Bawarchi - Searching for Good Indian Food in SD Part 1

>> Monday, August 8, 2011

Date of Dining: 3/4/2011
Price: $20-35 per person
Location: 9520 Black Mountain Rd Ste. A, San Diego, CA 92126

The Quick Bit:
+ The garlic naan was good
+ Food was not overly buttery
Δ Servers could have been more attentive
Δ Non-vegetarian Biryanis could be cooked with meat
Δ Spices in Biryani could have been milder
Δ "breading" of the Indo-Chino dishes could have been less disgusting in texture

I'm a big fan of Indian food - from the rich complex flavors of curry to the succulent tenderness of the tandoori grilled meats to actually being able to eat vegetarian and enjoying a good meal, good Indian food is something I would love to have. Unfortunately, I have still yet to enjoy a properly amazing Indian meal, so I can only imagine how good Indian food should be.

As I work with many Indians (who are regular readers of this blog no less), I have asked them to help me find a good Indian restaurant in San Diego. For the first stop of this journey, we decided to pick somewhere in the Indian "hub" of San Diego - Black Mountain Road complex. Now you may ask why they picked Bawarchi vs Surati Farsan Mart, but I was informed that they don't consider Surati Farsan Mart to be a proper place to get a meal - "It's just a snack place." Since I'm no expert on Indian Cuisine, I'll simply defer on that argument and say that while Surati Farsan Mart may be reviewed in the future, it would be part of the Searching for Indian Food series.

I ended up with four others at Bawarchi, so we went ahead and ordered a lot of things:
The pakora were completely over-fried to the point that the original vegetables had no flavor at all. This was quite a shame since the dipping sauces were pretty good. Our table didn't finish this dish.
Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower)
The first of the Indo-Chino dishes; Gobi Manchurian appears to be a take on sweet and sour pork except with cauliflower instead of pork. The breading used to fry the cauliflower seemed to be too wet. It's almost like the cauliflower was dipped in some wet mixture and then not finished off with flour/breadcrumbs, so all that adhered to the vegetable was some runny mess of flower and egg. Furthermore, the cauliflower seemed to not be respected as an ingredient as it was overcooked and the aggressive saucing of the dish completely overwhelmed any taste of cauliflower.
Chicken 65
Chicken 65 seems to be an Indo-Chino take on Szechwan cooking. The chicken was deep fried (notice a trend?) and then slathered with some spicy sauce that resembled Sambal. It was also finished with an Indian spice mix to add some depth. Perhaps I'm slightly biased, but I prefer some of the subtleties of good Szechwan cooking over the Indo-Chino version. While there is definitely heat in the Szechwan food, there is also added depth with the inclusion of fermented soy beans and there is also a nice numbing quality from the Szechwan peppercorns. However, this dish tried to pair a Chinese spice with and Indian spice and they seemed to work against each other rather in with each other in harmony.
Garlic Naan
Easily the best dish of the night. The naan was nicely crispy in the center and the outer portions were appropriately doughy.
Matar Paneer
The paneer was uninspired at best. Many Indian restaurants seem to take the shortcut of making one sauce and then adapting that sauce into all the different curries rather than making each sauce separately. I feel that Bawarchi was certainly guilty of this.
Vegetable Dum Biryani
Bawarchi Special Chicken Dum Biryani
I actually tried to order the Hyderabadi Chicken Dum Biryani, but was informed they were out. Since this dish was more expensive, one would figure that it should be more impressive. Instead, I was extremely disappointed in the results. The Vegetable Biryani was the exact same rice base as the Chicken Biryani, which speaks of total laziness in the preparation. One would expect that a meat Biryani is cooked in the juices of the meat in order to impart an additional layer of savory flavor. Bawarchi decided that they would not do that. Additionally, it may just be a cultural thing but I completely missed why there was a pairing of a hard boiled egg.
I found this dish to be average and at least somewhat enjoyable after the rest of the meal didn't go particularly well. However, I was informed that this dish was in fact terrible. I did end up eating this, but the rest of the people looked at me strangely that I would actually enjoy it.
Gulab Jamun
This Gulab Jamun was simply way too sweet. The sweetness overwhelmed everything else. I would be surprised if the entire ball was not filled completely with pure sugar.

So the first stop of the search for Indian food failed to produce a result to my liking. However, I did find the experience educational, especially on how Biryanis are supposed to be prepared.

Additionally, in the five months since I visited Bawarchi, apparently the food has taken a turn for the worse. This claim is complete here-say, but the coworkers that I visited the restaurant with have all informed me that they refuse to go the restaurant any longer. Perhaps even my beloved Garlic Naan is no longer any good there?


Sandeep August 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM  

Excellent review and pretty much in line with my opinion of the restaurant. Though, I must say that in the first month since opening, Bawarchi totally blew us off with the quality of food and service. They used to pay close attention to the recipes and the service standard. The quality of the food was far better than any other similar restaurant in the Black Mountain area. It's all downhill since then...
- I concur with you that their Garlic naan ranks high in the Black Mountain area, and is the primary reason (probably the only reason too) I would agree(given no choice) to eat at Bawarchi(I am very fond of garlic naan)
- All their recipes (like most of the restaurants in San Diego) reuse their sauce. Once can't tell the difference between Malai Kofta (supposed to be much creamier, slightly sweeter) or Paneer Tikka Masala or any other Paneer dish for that matter.
- Machurians and Pakoras are refried ! They drip of thick unappetizing oil :(
- I had ordered Egg Bonda on my last visit - it was a 2 mm layer of fried chick-pea flour on a boiled egg.. bland at best.. stay away from it if you ever go that way again.
- Their gulab jamun and rasmalai are readymade varities available in stores in the same complex.

You may want to try out Monsoon or Bombay in downtown. They offer slightly "Americanized" variants of Indian food but its worth trying for sure !
I would also recommend The Village Indian in Clairemont. They belong to the same category as Bawarchi, Punjabi Tandoor etc but pay a bit more attention to the food quality. Expect wait times to be a bit longer there .. they don't reuse their curries :)

Sandeep August 9, 2011 at 12:01 AM  

I also noticed they gave you Matar Paneer instead of Paneer Tikka Masala :p

James August 9, 2011 at 8:36 AM  

@Sandeep - the curry is my fault. I didn't remember what it was so I just put something down. I'll fix this now :)

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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