Bombay Palace is the exact opposite of L.A.’s new dining-scene hotness. It looks and feels like an elegant, from-another-era Indian restaurant because this is exactly what it is and exactly what it wants to be. The Beverly Hills restaurant, which opened in 1984, has had chef Harnam Singh running the kitchen since the beginning. Bombay Palace has also boasted the same management staff for 32 years. Owner Deep Sethi, who also has Indian restaurant/lounge Nirvana across the street and recently purchased Saddle Peak Lounge in the hills of Malibu, has kept the white tablecloths, too.
It turns out that dishes like tandoori prawns, deeply flavored curries (including the fiery chicken vindaloo we enjoyed on our recent visit) and a wonderful plate of bhindi dopiaza (fresh okra with onions and tomatoes) pack some serious star power. And if you head to the bathroom at Bombay Palace, you might notice photos of prominent guests like Will Smith, Melanie Griffith, Dev Patel and Neil Patrick Harris. The restaurant has also posted shots of visits from celebrities like Serena Williams and Dolly Parton on Instagram.
Last Saturday night, we overheard the table next to us talking about what new West Hollywood scene-dining restaurant Catch is like. Bombay Palace, of course, feels like a time capsule compared to Catch. It’s lovely to be in a city where there’s more than enough room for both.
Another star attraction at Bombay Palace is the clay tandoor oven that Singh has been using to expertly prepare meats and seafood since day one. The oven, which was built 34 years ago and imported from India, gives you mesquite-laden flavors you can’t experience in newer restaurants with modern gas ovens. So, take advantage of this: A kebab sampler with juicy and fragrant chicken and lamb, including excellent minced lamb, is an ideal way to start your feast.
If you’re familiar with Indian food, there might not be much that’s surprising on the menu. But that’s fine. This place isn’t about trend-chasing. It’s about the classics done right. Samosas filled with potatoes and peas are a popular crowd-pleaser. The lamb saag is the correct amount of creamy, not overwhelmingly heavy. There’s mango kulfi ice ice cream and the spongy cake-like milk balls known as galub jamun for dessert. There’s a full bar, so you can can alternate between martinis and Indian beer.
Even if you’re the type of person who gets FOMO when you don’t make it to a new restaurant the first week it’s open, it can be refreshing to visit a place like Bombay Palace. You go to Bombay Palace for the same reasons you go to places like classic American meatery Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood or Continental-cuisine standard-bearer Brandywine in Woodland Hills. The food is good, evocative of another time but still relevant in 2017. The service, from people who’ve made hospitality their career, is attentive. There are plenty of adult beverages to pair with your meal.
Also, you go because you can get carb-crazy without any judgment. If anything, the staff at Bombay Palace might smile when they realize you’ve ordered rice, naan and poori with your entree after pounding samosas for your appetizer. They’ve seen it all before.