Mr. Foodie and I are constantly trolling Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Facebook for ethnic restaurants that have traditionally been underrepresented in the Ham.  A few months ago, we noticed a new Indian restaurant that was quickly gaining popularity.  We’ve already blogged about two Indian restaurants in town – Taj and Silver Coin – that we really like.  But for a town of this size, it’s always been surprising to me that there aren’t more truly outstanding Indian places.  So when we saw the reviews of Bay Leaf, we wondered if it might fill that void.

Bay Leaf is located down 280 past the Summit, where Mughal (which was really great, but unfortunately short lived) used to be.  It’s distance accounts for how long it took us to get out there [not-so-subtle plug for a downtown location].  That having been said, it’s really only 15 minutes from UAB without traffic.  So there’s really no excuse.

On our first trip to Bay Leaf, we went with one of our foodie friends, a connoisseur of Indian food.  We were warmly greeted by one of the owners, who helped us sort through the extensive menu.  He clearly had a lot of pride in the quality of the food, telling us about each dish in great detail.  This helped us order food beyond our usual go-to chicken tikka masala and saag.

Here’s what we had:

Papadum, which was complimentary, along with two chutneys.  This was better than any papadum and chutney I’ve had before.  In particular, the red chutney, which tasted like sweet onions, cinnamon, and nutmeg (I think), was amazing, as was the finely minced and slightly spicy mint chutney.  This disappeared quickly.

 

Mr Foodie and I shared a delicious, light  and creamy mango lassi.

Now for the first dish we never would have ordered without the help of our foodie guide. Tandoor salmon.  Perfectly cooked in a clay oven, with a slightly smoky flavor and served with green peppers and onions.  Absolutely outstanding.  I’m generally not a huge salmon fan, but I could eat this all day long.  Our foodie guide also suggested that he bring us a small side of tikka masala sauce to go with it- a great choice.

 

When we asked our foodie guide for his favorite veggie dish, this is what he recommended.  Malai kofta.  Delicious vegetable and chrese dumplings in a rich, creamy sauce.  This was technically our friend’s dish but Mr Foodie and I couldn’t stop eating it.

My dish-vegetable patia.  I had asked our foodie guide for help finding a sweet dish, and he steered me here.  Perfect choice.  Veggies cooked in a mango sauce-no mango chunks but a sweet and slightly sour mango flavor.  Fantastic.

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And of course,  delicious garlic naan to sop it all up.  Tasted soft and freshly baked.

All of us, including the expert friend we had brought with us, agreed that this was a great meal, and one of the best if not the best Indian restaurant in Birmingham to our knowledge.  Our meals were good as any place we have eaten in Philly or New York.

So we said we would blog about it after we had a chance to go back and take pictures of even more entrees.  Our bad, it’s been 6 weeks but we went back this weekend.  Again, this place is only 15 minutes away without traffic… shame on us for our resistance to driving down 280.

Much to our surprise, not only were we greeted by one of the owners again, he remembered us.  “It’s been awhile!”  he said with a big smile.  At first I thought he was mistaking us for someone else but then he asked, “where is your friend?” and then proceeded to recite our entire order from our first trip to Bay Leaf flawlessly.  He even remembered that we like things medium spicy.  I was beyond impressed-that’s customer service!  Again, we got some guidance with our order:

For a closer look:

Mr Foodie really wanted to try their chicken tikka masala.  Boring, I know, but even our foodie guide responded by saying this is a true test of an Indian restaurant.  Slightly spicy, sightly creamy, with juicy chicken.  Among the best we’ve had:

 

I’ve been on an eggplant kick lately, so I had to try their Baingan bharata-puréed eggplant with tomatoes and onions.  Mr Foodie noticed me sweating-that’s medium spicy for ya!  Perfect for me, cleared out my sinuses nicely. This dish was amazingly aromatic-I ate it with the garlic naan we ordered and then I ate it plain.   There was so much of it I think I’ll be eating it for lunch tomorrow, too.  Fantastic choice.

To sum it up:  we’re adding Bay Leaf to our regular restaurant rotation for off-peak 280 traffic times.

Bay Leaf Authentic Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon