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May 19, 2007 04:27 PM

Good Indian Food in Austin

So I like Indian food. I used to like airport haven until they closed. Since they closed, I've tried a handful of Indian restaurants but have yet to be wowed. I went to Bombay Express on 135 & Parmer and was extremely impressed with the service, and although the food wasn't bad, I still miss Airport Haven. Anyone have any suggestions?

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  1. I don't have any expertise with Indian food so I asked the question on behalf of a visiting client.

    Here's the link:

    They really enjoyed Chola and Teji!

    1. We eat weekly at the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro. It's in the strip center near HEB at the corner of Braker and 183. It is consistently good and full of variety.

      10 Replies
      1. re: austinfoodie

        Bombay Bistro is amazing, but Clay Pot is pretty darn good too. At the Clay Pit the kabuli chicken is fantastic.

        1. re: ChristineR

          Bombay Bistro used to be quite excellent until the head chef ('Uncle') and co-owner Raj vanished from the scene. Although the lunch buffet remains a popular favorite, the standard of the evening cuisine has deteriorated. As always with BB, beware the service in the evening ... it's among the worst in Austin. The Clay Pit is far superior in this respect.

          1. re: TAF

            We thought the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro was terrible (though recommended by a local) and will never go back. We saw very few Indian people eating there. We are Dallas hounds (who visit Austin frequently) and there are a number of better Indian restaurants here (which are full of Indian people).

            1. re: kuidaore

              Most of my friends from India say Clay Pit is the best Indian restaurant in town. Not the most authentic, mind you, but definitely the most delicious. When their parents come to town, this is usually where they take them; they report (usually) that their parents are delighted by the place, and request to return on repeat visits. Make of that what you will -- I'm less interested in who dines at a restaurant than whether the restaurant is delicious.

              Sadly, lots of Indian customers does not a great Indian restaurant make. For example: last time I went to Shalimar, it was full of Indians and Pakistanis. I watched an amazing cricket match on the TV and chowed down on some pretty iffy food.

              1. re: tom in austin

                Thanks for making this good point, Tom. It's probably applicable to most other ethnicities too (ie. lots of Chinese patrons does not a great Chinese restaurant make). Every town seems to have a "Clay Pit" kind of place -- a nicer cleaned-up restaurant, as opposed to the little Indo-Pak grocer that sells food out the back. And it's true -- alot of Desi's will go to those places, and bring their family to them, to enjoy a dining-out experience of foods they're familiar with. But I have rarely found these places to serve the best examples of the dishes they serve, and more often than not find the better ones at the little grocer. But the "Bombay Grille" kinda places serve their purpose, and more often than not they actually have a real tandoor too, whereas some smaller joints may not be able to afford the installation of one.

                I've been to Clay Pit, and it's alright but it's another one of those places that doesn't seem to take too many chances -- ie. it's rather tame and a little boring for my tastes. I recall the use of overly trimmed and/or boneless meats and such. A common complaint of this cuisine is that it's just way too oily, but the fact is, much of it has to be (although there's a limit/balance - and many places do go beyond this). When you take out too much of that oil, the dish suffers IMO.

                I'm disheartened to hear of your experience at Shalimar, since it's been high on my list for a while now. I've spoken with the owner over the phone and they seem to have several dishes that are not commonly available at most restaurants (or if they are, they're short-cut versions). They have many dishes that are favourites of mine that I grew up with. I'm going to have to check them out, maybe this weekend, especially given the forecast.

                1. re: Nab

                  Cricket isn't the only thing that adds to the charm. For example: Shalimar has a huge dare / wager posted on the wall, offering a large cash bounty if any diner can prove that their meat isn't halal.

                  In my opinion, the food leaves something to be desired. You might have a different experience, and I think you should still go. With your expectations tempered, you might be pleasantly surprised.

                  1. re: tom in austin

                    Ha. Despite already having a set menu for home-cooking, I was in the nabe so I stopped into Shalimar. The charm is certainly interesting. Cavernous room. Seems like the grisly remains of a Chinese buffet restaurant from 1989. Despite this, the host was dressed in a shirt & tie, though he spent his time in one of the booths on his cellphone. Not that it matters, the "manager" was sitting in another booth eating cucumbers.

                    I placed an order for haleem to-go and sat down to soak in the ambiance. Haleem is a specialty dish usually made during the month of Ramadan. It's a meat/grain type of stew, which is actually more like a thick paste which literally sticks to your ribs. This version was a beef/lentil combination that was pureed to a smooth final texture. I prefer it a little more on the chunky side, and with a combination of lentils and the addition of wheat & barley (theirs used one kind of lentil I believe). It was decently spiced, and certainly a serviceable version of a dish that, for me, even sub-par versions are good eating. It's typically served with garnishes of fried onions, cilantro, ginger matchsticks, lime juice and a sprinkling of garam masala. Eat with naan.

                    Pretty good, especially nice to know that I can find this labour-intensive dish somewhere. I'll move on to the other aspects of the menu next time though.

            2. re: TAF

              The food and service at Bombay Bistro are an insult to Indian food and hospitality.
              The staff talk down to you and if your Indian they blatantly ignore you and are overtly hostile. the food we had today was stale,tasteless and not even made per our request. Stay away from this place and don't even consider it

            3. re: ChristineR

              I like the Clay Pit, although I will assert that the quality of the food seems to be far superior at the dinner hour. I eat there for lunch often b/c of its close proximity to my office, however the sauces all seem to be a bit thinner at lunch. Not sure if this is due to the fact that they have a huge lunch rush and thus less time to work on their reductions, or if it's a case of trying to stretch the sauces on purpose to feed larger crowds. In any case, it's certainly still tasty at lunch, just not AS delicious. My friends seem to gravitate toward the korma (sp?) which is nice, subtle and creamy, but not my cup of tea. My favorite dish there is the CP version of tikka masala, ordered extra spicy. The amount of red curry is balanced (flavourful, but not overwhelming), the acidity of the tomato is nice and it is pureed but you can still feel the "juicy burst" of tiny little tomato particles, there's a very good amount of heat when ordered XS, and just a splash of cream (not too much) which I enjoy in this dish. I also enjoy their plain naan, chewy, crisp around the edges. Personally I find the garlic or "cheesey" naan bland and a bit gimmicky... give me the old fashioned stuff. Their lunch buffet is quite popular, but since I loathe buffets, I tend to order off the "lunch portion menu." For around $6.95 you can get a nice curry dish with your choice of meat, paneer, or veggies plus a side salad, basmati rice, and plenty of naan which may be eaten in house or taken to-go; a pretto good deal. At dinner you will receive a much larger entree portion of the curry dishes with no salad for $3 or $4 more. TAF is correct in stating that the service at Clay Pit is fairly good. The hosts/hostesses are all pleasant and well-groomed, and waitstaff fairly knowledgeable. Expect to receive less attention from your server if you go during lunch; at night my table has never been neglected, water glasses always full. I also had a nice experience there when I went for happy hour with a large crowd. There were no tables left at the bar area, and they don't allow "happy hour prices" in the dining area. The bartender and host were very accommodating and let our large party eat and drink on the lobby area sofas, and the server still gave us plenty of attention. Alcoholic drinks are overpriced, though, and I found the samosas on the dry side, so happy hour may not be the best time to go. Try dinner first.

              1. re: femmenikita

                I have had the buffet at CLAY POT several times and would like to say that, while the food was tasty enough, it lacked selection - just not enough offerings, unlike BOMBAY BISTROS's or MADRAS PAVILIoN, and - even worse - the service was almost non-existent. The last time I ate there - sitting at the table astride the entrance to the kitchen - our waiter completely ignored us even as he passed our table many times. Is the service better at dinner time?

          2. ok, so i'm indian, and for the best indian food in town (punjabi indian food) is the clay pit. and that is the consensus from all my indian friends although a few have said bombay bistro is good too. but clay pit buffet sucks. only eat there at night. swad is excellent gujurati street food, a totally diffferent type of indian food. they do have some punjabi plates though)

            1. swad is right around the corner, so i often find myself there. what it lacks in decor and service, it definitely makes up for with the excellent dishes. if i don't feel like squeezing into their little tables, i just get it go and enjoy it at my own table. their south indian street food is def different than offerings one finds at places like clay pit or madras pavillion, but you should try as many cities can't boast of a restaurant featuring such great treats. if you've never been, i suggest a thali platter which allows you to try a little bit of everything...

              1. I love Madras Pavilion at Research and Burnet. It's all vegitarian and it's inexpensive. I suggest ordering off the menu rather than having the buffet.

                4 Replies
                1. re: porkmuffin

                  i've also heard that its kosher! i like their dinner for two, which last time i had it, was way more food that dinner for two...

                  1. re: kitchenknife

                    IF you like buffets: I suggest the Star of India on Anderson just east of Mopac. It is $9.95 for dinner, and has a very good selection of tasty choices; plus lots of choices for my vegetartian husband.

                    1. re: travisleroy

                      I second this reccomendation - although it is a lesser known Indian buffet in Austin, it is definitely a hidden gem that has actually been around for several years and is owned by the same owners of Bombay Grill. There's not a huge selection, but all the basics are there and the quality is definitely there too.

                  2. re: porkmuffin

                    I like Madras Pavilion too. Nice atmosphere, excellent idli & sambar and in general excellent buffet.