The flavors are great. The food comes quickly. This may become your new favorite quick Bellevue lunch spot.
A relatively simple formula determines regular workday lunch spots: proximity to the office, overall value and time spent in waiting. The longer the walk, the more it needs to be that great of a deal, that much faster service or that much better tasting than the closer options. Café Bollywood is a 10-minute walk from many of downtown Bellevue’s office towers (it’s in the former Casa D spot, about 50 feet from the “Old Bellevue” sign), and the service isn’t quite as quick as a buffet, but it’s of comparable value and possibly better flavor.
The cafe is the third venture from Oh! India and it’s different from both, although the halal meats and careful separation of vegetarian dishes are in place at all locations. Here, it’s counter service with about a 10-minute wait for your order, whether it comes to you bagged for takeout or arranged on a red plastic tray. Each little dish is Styrofoam, so if you have leftovers, all you need is a lid to be on your way — it’s not a bad system, and light eaters will appreciate getting two meals for the price of one buffet lunch.
The menu: Simplified combos dominate during the lunch hours, and all include the dal of the day, basmati rice and four wedges of naan (if you pass on the naan, they’ll double your serving of rice). For those with the luxury of time, the a la carte choices offer dishes from every corner of India: chole bhature from Punjab (a tomatoey chickpea curry served with airy fried bread); chicken chaap (beloved Kolkata street food; Saturdays only); dosas (crisp Southern Indian crepes); and vada pav (a spiced potato patty from Maharashtra).
102B Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; open daily; 425-641-9997; ohindiarestaurant.com
Don’t miss: A deft hand has kept the cream in check on the palak paneer (fresh cheese and spinach curry) and lamb khorma (lamb with cashews and yogurt); they’re both rich, but pleasantly so, with well-built layers of flavor. Channa pindi (chickpeas in a hot-and-sour curry) has good heat and sharpness, as did the dal of the day (a chile-spiked, brothy mix of yellow and brown lentils). Piping hot and lightly buttered, the naan was outstanding.
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What to skip: It’s fine that the chai came unsweetened and required some effort to hunt down the sugar packets stashed by the register. It’s not fine that it was bland and lukewarm. The lassis are grab ’n’ go next to the sodas (note beloved Indian imports Thums Up! and Limca); while pre-made lassis aren’t the greatest, they’re a step up from the chai.
When to go: Note that they close each day for a 90-minute break in the late afternoon from 3-4:30 p.m. However, unlike the rest of the neighborhood, they have late-night hours.
Prices: Vegetarian combo ($10), meat combo ($12), mixed combo ($11), masala chai ($2), masala lassi ($3), soda ($3) and rasamalai ($4) totaled $45, plus tax and tip.