Second to Naan

Bay Leaf Indian cuisine is tried and truer.

By Jan Walsh

On our first visits to Bay Leaf Modern Indian Cuisine and Bar, we were experimenting. Now we are discovering. Each new experience of Chef Z’s modern Indian fare (at both this Highway 280 location and the Southside location) outdoes the last. And it is always difficult not to order dishes we have previously had because we now have favorites: Naans, Biriyani, Drums of Heaven, Crab Lollypops, Tandoori Shrimp, Beef Short Ribs, and the any and every soup.

Yet tonight, Jordan, Kev and I want to discover new Indian dishes and drinks. We start with Bay Leaf’s signature cocktails, handcrafted with select Indian spices, top shelf liquors, along with fruits and herbs from local farms. We select Jal Jeera Margarita, Rooh-Afzah Cosmopolitan, and Chi Tini. In Hindu jal translates to water, and jeera to cumin. Add top shelf tequila, for an over the top, one-of-a-kind margarita. The cosmo is red in color, sweet and citrusy in flavor. It is a tasty mix of Indian rose flavored sherbet, top shelf vodka, triple sec, lemon, and orange juice, garnished with an orange slice. And the tini is creamy, dreamy, yet light,; fusion of flavors. It is a mix of top shelf vodka, ginger liqueurs, nutmeg, and stars the original Indian chi tea, complete with tea bag floating atop. Each drink is uniquely distinctive and highly recommended.

From the dinner menu you may order by as you wish or combine courses in Bay Leaf’s “Tasting Combinations A or B.” A includes your choice of app or soup, main course dish, bread, and dessert. B is the same as A minus dessert. We start with apps of Samosa Duo, Bombay Onion Fritters, and Street Dosa along with two breads, Garlic Naan and Chilly Naan. But then the guys agree they just can’t come here without having the Drums of Heaven.

Samosa Duo delicious, gluten free, vegan snack of cone shaped pastry plump with veggies: potatoes, onions, and peas, and complete with two dipping delights. Chef Z’s house chutneys and sauces are an experience in themselves. And add layers of complex flavors to each dish they accompany. They also add variety, allowing each of us to keep dipping in our favorites.

Onion rings are one of my favorite foods and rarely find them on a menu. So, I flip over the fritters! Think onion rings without the hole, but also gluten free and vegan. Interlaced ribbons of onion are lightly battered in seasoned chickpea flour and cooked to golden crisp. Their tamarind chutney enhances these divine delicacies with both sweet and sour.

Street Dosa should fit your diet… is dairy free, peanut free, gluten free, and vegan! And it is a Southern India showstopper. We cut off bites of the tower of savory dosa, filled with mashed veggies. The cone is made of Indian rice and lentil, and similar to a crepe in texture. And we dip the bread into a variety of sauces… to each his cone!

As always both my guys devour the (dairy free) drumsticks, which are actually the tenderest of chicken wings hand molded into the shape of a drumstick and spice batter fried. And I would come here just for the naan. We tear pieces of these lovely leavened, soft and chewy flat breads and pair them with everything. And what is left on the table I take home for breakfast.

Our entrée selections include Butter Chicken, Daal Makhni, and Bay Leaf Kebab Sizzler. Butter Chicken was first served in the 1950s, and is attributed to three Punjabi restaurateurs: Kundan Lal Jaggi, Kundan Lal Gujral and Thakur Dass, who founded the world-renowned Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi. Tender chunks of white meat chicken cooked in crock of tomato, butter, cream, and earthy spices. We spoon the creamy chicken over rice. On first bite of this multifaceted masterpiece, we taste why it is the most popular Punjabi curry and how it has stood the test of time.

Daal Makhni is a deep, dark synthesis of slow cooked black lentils with aromatic herbs that is peanut free, gluten free, and adds depth as a side dish to all of our entrees.

Aromas and sizzling sounds of kebabs arrive from the clay oven to our table before the plater does… another contagious dish, making diners nearby ask for the same. This peanut free platter of shrimp and chicken is my favorite of the night. Think surf and sky… The shrimp is succulent and spicy. The chicken in this dish is among best I have ever tasted. The texture and pureness of flavors of this bird are simply tantalizing. Highly recommended!

We order a an authentic Indian fusion dessert, Caramelized Jamun and Rabdi. A gorgeous gulab jamun nugget crowns the center of this thick, sweet, creamy dessert, imparting additional textures, sweetness, and a hint of rose.


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