An exotic find on Federal Hill
by Ian Donnis
145 Dean St., Providence, 273-6363
Open Mon-Sat, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-11 p.m.
Sun, 12:30-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m.
Major credit cards
The notion of an Indian restaurant on Federal Hill, that bastion of
Italian-influenced fare, might seem a little incongruous at first blush. But
there are other non-Mediterranean eateries scattered around the hill, and
besides, it's good to be able to mix up some samosas and lassi with your
Located off Atwells Avenue in the space formerly occupied by a Portuguese
restaurant, Bombay Club is fairly inconspicuous, other than a cheerful exterior
sign. Once inside, though, visitors are transported and not just by the
restaurant's skillful blend of cumin, tumeric, coriander, and other fine
spices. Use a little imagination while sipping a Kingfisher at the jaunty
L-shaped lacquered bar and you could be in London.
A small adjoining dining room with about 10 tables is highlighted by pristine
white walls, some covered with folk art embroideries, as well as suspended
lights and hanging plants. Service is gracious from the get-go and meals start
with rounds of flat, crisp crackers, accompanied by a caddy laden with dishes
of onion chutney, tamarind sauce and mint chutney. While these hallmarks are
part of what enthusiasts love about Indian restaurants, the food at Bombay Club
is unusually good and reflects a high degree of care in the kitchen.
Take the meat samosas (two pieces for $2.95), crispy turnovers stuffed with
minced lamb. In less capable hands, these can be doughy, if still satisfying.
The samosas at Bombay Club, though, are absolutely delicious, with an appealing
contrast between the flaky exteriors and the delicate, bright seasoning of the
lamb. Other appetizers include chicken pakoras ($4), three soups (chicken,
tomato and mulligatawany), and, of course, nan and an array of other freshly
baked flat breads ($1.95 to $3.25).
The proprietors here are Harshinder and Karan Pathania, brothers from Punjab,
and their one-year-old restaurant consequently reflects an orientation toward
their native northern India. Everything I sampled at Bombay Club was tasty,
including the tandoori chicken ($8.95) and lamb saag ($9.95). But the
specialties baked in the tandoor, a clay oven, are especially impressive.
Recommended by the staff, fish tikka ($10.95), a generous serving of salmon,
perfectly cooked with a light blend of saffron and other spices, is dazzling.
While Bombay Club offers a full bar, as well as traditional drinks like lassi,
a yogurt and rosewater concoction, cold beer goes best with this kind of
The generous heart of Bombay Club was evident when I returned for some
take-out. To my delight, the staff included a complimentary order of the tomato
soup, smooth and comforting, yet exotic with an undercurrent of curry powder
and other spices. Murg malai ($10.95), chunks of chicken breast marinated with
aromatic cardamom, another one of those tandoor specialties, is nothing less
than one of the best things you can eat in Providence -- and farther afield --
for under $11. Joined by a salad of iceberg, sliced cucumber and red onions,
the chicken is wonderful on its own and more so with a squeeze of lemon. Dip
the pleasantly browned chunks in an accompanying yogurt sauce flavored with
cilantro, and you've got something truly magical.
One quibble: after experiences in which I've been served relatively mild fare
at Indian restaurants even after requesting the heat treatment, two companions
and I asked, to little avail, for our dinner dishes to register 8 out of 10 on
the spicy scale.
As is typical of Indian food, Bombay Club offers a selection of curries and
vindaloos, along with plenty of choices to please vegetarians, including baigan
bartha ($7.95), roasted eggplant cooked with onions and tomatoes, and flavored
with cumin and garlic, and vegetable biryani ($8.50), basmati rice cooked with
potatoes, carrots, peas, green peppers and lima beans. The restaurant also has
a weekend buffet, a 15 percent discount for college students (with
identification), and many of the entrees can be had for about half the price at
lunch. With all this, Bombay Club is a culinary fraternity with which I'd be
happy to be associated.
Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis[a]phx.com.