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Welcome to Spice Route, a recurring column in which food writer Warren Rojas connects diners to the most fiery and flavorful dishes featured in area restaurants.
Location: Bombay Street Food, 1413 Park Road NW; (202) 758-2415; bombaystreetfood.us
Vision: After surveying the D.C. dining scene, Bombay native Asad Sheikh determined he’d make his mark serving enticing street fare. Bombay Street Food is a departure from the the family-style platters of Indian cuisine served at his former restaurants, northern Virginia-based Curry Mantra and London Curry House. The snack-size selections that dot tables in Columbia Heights are part of Sheikh’s plan to give locals a fresh taste of his homeland.
Since debuting in late November 2018, Bombay Street Food has built a following serving South Asian comfort foods ranging from crunchy vegetable fritters to fragrant curries, pepper-packed chutneys, and zesty yogurt sauces. One charmer is the keema pav, a D.I.Y. Sloppy Joe featuring extra garlicky ground meat and hot buttered rolls.
Execution: Sheikh bills familiar dishes such as butter chicken and chicken tikka masala as the safest entry points to his spice carnival, pegging them at about “50 percent hot.” Other assorted curries hover between “70 percent to 80 percent hot.” The vindaloo is the most thrilling. The slow-cooked curry is rich and complex, marrying cumin, two heat sources—ground green chile paste and red chile powder—pearl onions, and a protein of choice. A splash of vinegar imparts a tangy kick. “I give it the max heat that I can take,” he says. The end product stops just short of face-melting fury. Instead, each forkful releases a blissful burn. “We can’t make it medium,” Sheikh says of the default heat level. But they can make it hotter.
Intensity (out of five): Four sirens