“What a terrific aroma,” Rita exclaimed as we grabbed a banquette at Mumbai Delights. Appealing and comfortable, the new Pacific Avenue eatery’s atmosphere is deliciously tinged with aromas of curry, ginger and garlic. Hot mint tea for me and a tall, orange mango lassi for Rita started us off. We checked out the bounty of dishes comprising the $10.95 lunch buffet. Salads, fruit, pakoda, dal, as well as tandoori, curry, chicken tikka masala and a pistachio dessert. It all looked and smelled wonderful, but we wanted a bit more adventure on our first lunch at Mumbai (which came highly recommended by one of the town’s globe-trotting foodies). So we took our time surveying the menu. Starters, appetizers, salads, classical entrees of India, a suite of curries and an even longer list of tandoori specialties. Obviously, one visit wasn’t going to begin to cover the landscape.
Impeccable butter naan ($2.50) and a platter of lime ginger chicken ($8) came swiftly. Four substantial slices of chicken breast had been lightly marinated in lime and ginger, and came topped with sliced limes and matchstick pieces of fresh ginger. It was both pretty and tasty. Rita and I were in heaven, but it was beginning to dawn on us that we’d ordered too much food. This “starter” was easily enough for a robust lunch entree.
I settled back on a banquette decorated with a silk embroidered pillow, sari fabric deconstructed into designer upholstery. A few well-placed Ganeshes bid me “namaste” as I enjoyed the view of well-chosen wood carvings and attractive plants set off nicely by the dining room’s soft coral walls. There’s an intimate wine bar in the center of the dining room where one can sample from the menu’s exotic Indian wines, as well as a long list of California premiums.
A bowl of excellent raita ($3) arrived along with fragrant basmati rice, and two entree platters. The traditional yogurt condiment (I put it on everything!) was expertly laced with diced cucumbers, mint, cilantro and garlic. Rita had ordered the comforting butter chicken ($14)—easy to like with its coconut cream and tomato spice sauce, laden with shredded tandoori chicken. I consider aloo gobi one of the great gifts of Indian cuisine, and Mumbai Delight’s version offered enormous chunks of potato and cauliflower, strewn with peas and highly aromatic spices. The tomato-driven sauce was distinguished by a fine balance of cumin, ginger and turmeric, bracingly “medium” hot—exactly the way I’d asked and hoped for ($12). The potatoes, especially, delivered the desired earthy comfort.
You know how it is with spice-laden food—we just ate and ate, using pieces of soft, tender naan to scoop up raita and traces of sauce. Too bad it wasn’t later in the day—a cold Kingfisher beer would have been brilliant with this meal. Next time. The menu here is tantalizing and comprehensive. Mumbai Delights is open daily for lunch and dinner, with a mega buffet I have yet to try.
Mumbai Delights, 810 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m., 9:30 p.m. on weekends.
Wine of the Week
The light and mineral-intensive Storrs Sauvignon Blanc 2014 made from Monterey grapes was the exactly right companion for spicy carry-out from O’mei last week. A beautiful light (13.3 percent alchohol) creation, it opened into a refreshing nose of ginger and kumquat, chestnut, flint and salt. I’m not delusional. Pour a glass for yourself, inhale deeply, let your senses look for the layers of flavor available in this and any well-made wine. You can still just partner it with food and enjoy, but you’ll find yourself with a deepened appreciation for artisan winemakers like Pam and Steve Storrs. $18, at Shopper’s Corner.