A regular carry-out customer at Bombay Grill on campus, I was curious to check out Bombay’s second location, the much larger space on First St. that formerly housed Basmati Indian restaurant. While the food was good and service excellent, I never found the value very good at Basmati; I wondered if Bombay intended to raise their Green St. prices, and how they could draw in more folks than did Basmati — which was rarely full in my experience — other than during their ample dinner buffet.
While prices were indeed raised to match the greatly enhanced atmosphere on First St. (the cramped campus spot is hardly inviting even when tables are available), the value still seems fair considering the excellent variety and great care in food preparation.
The entrees (which cost $10–$20) include the all of items from Green St. (my favorite being the Dal Makhani), along with a number of new choices available exclusively on First St. Whether one prefers chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables or seafood, dozens of options are available, with mild-to-hot spices (the wait staff is also happy to assist with special requests). There are also dozens of appetizers, breads (like Naan and Paratha) and sides (the Raita is very tasty); and beverages like Mango Lassi, Chai tea and Indian beers suit the flavorful ensembles remarkably well.
Unlike on Green St., the First St. location does not offer special lunch boxes, but instead provides, in addition to the regular lunch menu, a buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends. For $12, Naan and Tandoori chicken is brought to your table while you pick and choose from a full salad and entrée bar. Six entrées are typically provided; at my last visit, two meat entrées and four vegetarian options were featured alongside vegetable Pakoras (fried veggies) and rice. Deserts are also available (including Kheer, the rice pudding with pistachios and raisins I loved at Basmati). Try the buffet when you seek a substantial lunch at a good value or want to try some new dishes. You are sure to find one of your favorites alongside new flavors to explore.
The food selection and preparation you can expect at lunch or dinner visits to Bombay are matched by professional and conscientious service. While the elegant atmosphere may at first intimidate those out for a casual night on the town, the setup is nonetheless welcoming and friendly. Music plays audibly, and lights are dimmed at dinnertime to make booths more intimate spaces. The manager will make his friendly and watchful presence known to young people dating, families and other groups alike, as will other wait staff attending to your water glass, other beverages, appetizers and/or condiments, dirty plates and so on.
To some, such as those who think of wait service as menial or unskilled labor, this sort of attentiveness may be considered overbearing. At dinner it is hard for a five-or-more-person wait staff to be inconspicuous while eyeing half-empty water glasses, checking that each guest is satisfied, etc., and one may reasonably find it interrupting to be attended to so extensively when trying to simply enjoy an intimate act of bread breaking with loved ones.
I, personally, like my water glasses filled and beverage refills suggested. But with the food and the service and heck, the prices … this isn’t bad for a nice night out on the town. So it seems Bombay Grill has successfully ventured into the Champaign fine dining scene (of, uh, two other restaurants) by offering a world-class dining experience and tasty food that warrants return trips and perhaps even customer loyalty.
Photos by Justine Bursoni