Maybe you spend Tuesday nights playing in a ZogSports kickball league. And perhaps you’ve tried interactive games like Escape the Room. Sure, you’re trying to relive 4th grade gym class at 9:20pm on a Tuesday night at Chelsea Piers, or yes, you’re paying money to be locked in a room - one without a bathroom or alcohol. But you put up with the drawbacks because it’s fun (sometimes) to take part in group activities. You may also overlook some underwhelming menu items at Bombay Bread Bar in order to eat at a place that’s great for group dinners.
Bombay Bread Bar is the the casual revamp of Paowalla, which was a formal-feeling Indian spot from the same chef in this same location in Soho. While some of the food is similar, it’s a very different experience thanks to a redesign of the space by the set director of various Wes Anderson movies. With bright colors and murals all over the place, and food suited to sharing, this place is a solid option for a lively group dinner, especially one where having a good time is more essential than being wowed by what you’re eating.
The space, in, particular, helps make this place fun: the big room is decorated with portraits of animals dressed like businessmen, multi-colored place settings, and floor-to-ceiling pop art. There are two separate bar areas - one where they make colorful cocktails, and a bread bar with a few counter seats overlooking a big wood-burning oven painted like a tiger. You could sit there with one or two friends, but most of the tables here are filled with big groups, which keeps this place about as loud as the ball pit at a McDonald’s PlayPlace.
The food at Bombay Bread Bar is also good for groups, as all the dishes, ranging from small starters to large format plates like pork vindaloo, are served family style. We generally recommend leaning heavily on the breads (there are 10 different kinds) and the small plates, like the bhelpuri with mangoes and peanuts or the upma polenta, which tastes like cheesy grits topped with smoky mushrooms. These small plates are a better bet than the mains, which tend to be unmemorable, and end up serving primarily as vehicles for bread-dipping more than anything else.
This place is also sneaky expensive, and if you get three dishes per person as they recommend, you’ll probably end up spending more than typical for casual group dinners. But you’ve overlooked worse in the interest of having a fun time with friends. And at least this room has bathrooms and alcohol.
This place has bread in its name, and you should get a lot of it here. The best is the laccha parantha - doughy, but crispy at points, and good enough to be eaten with or without the various chutneys.
There’s a section of the menu for kulchas, which are like greasy, doughy flatbreads that they stuff with various ingredients. The one with ramps and potatoes was our favorite, but we’d recommend getting another one of the standard $5 breads rather than this.
Our server highly recommended this on each visit, but we found the ball of burrata in a pool of beans and lentils to be pretty bland. This really just turns into a dip, but most of the breads taste better without this.
These flaky samosas are loaded with ground beef, and they come with a good cucumber-coconut yogurt dip on the side. Speaking of which - all of the dips and chutneys here are really good.
The upma tastes like cheesy grits and it’s topped with rich mushrooms. Get this.
This cold bowl of puffed rice, mango, tamarind, and peanuts has a bunch of different flavors and textures, and is one of our favorite things here.
There’s not much lamb here, and the lentils don’t add much. It ends up just being another dip for your breads.
Some good bites of tender fried chicken. They’re topped with three different types of chilis, but this is more sweet than spicy.
The shrimp are cooked and served in a banana leaf, and when you unwrap them at your table, you get about 10 of them that are so heavy on salt and spices that you can’t actually taste the shrimp.
The large plates here are pretty underwhelming, and this $26 piece of monkfish is no exception. You get a couple bites of fish, and then realize you’re mostly paying for another dip for the bread.
We like the slabs of stringy pork, but the sauce is the highlight. It’s thick, smoky, spicy, and eating it with a spoon is probably the best bite here.
After all that bread, you’ll probably be in the mood for something sweet. Even if you’re not, get the kulfi.