Boise seems to be getting hotter these days. Spicy food is becoming trendier in the valley, and local Asian restaurants have responded by offering new degrees of spiciness in their menus. I tend to eat at these restaurants with my two closest friends, who both have a high tolerance for hot food. They play the dining snob's version of chicken as the server approaches to take our order: "Oh, you're ordering yours 'New York' spicy? I'm going to get mine 'Bombay' spicy." Then they fan their mouths and gulp down their Thai beer for the next 45 minutes.
In the meantime, I calmly enjoy my one-star vegetarian entree. I'm not a fan of very spicy food--or, to be honest, I can't handle it. Order me anything in the realm of "New York" and I'll be crying cumin for weeks.
Bombay Grill suits me just fine. It offers three levels of spiciness, and the food and service are some of the best in the valley. My two spice-loving companions (henceforth referred to as the Spice Girls) were disappointed that their eyes weren't brimming with tears the whole time, but both admitted that the food was amazing.
We started with vegetable samosas--tasty little flour triangles stuffed with potatoes and peas. They were delightful, and the homemade garlic naan that followed was a delicious complement.
My entree of matar paneer was close to perfect. It consisted of fried Indian cheese with peas in a curry sauce over uniquely flavorful basmati rice. It was the perfect dabble in spiciness, and I couldn't have been happier.
One of my companions ordered shahi paneer with the same signature cheese and sauce. It supposedly came with raisins and almonds, but we decided that if they were present in the dish, then the chef did a great job of mixing said ingredients inconspicuously within the sauce. And though the she'd ordered the hottest level of spice available, spice girl was disappointed. The curry level was quite bearable.
The other spice girl had bayngan bhartha, our collective favorite dish of the evening. The eggplant in the dish had a hint of smokiness. Combined with the other vegetables in the sauce, it was distinctive and tasty. She, too, said it wasn't hot enough for her. But I surmise that the two of them were being hot shots trying to impress one another.
Oddly enough, the next day, I accidentally ate my Spice Girl roommate's leftovers without flinching. Her leftover paneer looked remarkably similar to my leftover paneer, and with both dinners cloaked in that signature orange sauce, I couldn't tell the difference. So maybe the chef could have thrown in a few more tablespoons of curry after all.
--Amanda Peacher is Sans Spice, the lost Spice Girl.
Bombay Grill, 928 W. Main St., 345-7888. Tue.-Sun.: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; closed Monday