Bollywood is the Indian-Hindi language film industry, based in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. The term “Bollywood” is a portamanteau of “Bombay” and “Hollywood.” It’s also a haute spot in downtown Santa Rosa, bringing a different vibe to the restaurant scene with the exotic flavors of India.
The restaurant officially opened a year ago, and clearly the word is out because on a Thursday evening, the place is humming with business. The décor at Bollywood is unique, combining that laid-back Sonoma County-style with bright and varied colors, the hallmark of Indian décor. Three life-size portraits depict Bollywood actors, including Priyanka Chopra, the “Quantico” actress, who married Nick Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame last year.
If you are one who appreciates the flavors of India, then you know it’s the mélange of spices and flavors that makes it so unique and delicious. Indian food has soul, and you’ll notice it the minute you step inside the front door as the intoxicating aromas seduce your senses.
Our server for the evening is Ally Tetz, who’s been working at the restaurant since it opened. We begin with drinks and let Tetz lead the way. She recommends a Dry Reisling, which pairs well with the spicy food, and the Bardoli Buck, Bollywood’s signature drink, which is basically a garden-in-a-glass cocktail. Its presentation is so striking that the couple next to us inquired about it and ordered one to try. Made with vodka, bitters and ginger beer, it’s bold and tasty, and the raw tumeric, ginger and golden beet garnish gives it a refreshing and healthy-tasting punch.
To start, we ordered the crispy cauliflower, which is served with paneer (a type of curd cheese), a signature dish at Bollywood and a popular choice with the restaurant’s patrons.
With all its exotic ingredients, Indian cuisine can be both exciting and intimidating. I introduced my sons to Indian food at a young age, and chicken tikki masala was their No. 1 fave. I like to think of it as Indian comfort food. Made with chunks of roasted, marinated chicken in a rich, spiced curry sauce, this is an Indian restaurant classic, and a perfect choice for first timers. More often than not, its mixes of spices are a revelation for those who sit down to eat it for the first time. At Bollywood, it’s creamy and delicious, so I know where we’ll be dining next time my sons are home for a visit. We also enjoyed the palak paneer, another classic and a great choice for a vegetarian entrée.
At Tetz’s recommendation, we sampled the steamed green millet. Millet has a mild corn flavor and is naturally gluten-free. According to her, not a lot of people order it, and I admit, we probably would’ve passed had she not said something, but it’s beautifully plated and has a light and lovely texture. The menu also includes a selection of clay oven sides. The wild mushrooms with roasted shallots and paneer chutney is a spectacular dish and the charred corn is also a fine choice.
Chef Niven Patel’s culinary philosophy is to combine the best of Indian flavors with fresh seasonal ingredients. “We combine authentic Indian spices with local flavors,” he says. At Bollywood, the portions are just right and easy to share. If you’re dining there for the first time with family or friends, try ordering a variety of entrees and sides to sample and share. Be sure to get an order of naan, a leavened oven-baked flatbread, to enjoy with the rich, creamy sauces. If you can handle the heat, the ghost pepper cheddar naan is a spicy twist on a classic. For dessert, we shared the sticky date cake, another signature dish at Bollywood, which somehow manages to be both light and decadent.
If you’re looking for a place to eat Indian cuisine—or a unique dining adventure—check out Bollywood next time you’re in Santa Rosa.
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