A Taste Of Northern India

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - May 09, 2007
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Bombay Restaurant owner Ashwani Ahuja is a selfdescribed perfectionist
Bombay Restaurant owner Ashwani
Ahuja is a selfdescribed perfectionist

When I came to Honolulu 15 years ago, I thought I’d miss a great cup of tea and chicken tikka masala too much to stay. All this sunshine and swimming is very nice, I thought, but who can live without a decent lamb rogan josh once in a while?

Thankfully, the lure of Hawaii was stronger than the scent of cardamom pods, and I learned to live without my weekly fix of curry.

Then Ashwani Ahuja came to visit, had the same thought, and actually did something about it.

“All I’ve done my adult life is to run restaurants,” says the owner of Bombay Restaurant. “I looked around and thought that perhaps there would be room for a good Indian restaurant here.”

As soon as he got off the plane he knew Hawaii was where he wanted to bring up his children.

“I spent more than 20 years in Washington and I wanted to be somewhere warmer,” says the New Delhi-born Ashwani.

Lucky us, because Bombay is not just an Indian restaurant, it’s a great restaurant that happens to serve fabulous Indian food.

Previously Italian, the corner spot within Discover Bay Center has been transformed by colors as warm as Indian spices.

Soft turmeric walls and pale orange fabrics set the tone, and simple touches like copper water pitchers and plain white table settings give the room immediate appeal.

Service is enthusiastic and impressive.

“I’m a perfectionist,” says Ashwani, “and it’s important to me that our staff understand our food.”

The waiters all seem proud to tell diners about each dish, and the first time we went, our waiter was as genuinely enthusiastic about the food as someone raving about his mom’s apple pie. Turns out I’m not the only person who’s ecstatic that Ashwani came to town. Bombay is attracting a steady stream of both tourists and locals, anxious for a taste of one of the world’s favorite foods.

“It’s been very gratifying and we feel blessed,” says Ashwani of the response. “I’ve had many people say that they’ve waited a long time for this kind of restaurant, and that is really a big compliment.”

Bombay specializes in the food of Northern India, so you’ll find a menu of dishes that are created using spices like cardamom, coriander, cumin, ginger and garlic, without a lot of heat.

“People are under the mis-apprehension that all Indian food is spicy,” Ashwani says, “but it’s not really the case.”

If you do like it hot, you can let your waiter know, but the complex blend of spices and marinades in these dishes are best enjoyed when you can still taste what you’re eating. Entrees are between $9 and $21, and Indian food is best when shared, so order two or three dishes along with rice, bread and a palate-teasing assortment of sides that include tart lime pickle, sweet homemade chutney and cooling raita (yogurt with cucumber). And do order the ubiquitous chicken tikka masala.

For Ashwani, opening Bombay has been a tough but gratifying journey. “I’ve been here seven nights a week since December,” he says with a smile. “And although that’s been hard work, I just look at my children and think of them growing up here in Hawaii, and it’s all worthwhile.”

Happy eating!

Bombay Indian Restaurant Discovery Bay Center 942-3990

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Hope lots of people support this small restaurant - we need this kind of variety of food in Hawaii.

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