Lets start with the rice, which had more variety than I would have expected. Each used long-grain basmati rice cooked to the right level. But each had different levels of fennel seed spiciness. Royal India's rice was free of fennel seeds. It was just the plain rice with a slight buttery flavor. Khushboo had the fennel seeds mixed throughout, which I found a little strong. Bollywood's rice was (as they say) just right. It had a sprinkle of fennel seeds on the top with a light fennel seed flavor overall.
Baingan bharta is eggplant sauteed with tomatoes, peas and a whole lot of spices. We were split on which we liked best. I favored Royal India's, while Gail preferred Khushboo's. Both of us found the dish from Bollywood to be the most bland of the three, which isn't to say it wasn't good. It was just the least flavorful.
The dish from Royal India Bistro had the fewest peas, and a stronger tomato flavor. Gail found it strongly salty, and I didn't notice that. Both of us agreed that Khushboo's baingan bharta had the most intense flavors. I found them reminiscent of a strong Indian pickled vegetable mix that I like, so I'm surprised I didn't prefer this intensity.
It's hard to declare a clear winner on flavor alone. All three were delicious, and we would have enjoyed eating any one of them. We still like Royal India Bistro best for the friendliness of the owners and many dishes we find distinctively better than we've had anywhere else.
I poured a bottle of Flying Horse Royal Lager Beer from India to go with our tasting. The beer had a slight malty sweetness and good bitterness. It also had a full flavor beyond what it's light-yellow color would suggest. But overall, it was not special, and the weak bubble structure gave it an odd feel in my mouth.
For dessert, Gail made a German apple cake. It came out with a perfect texture mix of crispy edges, silky insides, and gooey apple chunks. I thought it had a perfect level of sweetness that didn't mask the tartness of the apples. The cake in the picture is 1/3 of the recipe. It might make a good breakfast.
German Apple Cake
Makes: 13x9” cake
2 c flour
2 t cinnamon
¼ t salt
2 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 c oil
1 t vanilla
4 c chopped apples (not big slices as in pie)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Mix dry ingredients, set aside.
- Measure oil in liquid measuring cup big enough to hold all liquid ingredients. Stir in eggs.
- Mix liquid mixture into dry; stir in chopped apples; spread into 13x9” pan.
- Bake 40-55 min.