drop the numerical scores that we used to give to restaurants. Looking back on the old reviews, they seem to be wildly inconsistent, and you’re better off reading our actual words to get an idea as to whether we liked a place. If you don’t feel like reading the entire review, you can jump to the last paragraph to see our summary.)

 

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Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings signA bar and grill specializing in chicken wings.

Location:
1350 W Bloomfield Rd
Bloomington, IN 47403
(812) 339-2900

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 1am
Friday – Saturday: 11am – 2am
Sunday: 11am – 12am

Website: http://www.buffalowildwings.com/en/locations/Detail/3242
Menu: http://www.buffalowildwings.com/en/menu/

(Info updated May 2014. -Erik)

 

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