In Desi food parlance, the term chaat
refers to a wide variety of delicious roadside snacks that are served throughout the Indian subcontinent. Apart from a few dishes here and there served at local Indian restaurants, the exciting genre has been woefully underrepresented in Cleveland.
(2044 Euclid Ave., 216-225-4191), a brand new restaurant near Cleveland State University, is devoted to the food category. The Indian-owned operation asserts on its website that “If the student, teacher or a regular Cleveland Joe can't go to Mumbai, Mumbai will come to them.”
The menu ticks off a staggering variety of dishes hailing from New Delhi to Mumbai, with roughly 75 different items in all, much of it finger food. Options range from classic chaat dishes like samosas topped with chickpea gravy to Indo-Chinese favorites like Chicken 65, a spicy dish of fried chicken pieces in a crimson, chile-laden sauce.
For a perfect primer on chaat, order the pani puri ($4.99), which arrive crispy, tangy, sweet and spicy. Puffy fried dough balls (puri) are filled with “flavored water” (pani), a chutney like gravy with yogurt, chickpeas and cilantro. Unless you want that flavored water all over your lap, it’s best to pop the whole thing in your mouth in a single go.
Bombay Chaat also sells idly ($5.99), the spongey, steamed rice patties that are dipped into sambar, and uttapam ($7.99), a massive crispy pancake/crepe studded with herbs and onions that also gets dragged through chutney.
A whole category of dosas – those wafer-thin, griddle-fried crepes – offer versions filled with potato curry ($7.99) or topped with egg ($6.99). All come with chutneys and sauces.
For now, the main menu is only offered after 3 p.m. During the day, a large and well-stocked lunch buffet ($9.99) is the only option. But staffers say that that policy will change as soon as the kitchen gets a little time under its belt. Let's hope that happens sooner rather than later.