Harming no animals at Bombay Grill

Vegetarian plate at Bombay Grill
Vegetarian plate from the lunch buffet at Bombay Grill. Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eats with LouisvilleHotBytes.com

If you’ll pardon a brief personal digression, I’ve been mournful lately following the loss of my beloved yellow cat Pepito, who died last month after a short, vicious bout with a virulent feline cancer. I held him in my arms and cried as the vet gave him the injection that eased his pain and took him from us way too soon. He was only 10.

To be frank, after having watched the light fade from the bright eyes of my best friend, I went through a period when I really didn’t feel right about making my meal on anything that had once been part of a living animal with a mommy and a face.

A vegetarian food critic? Appealing, but probably impractical in a general-audience newspaper, even one as eccentric as LEO Weekly. I’m adjusting to my grief now and have returned to an omnivorous diet, although with a lot more meatless meals and a strong preference for natural, humanely raised meat, poultry and fish when there’s animal protein on my plate.

During my brief vegetarian period, though, I spent a lot of time in Indian restaurants. Excepting a friendly nod toward Zen Garden’s vegetarian East Asian cuisine, it’s hard for me to imagine a more diverse, flavorful and hearty meatless bill of fare than the vegetarian cuisines of the Indian subcontinent.

Better yet, we’ve been enjoying a relative rush of new Indian places around the metro recently. And Bombay Grill, a particularly stylish new arrival in the Forum Center on Hurstbourne, offers an exceptionally fine and affordable ($7.99) lunch buffet.

I made three passes and managed a thoroughly satisfying meal on vegetarian options alone. Some highlights:

* Rice sticks, a salty appetizer that would make a great bar snack, are long, square and very crunchy.

* Medhu Vada is a baby lentil “bagel,” a heavy, savory donut ring of deep-fried lentil flour.

* Uthappam is a small, pancake-like round of finely chopped carrots, green onions and other veggies.

* Masala dosa, delivered to the table, is a plate-size, crisp lentil pancake folded over a dab of spicy-hot potatoes with a bowl of sambar, a spicy reddish vegetarian soup intended for dipping.

* A vegetarian “cutlet” consisted of finely chopped bits of lentil, onion and other veggies, fried crunchy brown like a fritter.

* Curried cabbage came in long-cooked, bite-size squares scented with curry.

* Malai paneer featured disks of mild white Indian yogurt cheese in a pale-tan sauce with a mild, elusive flavor. What is that? Cardamom? Ground nuts? Cashews, maybe? I doubt I could replicate it at home, but I love it here.

* Chili mushrooms, a mushroom and vegetable curry, is long-cooked and extremely hot. A good scoop of coconut rice made with coconut milk, cilantro and a warm but not fiery spice helped cool the fire, as did raitha, a classic Indian yogurt and cucumber side dish, paying homage to the reality that there’s nothing like dairy to douse a spicy fire.

Fiery and cooling green chutney and mild, sweet coconut chutney made fine accompaniments, as did naan, tender and wheaty Indian flatbread made in the tandoor oven.

Indian desserts included kheer, the traditional Indian rice pudding, here scented with rose water; and coconut jamun, very much like American-style “donut holes,” dusted with powdered sugar, with the brilliant addition of coconut flavors.

With two salt lassis, the creamy Indian yogurt drink, lunch for two came to $26.40 plus a $5.60 tip. Even though it’s a buffet, the attentive, cordial and always smiling service earned a full 20-plus percent.

Bombay Grill also offers a full dinner menu at competitive prices, including vegetarian and meat dishes from all over India with a slight tilt toward Southern Indian specialties.

Bombay Grill
Forum Center
216 N. Hurstbourne Parkway