If you live in Portland and you have not yet discovered the pure joy that is Bollywood Theater, you are missing out, my friend. Troy MacLarty opened the first location on NE Alberta (right next to Salt & Straw) a couple of years ago, and they expanded last year to another location on SE Division. It is seriously difficult not to order the whole menu full of very reasonably priced, fun, unique dishes that are packed with flavor.
Since I’m in SE fairly often these days, I decided to visit the new location for lunch one day with a coworker. The wonderful thing about Bollywood Theater (aside from the food – I’ll get to that) is that as soon as you walk into the building, you are inundated, just like you would be in India, but only about a fraction as much. There’s a lot to see – brightly colored walls, hanging photos, old light fixures. It’s perfectly kitschy and brings back memories of my trip to India 8 years ago. The new sprawling space on SE Division boasts lots of tables (compared to the NE Alberta location), and even a little market where you can buy ghee, cardamom pods, and various other Indian ingredients.
My coworker had never been before, and after glancing over the menu we decided to share the bhel puri and the kati roll with paneer. I also got a mango lassi – rich and creamy, perfect for washing down the spicy chutneys and dipping sauces. When the bhel puri arrived, it looked like a party on a plate, and offered everything you could want in a mouthful of food on a warm spring day: crunchy puffed rice and peanuts, juicy mangoes, filling potatoes, and incredibly flavorful chutneys with the perfect amount of heat.
The kati roll with paneer has been a favorite of mine at Bollywood Theater since they opened – almost like an Indian burrito, stuffed with the creamiest house-made paneer I’ve ever tasted. The paneer was accompanied by egg, onion, chutneys, and rolled (or stuffed, really) in paratha, an Indian flatbread. One kati roll is large, and I can only ever eat half of one by myself, so it was the perfect dish to share.
They have some more traditional fare – thali meals, pork vindaloo, and samosa, but I recommend trying some of the items you haven’t seen before. A few months ago I had some incredible roasted butternut squash, topped with spiced yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and spices. Next time I’m going to get the dahi papri chaat. With a menu this authentic and flavorful, I want to try every last dish on the menu.