The name “Bollywood” refers to the Indian film industry that originated in Bombay, India, several decades ago. A conflation of the words “Bombay” and “Hollywood,” Bollywood is legitimately all about movies in India, but in Northern Virginia, a savvy restaurant group has attached the name to a flourishing restaurant with two locations. And giant Indian film star photos decorate the wall, at least in Fairfax.
Bollywood Bistro in Fairfax and Great Falls offers a splendid array of distinctive Indian dishes with a contemporary edge. Opened in 2009, the Fairfax Bollywood Bistro is really the parent destination—it is larger, more flamboyant, and its lunchtime buffet draws huge crowds. Hint: go before noon or around 1 to avoid a wait for tables, unless you don’t mind sitting at the bar.
At a recent Fairfax lunchtime, there was indeed a wait for seating, as crowds had headed in to enjoy the vast buffet display with enough offerings to feed an army or two. Once you are seated, and you have decided on a buffet meal, head to the spread and grab a plate. A few offerings such as fruit are displayed on the adjacent bar, but the vast amount of goodies will draw patrons right down the line.
The offerings probably change or rotate from one buffet to the next, but chances are that the kitchen always includes rice, a lentil dish or two, several chicken curries, kabobs, several vegetable-based dishes, chutneys, and the addictive starter, the bhel puri of potatoes and puffed rice. Before and during one’s feasting, staff provide more pieces of hot naan, ideal for picking up or wrapping up tempting bites of food.
While the buffet spread draws huge crowds, Indian food fans should not skip past the menu, with its pages of honest Indian eats. Of course, samosas and pakoras, standard Indian appetizers, are there and so is the bhel puri, but more offbeat samplings include garlic shrimp, lobster tomato bisque, and Chicken 65, a South Indian dish that can be searingly spicy, depending on the version. But expect pieces of crispy fried chicken awash with red chilies in some form or another.
Entrées include several tandoori (barbecued) options plus vegetarian dishes such as dahl Makhani and malai kofta (potato croquettes with cheese) and, of course, meat-based entrées. Chicken options are a plenty, but for anyone who loves lamb, the lamb shank vindaloo is stunning. And, for those who like to experiment, the kitchen also offers goat curry.
Besides the entrées, the kitchen turns out assorted bread choices, from plain naan to dates naan, and as a help, a bread basket with garlic, rosemary, and butter naans. Dessert choices are limited to such dishes as kulfi (Indian ice cream), carrot halwas, kheer (rice pudding) and gulab jamun (fresh cream balls), plus a few more.
Bollywood Bistro, 3965 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax,. 703-273-0031. Hours: Lunch, Mon.-Fr., 11:30 to 2:30, Weekend, noon to 3; Dinner Mon.-Thurs. 5 to 10 p.m., Fri., Sat., 5 to 10:30; Sun., 5 to 9:30 p.m. http://bollywoodbistro.com