Like so many ethnic restaurants in Milwaukee, Bombay Sweets is a family establishment. Owner Narinder Kumar and his family serve authentic Indian food, snacks and sweets. The food is incredible but more importantly, the service exceeds all measures. Recognizing that good food is best enjoyed with good service, the Kumar family rivals your own extended family for hospitality and generosity.
"I have customers from all over that come to the restaurant. We have customers who come from Mequon, Kenosha and Menomonee Falls because they love Indian food," Kumar explains. "We opened at this location because I used to live just a few blocks away. It's great to be in the neighborhood."
Disguised as a small, less than exquisite strip-mall restaurant, Bombay Sweets brings a new perspective to local restaurants. Spanning the length of two storefronts, Bombay Sweets fills one half with several glass display cases and the other with relaxed, comfortable seating.
Four double-wide cases house dozens of snacks, desserts and mixes. A combination of sweet and salty, Bombay Sweets prides itself on its plentiful selection of spicy mixes and fried flour snacks. The Punjabi hot mix blends nuts and fried flour, like crackers, with a fiery kick sure to satisfy patrons hungry for legendary Indian spice.
It's no surprise that sweets are Kumar's specialty. The restaurant, named after its signature items, creates dozens of milk and sugar based delicacies daily. A distinct flavor and texture classifies the Indian origins of these desserts; a customary milk base differentiates the texture from usual flour bases used in American pastries. Rose water, a product of rose petal distillation, flavors several sweets including Ras Malai and Gulab Jamun.
"More people come in for food than for bakery but we still think of bakery as our specialty," says Kumar.
Gulab Jamun, typically found in northern Indian regions, combines flour and double cream in a donut-hole looking pastry flavored with cardamom, saffron or rosewater. Traditional Gulab Jamun looks doughy and cake like, however, as many Indian sweets suggest, appearances can be deceiving. Soaked in a sweet honey like liquid, the pastry balls are dense with heavy syrups and firm dough.
As is displayed on the sprawling wall menu, sweets and snacks are only one small part of Bombay Sweets' offerings. Over 50 items on the menu combine Indian customs of flat breads, lentils, potatoes and yogurt.
Samosas, a dumpling-like pastry filled with potatoes and vegetables, is deep-fried and spiced. Another appetizer, Pakora is made by coating a mixture of vegetables with chick pea flour and then frying them to a crispy brown.
One of their signature breads, Aloo Parotha is pancake-thin but stuffed with an even thinner layer of spiced potatoes. The bread is moist, warm and perfectly delicious to be covered with any one of the restaurant's long list of spreads and sauces.
And then there are their curries. Each with a decent amount of spicy kick, green pea curries dominates the menu. Thin in its consistency, Matter Paneer, a green curry mixed with homemade cottage cheese pours over any of the white, lemon or tomato rice. The red color of Dal Makhani, a coarse puree of black and kidney beans, reflects a consistent heated spice.
The flavors are incredibly diverse and most importantly, the vegetables are incredibly fresh. Bombay Sweets does something few restaurants in Milwaukee do; focusing on non-meat options and variety, they consider the vegetarian diner.
"When we started, we had mainly Indian customers. Slowly, slowly we gained American customers and now more than 60% of our customers are American," says Kumar. "Most Indian people eat at home, they are very family people. We have some Indian customers from out of town who are shopping in the area and they stop because even then, they prefer Indian food."
Owner Narinder Kumar moved from India to the United States in the early 1990s and began a career in the restaurant industry. Opening Bombay Sweets nine years ago and the newest Brookfield location two years ago, Kumar hospitably ushers customers through the vast array of foods, sweets and sauces for lunch and dinner.
At times translating through his young son, Bombay Sweets is visibly a family venture. Kumar's son dutifully helps in the family restaurant; describing the ingredients and cooking process of each and every item. Likewise, Kumar's wife generously portions servings and readily explains the creation of the family's sweets.
"We use all family recipes. We are a family business and our food reflects not only our family but family style eating in India," Kumar says.
A vegetarian family themselves, the Kumar's are graciously generous and overtly proud to share the tastes of India. True to Indian culinary methods and ingredients, the menu does not "Americanize" dishes but authentically represents ancestral tradition.
Servings are available for any degree of hunger. From snacks to value meals to platters, the menu dishes portions in every size at unquestionably reasonable prices. A steady flow of customers venture in for snacks, meals and sweets throughout the Kumar's twelve hour days. Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Bombay Sweets provides the perfect stop for lunch, dinner or dessert.
Bombay Sweets has two locations; in Milwaukee at 3401 S. 13th St. and in Brookfield at 19555 W. Bluemound Rd.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.
After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined OnMilwaukee.com as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.
Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.