Indian fare is the American buffet at its finest

Charm: Bombay Peacock Grill combines delicious food with soothing ambience

Restaurant Profile

August 26, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

It's an undisputed fact: Americans love a buffet.

And what's not to love? Restaurants that offer buffet-style meals are doing at least three major things right: They give you lots and lots of food, charge one set price, and give the diner an opportunity to taste many different menu items at once.

But all buffets are not created equal. Some places charge exorbitant prices for mediocre fare. Throw in a long, slow-as-molasses line at the buffet table and mealtime can turn grim.

Columbia's Bombay Peacock Grill has worked hard to change that. Its hugely popular Indian buffet luncheon, which is served seven days a week, is the anecdote to every boring, over-heated buffet found at crowded lunch eating places across the region.

In an out-of-the-way office park off Route 32 near Kings Contrivance Village Center, Bombay Peacock Grill is the sister restaurant to the successful Bombay Grill and Cafe Bombay in Baltimore. A few months ago, Bombay Peacock Grill opened a fourth restaurant in Frederick and a fifth will open next week in Owings Mills.

Husband and wife owners Tony and Annie Chemmanoor, both natives of India's southern-most state of Kerala, opened the Columbia restaurant in 1993. Within a few months, word got out about the restaurant's flavorful food (a blend of northern and southern Indian fare), the ambience (soothing traditional music and decorative wall adornments) and friendly staff.

All of the Bombay Grill restaurants feature tempting and popular lunch buffets -- so popular, in fact, the esteemed Zagat 1999 dining guide for the Washington-Baltimore region noted the "great variety" of the Columbia restaurant's buffet offerings.

Tony Chemmanoor says getting a really good buffet right can be tricky.

"Some restaurants treat a buffet like a salad bar," he says. "If you don't stand there stirring the food often, making sure the lids are closed to keep it hot, it won't work. You have to tend to it and people will appreciate it.

"At first, we weren't sure whether it was going to work or not," he adds. "But we found that people everywhere -- even in small towns -- are ready for this kind of food."

Diners found they were ready for some of Bombay Peacock Grill's more spicy fare -- thanks in part to the buffet, where the restaurant's regulars sample a little (or a lot) of each dish. "If a person is new to Indian food, a lot of times they don't know what to order," Annie Chemmanoor says. "This is a nice way to see things. Plus, if you're in a rush, you can eat quickly -- or you can take a longer time."

Each day, the restaurant's kitchen staff prepares several standard dishes: steaming basmati rice, tandoori chicken, naan bread, a spicy vegetable salad, and cucumber and yogurt raitha.

The buffet also includes another meat dish -- sometimes lamb vindaloo or chicken masala. Four or five hot vegetable dishes are presented, including vegetable korma and lentils.

The buffet allows chefs to create new dishes and test them before they are added to the kitchen's main menu or daily special offering.

"A buffet lets the chef sometimes show off a little," Tony Chemmanoor says. "In India, you see these buffets at restaurants in the best hotels. Indian food comes with a lot of condiments and we like to mix everything.

"The cuisine gives you so much to play with. We're giving Americans a chance to experience India without the expense of traveling there."

Bombay Peacock

Grill Where: 10005 Old Columbia Road (Eden Brook Drive), Columbia; 410-381-7111.

Hours: Lunch buffet is from 11: 30 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. daily. Regular hours are 11: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11: 30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Prices: The luncheon buffet costs $8.50 plus tax. Price is $1 extra on weekends.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diner's Club, Discover.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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