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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Stop. You no longer have to cross the bridge to Little India to feast like a Rajah. Come to Cedar Lane and transport yourself and your taste buds on a culinary tour of mysterious India and enjoy the fruits of Alan Cohnen and company in the second edition of America’s first glatt kosher Indian restaurant, Shalom Bombay.

The original Shalom Bombay was at the same location about three years ago, but was then sold and became a non-kosher establishment. Alan spent those years at his flagship Shalom Bombay on 39th and Lexington in Manhattan, where he experimented with spices, ingredients and techniques to master the nuances of kosher, Indian, fleishig cuisine. After finding success and gaining a loyal following as restaurateur and caterer, Shalom Bombay outgrew its modest Manhattan location and he decided to reopen in Teaneck. As a 14-year resident of the township, he knew that, despite the plethora of local restaurants, there was a need for something different--a white-table-cloth eatery with an exotic ethnic flair—a place that would satisfy even the pickiest and most finicky foodies.

Attention was paid to even the smallest details. You walk in to a warm, family-friendly ambience and are seated in comfortable, padded jacquard dining chairs. The hand-painted walls are works of art covered with Trompe l’oeil images by the famous Indian painter, Dimitri, whose tumbled-rock textures and carved arches set the mood for a truly memorable evening.

With a large and diverse menu, chicken, salmon, beef, lamb, an assortment of freshly baked traditional breads and basmati rice dishes, and a dessert menu with a delicious carrot pudding, you are sure to find something to please even the pickiest palate. There is also a special menu for the kids.

For the uninitiated, the menu can be somewhat overwhelming, with many dishes sounding similar and the overuse of the term “mild spices.” When it comes to the “heat” of the dishes, wait staff asks if you’d like mild, moderate or very spicy when ordering, but it would help to have an indicator of those dishes which are traditionally extra hot to help you navigate towards dishes more suited to your palette. That being said, the wait staff seems knowledgeable and friendly—happy to answer your questions. That kind of attention is also paid to the food in the kitchen.

It took Alan and his team of experienced chefs—Indians from India—six months to perfect the tandoori chicken. A classic Indian dish, the unique preparation of traditional tandoori calls for marinating the chicken in a yogurt based sauce. The chefs wanted to recreate the flavor of traditional Tandoori without the use of dairy ingredients and without sacrificing the moisture and texture of this succulent and flavorful dish. The task may have proved challenging, but a recent visit to the recently reopened eatery for a feast with friends proved it was worth it.

The mixed kabob platter was our starter course and a carnivore’s delight. A colorful assortment of marinated lamb, beef, and two chicken kabobs on a sizzling platter, was surrounded by onions and green peppers, with sweet tamarind chutney and bright green mint dipping sauce on the side. The dish is a huge platter of amuses bouches, perfect for sharing. All the meats were moist and flavorful, each boasting unique flavor combos that complimented each other nicely.

The cashew-based Reshmi Chicken Kabob is moist and creamy; the Beef Boti Kabob is soft, flavorful and spicy; the chicken Tikka Kabob is a beautiful red color, courtesy of its cumin and faux sour cream base, and there was a ground beef kabob, covered in bright green aromatic cilantro. Though the ensemble was speckled with red pepper flakes, the meats were never overwhelmed by the heat. Fear not. When you order will be asked if you prefer your “heat” mild, moderate or very hot. The dishes we ordered were all moderate with just enough kick for even the most sensitive palette.

The next course was vegetable pakoras and bhajia. Pakoras are sort of vegetable fritters, deep fried to a light brown, their batter having just the right amount of bite.The bahjia are pakoras made with onion, fried to an inviting deep golden color that also emphasized the natural sweetness of the onion. Both were complemented by the tamarind and mint chutneys.

Then the classic Indian vegetable samosas arrived. The presentation was basic, yet the flavor is anything but. The triangular-folded, deep fried, slightly sweet crispy dough is filled with a wonderfully flavored potato and pea mixture. The abundant use of fresh herbs was apparent—cilantro, cumin, and coriander mingled with garlic, ginger and turmeric and hot pepper created a kick that never overwhelmed and felt slightly addictive.

If you aren’t sure you like Indian food, among the entrees you might enjoy the Chicken Tikka Masala—barbequed chicken cubes cooked in tomato sauce with onions. The bold orange dish arrived in a metal bowl with a side of basmati rice sprinkled with peas. It was a nice balance of creamy and robust flavor and made an excellent dipping sauce for the garlic naan bread, which itself was a sweet and salty treat.

The lamb curry is served in a savory sauce and is very tender. Though the idea of a curry may put you off, this dish will cure you of any inhibitions. It is quite palatable even for the most conservative diners, and very enjoyable.

With many vegetarian options on the menu, vegans and vegetarians—or folks on a diet—can order, among other items, the vegetable Biryani Rice Specialty. The dish was generously portioned and festively colored and good, and although not as full-flavored as other things on the menu, it was, according to one taster, delicious and his favorite of all.

A Shalom Bombay standout is the garlic naan bread. Light, warm and fluffy, this slightly sweet dough with a garlicky, salty topping is a combo that can make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in delight. But be aware that there might be a pocket of salt in the center which you should check, where the salt might be sprinkled with a bit heavy handedness. Yet despite that marginal fault, the naan was delicious.

The eclectic cuisine at Shalom Bombay has gained tremendous momentum, and experienced an unparalleled surge in fan-fare in the last 24 months. Alan explains “To our most pleasant surprise, Jewish palates have adjusted their thermostats to our unique/ extraordinary spices, leaving the body craving for more. The tantalizing aromas wafting through the restaurant from the mixed kabob platter can be addictive. Our Indian cuisine presents a new flavor landscape to our clients and our partners are determined, devoted, and driven, to meet customer demands at the highest levels.”

Shalom Bombay is a destination eatery, offering the only kosher food of its kind. Alan and his chefs are excited to be back in Bergen County and looking forward to serving the community for many years to come. They also hope to franchise outlets in Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn.

Shalom Bombay is BYOB. Open Sunday-Thursday for dinner only from 5PM- 10PM and Saturday nights 1 hour after Shabbat ends. They offer delivery via LimoCuisine.com and are available for catering. Shalom Bombay is located at 166 Cedar Lane, Teaneck. Call 201-530-5939 for information or reservations.

By Tova Gold