There aren't enough good Indian restaurants in South Florida to satisfy anybody with a passion for the complex, hearty cuisine of the land of the tiger. So when I got word that a tiny café serving aloo, paneer, pakoras, and real tandoori-baked breads had opened in Boca, I made the pilgrimage, hoping to find something beyond the usual half-hearted vindaloos and warmed-over samosas. It takes a good sense of direction and persistence to find Bombay Café (628 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 561-750-5299); you'll have to turn on NW 13th Street to get into the strip mall that houses it. The end of the journey might feel anticlimactic: This stripped-down restaurant is little more than a takeout counter in a clean white box, with only a half-dozen Formica tables. But apparently the cash Bombay's owners save on décor goes into making luscious food (lots of chic Boca eateries could apply the same lesson with great results).
You can't go wrong anywhere on this menu -- from appetizers like spicy vegetable fritters ($3) made with onion, potatoes, chilies, and spinach to a surprising appetizer called papdi chat ($3.95), homemade pastry topped with potatoes, onions, and chopped coriander and drizzled with sweet-and-sour tamarind sauce and yogurt. Of the 18 vegetarian entrées, the paneer makhani ($8.95), chewy-creamy homemade chunks of cheese doused in a pleasurably rich, heavy sauce composed of tomatoes and curry spices, is out of this world. We loved the chicken vindaloo ($8.95) and the lamb kadhai ($9.95), redolent of ginger and cilantro. A whole tandoori chicken, cooked in the oven installed when Bombay's current owners took over a year ago, is a great bargain at $15.95 and an excellent, easy takeout meal. But most wonderful are the breads -- those fluffy naans cooked on the tandoori walls ($1.50); or the kulchas stuffed with onion and coriander ($2) or cheese ($2.50); the kashmiri naan bursting with pineapple, cherries, and walnuts ($2.50); the aloo paratha heavy with spiced potatoes ($2.50); the airy pooris ($2.50); and the endless rounds of roti ($1.50). You could make a ridiculously cheap meal off of any of these with a gorgeous bowl of fresh cream of tomato soup ($2) and be happy indefinitely. Don't miss the tart, thirst-quenching nimboo pani ($1.50): fresh squeezed lemonade spiced with black pepper and black salt, a favorite summer drink for a hot climate.