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Bollywood's Indian street food hit virtual dinner table

STAFF PHOTO: BARB RANDALL  - Chef Troy MacLarty of Bollywood Theater PDX shared information with journalists about Indian cuisine at his restaurant last week.

Ready to add one of the most delicious cuisines to our virtual global dinner table? Let’s put Indian streetfood on the table.

I recently ate at Bollywood Theater PDX, owned by Chef Troy MacLarty.

The restaurant specializes in Indian streetfood, inspired by Troy’s passion for the flavorful and fragrant foods. He trained at Culinary Institute of America and then spent four years at the famed Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley, Calif. While working at Chez Panisse, Troy said he enjoyed eating at the nearby Vik’s Chaat Corner, which has a strong reputation for serving up the tastiest Indian food. When he moved to Portland he couldn’t find a replacement for Vik’s and eventually the void would become the impetus for his opening Bollywood Theater PDX in 2012 on NE Alberta Street, and the second location in 2014, at 3010 S.E. Division Street in Portland.

It isn’t just the exotic flavors and aromas that Troy wanted to share with diners. He wants them to be totally immersed in Indian culture as they step in the door.

“For me, my first trip to India was less about food and more about culture — how it smelled when you ate that sandwich on that street corner and what that felt like, more so than whether the food had this in it or that in it. ... Opening Bollywood has been fun. I want people to come in the door, and I’m saving them the plane ticket. You’re drinking out of a steel cup and eating off a steel plate just like you would if you were in Mumbai. I want people to have that experience, as if they have gone some place,” he writes on the website bollywoodtheaterpdx.com.

Troy designed the Alberta Street restaurant as a small space; since he didn’t know how popular Indian cuisine would be in Portland. He says that 15 minutes after he opened he needed room to grow.

Troy and his staff make everything from scratch using the freshest ingredients available. He discovered that fresh spices used in India are much different than those available in the U.S.

“The spices have been the biggest issue,” he said. “They have different flavors.” He has worked with a spice broker to develop special masalas or blends of spices, which he imports in large quantities for the restaurant.

Inhale deeply as you walk in the door. Enjoy the aromas. If you are unfamiliar with the dishes ask the wait staff for suggestions. Everything is delicious — you can’t order wrong.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH KLINE - Randall sampled from left clockwise Mixed Dal, Fava Bean and Paneer Pakoras with a Rhubarb Strawberry Achaar, Dahi Papri Chaat and roasted asparagus with a curry made of fresh turmeric and green garlic and raisin and almond chutney.

When I visited last week I sampled two classic Indian dishes; Dahi Papri Chaat (Troy’s favorite dish on the menu inspired by Vik’s version) and Mixed Dal, Fava Bean and Paneer Pakoras, and an asparagus dish Troy created (“How would Indians do asparagus?”) The result: roasted asparagus with a curry made of fresh turmeric and green garlic and raisin and almond chutney.

He said the papri chaat is a great example of what Bollywood is about.

One side of the restaurant on Division houses a market where you can buy spices, rice, condiments, ghee, paneer and other ingredients. The staff makes ghee with 150 pounds of butter at a time, and makes a minimum of four 50-pound batches of paneer each week.

No room for a printed recipe today so you will have to treat yourself to an Indian feast instead. Bollywood Theater PDX is located at 2039 NE Alberta and 3010 SE Division in Portland. Hours are 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily. Outdoor seating is available. You can read the menu and watch videos that explain Troy’s philosophy online at bollywoodtheaterpdx.com.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 and by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.