Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bombay Tadka Comes to Clear Lake Texas

Down-home cooking. Old Country flavor. 
Comforting words to those who yearn for the way food tasted when they
were growing up on Mom's cooking.......or eating at Mom's favorite restaurant.

America, the 'Melting Pot' for immigrants like the Poles, Italians, Cubans,
Germans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Chinese and just about everyone else, has
plenty of restaurants that successfully replicate the 'old country' flavor.
Not so in my Clear Lake neighborhood of NASA Mission Control HQ.
And so unashamedly I repeat the hackneyed statement yet again,
"Houston, we have a problem !"

After moving to Friendswood, Texas from India via New York/New Jersey
many years ago, I sadly discovered the void that exists for lovers of true Indian
Cuisine in Clear Lake. There are a few restaurants that serve a Lunchtime
Buffet acceptable to NASA-area residents, but while they all seem to employ
experienced Chefs, the end result of their creations is often erratic - far from
what Indian expats expect when it comes to 'old country' taste.

Annapurna (South Indian) started out great and then fizzled out, just like so
many before them who suffered growing pains. They began serving authentic
but stale food - a sure sign of approaching failure. They tried to survive change
of ownership and desperately began employing their younger family members,
who did their school assignments in between waiting tables, a common practice
in many family-owned businesses. While these zealous youngsters struggled for
their pocket money, they ultimately contributed to diminished customer service
and declining loyalty from die-hard well-wishers (like myself, above right)
who clung on until the day they disappeared from the 411 Directory.

A few eateries like Cuisine of India and Shalimar now carry on, serving as
they please, believing they are incomparable and have no existing competition.
Cleanliness and Decor are not a priority, as a single trip to their Washrooms
will prove. More than one such place features Giant-screen TVs blasting Indo-Pak
News, Cricket matches and Bollywood videos as a diversion for customers
who patiently wait for what they hope will be a taste of 'home cooking'.
Well, they might be in for a rude awakening shortly, because there's a younger,
newer kid on the block, and this time I was actually impressed with almost 
everything I experienced there !

I'm speaking of Bombay Tadka Bar and Restaurant on Hwy 3 in Webster.
Located in the old Alpine Brauhaus, they have emerged as a genuine, quality
establishment on all counts. The menu here is as plentiful and varied as that of
any Mumbai (formerly Bombay) Fusion eatery, and appropriately priced.
The service staff is a mix of mellow fellows and females who blend in smoothly
with the ambient Fusion Decor - huge sepia-toned images of old Bombay
on one wall while on the other wall are glitzy glamor shots of Bollywood
movie idols.

Bollywood Wall Decor at Bombay Tadka -2

The overall Rust/wooden tones make for a somewhat subdued but warm
and ambient Bar area, situated facing the dining room.

I enjoyed a tasty Masala Dosa* for Dinner since I had my fill of a Mutton Biryani 
platter the  day before at Sheik Chilli's in Houston, while my nephew had a
delicious  Lamb Biryani** that failed somewhat, but only because it was lacking
on the Lamb quantity included. But it was the only thing that was disappointing,
since our Dessert choices of Ras Malai, Pista Kulfi  and Masala Chai definitely
lived up to our expectations. The patrons were mostly Indian and their satisfied
faces bode well for the future of this place.

Now if only the owners don't lose their vision and focus on becoming a longtime
landmark instead of turning into take-the-money-and-run investors, I believe we'll
have a one-of-a-kind Indian Restaurant in the Houston/Clear Lake area.

Here's wishing loads of luck to the folks at Bombay Tadka Bar and Restaurant 
Bombay Tadka Bar and Restaurant sign Hwy 3  
Located at 17926 Highway 3 Suite 101
Webster Texas 77598
Phone : (281) 316-8883
Bombay Tadka on Urbanspoon
Virtual Poona Houston restaurants

* Masala Dosa $5.95
Crisp crepe wrapped around a satisfying filling of curried soft potatoes, onions
and peas. Served with coconut chutney and hot sambar (soup)

**Lamb Biryani $9.95
Fragrant Basmati Rice is cooked in traditional Dum Pukht style, a 200 year-old
custom, where the Rice, and your choice of Meat or Vegetable is left on slow
flame, mostly sealed, allowing the meats to cook in their own juices. Served
with Raita (a Yogurt-based Salad).

My 'Bombay Tadka' set on Flickr
'Tadka' the word from wikipedia

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Three Women on International Women's Day 2010

If there is some truth to the comments that people make about my
good nature, there are three ladies who are responsible for that, 
my Aunts : 
Charity, Winifred and Victoria Miller of Pune India

Together, and individually they put aside all notions of Marriage and instead
focused on the immediate problem at hand : raising myself and my sisters
after the death of my Mother, which occurred when I was barely five.
My Father gladly left us in their care while he went about eking a living in
the Indian Film Industry making only rare appearances to the Miller home.
A home which we shared along with other similarly unfortunate relatives all the
way to adulthood.

They were Women in the Indian Army under the British Raj, Winifred being a
Nurse while Charity and Victoria went on to become Fellows of the Royal College
of Surgeons, making Gynecology their life's work until age forced them to retire.
Their combined expertise exposed me to the sick, the poor, the underbelly of
Society. I was fed, clothed, educated, beaten and loved in equal measure, with
the Bible as the driving force behind my upbringing.

Through them I was introduced to Musicians like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,
Strauss, Elvis, the Platters, Mario Lanza and the Beatles, Writers like Pearl Buck,
Dickens, Kipling and Twain, Humanitarians like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi,
and Meher Baba.

From them I learned just about everything a decent man needs to know about
life, love, respect, tolerance, humanity, humility, hard work and patience.
I would have to write three separate volumes to do some justice to their
selfless work, and I will never finish even one !

And so on this International Women's Day 2010 I celebrate their memory
using the words of John Lennon who not only gave us 'Imagine' but also
'Beautiful Boy', 'Mother' and 'Woman'

Click on the pics to view the originals on Flickr
Dr V Miller  
I can hardly express,
My mixed emotion at my thoughtlessness,
After all I'm forever in your debt,
And woman I will try express,
My inner feelings and thankfullness,
For showing me the meaning of succsess,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,

Win/Fred Miller
I know you understand
The little child inside the man,
Please remember my life is in your hands,
And woman hold me close to your heart,
However, distant don't keep us apart,
After all it is written in the stars,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,

Dr C Miller Monrovia Liberia
please let me explain,
I never mean(t) to cause you sorrow or pain,
So let me tell you again and again and again,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah)...

I had originally planned this for Mother's Day but decided to do it now.
Thank you my kind, dear Aunts for opening my eyes, and apologies for not doing
this while you were still alive. Happy Women's Day !

My related story from 2009 on Now Public

Monday, March 01, 2010

Holi Season !

March 1st 2010 :The Hindu Festival of Holi....followed by the days
of Rangpanchami, the festival of Colors. It's the most wonderful time of
the year..........

.....and not only for kids in India, but also for adults in the Indian diaspora - 
a time when the traditional Hindu festival of Holi is celebrated with an
abandon that often borders beyond passion, into over-zealousness.
Just like in the West during Halloween, when you get eggs thrown 
at your door, at your car and sometimes at your person, the Holi
festival can turn a bit nasty if you don't participate in some form. 
Walking past a neighborhood of revelers is akin to walking a gauntlet,
and the chances are slim you can return home unscathed or in the
same color of clothing and skin tone you started your day in.

Folklore comes into play even more than the Traditional nowadays
when trying to learn about this ancient festival. It's a time when
the food consumed is festive to the point of intoxication and the
women are allowed the additional freedom of danciing and drinking
in the streets and just being free, like their Western counterparts, 
'The Festive License' as an About.com Guide labels it !

The Amazing Race Meets the Amazing Holi Hijinks

Here's a great BBC clip of a typical family at play during the festival

Holi from wikipedia.org

Slideshow from The Independent.co.uk