Perhaps the best way to start experiencing the food at Bollywood Theater are the individual Thali meals ($11-13). These feature a generous serving of spicy egg masala, chicken curry, or large Goan-style shrimp, along with lentils, vegetable stew, saffron rice, refreshing raita, green chutney, a simple salad of baby spinach and onion, and a hot, fresh paratha flatbread griddled in butter. These plates are ample meals for one, and for their variety remain interesting—not to mention healthful—throughout. Nearly as filling are the Kati rolls, ghee-griddled paratha wraps ($6.50) stuffed with intensely flavorful grilled meats (or paneer cheese), pickled onion, greens, and chutney. Before the fillings are added to these burrito analogs, the hot bread is set atop a beaten egg on the cooktop and the two fuse together, lining the inside with a tender and moisture-resistant barrier that adds to the sturdy richness of the dish. The beef roll is the standout, with juicy, smoky meat in plentiful supply.
The flagship entrée is clearly the pork vindaloo ($8.50)—ample chunks of braised meat in a strong, addicting, slightly sweet vinegar, garlic, and chili sauce. Like an Indian cousin of chili verde, the meat is fully flavored, succulent, and fork tender. It is plenty for one as a solo dish with the saffron rice or rolls, but it makes an excellent sharing dish as part of a meal for two. It is far more interesting than the chicken curry, which is a safe play for less-adventurous palates.
Vegetarians can, of course, enjoy nearly the entire menu. Aloo tikki, a pan-fried potato patty with a chickpea stew called cholle is at $5 easily a satisfying entrée for one. Vada pav ($3), the "poor man's burger," is a little deep-fried potato patty served on a slider-size fresh bun, and makes a great starter. There are 11 delicious vegetarian sides, most of which are $2.
Is it "authentic"? It hardly seems to matter, though MacLarty traveled across India to cherry-pick and perfect dishes he thought would please an American audience. With Bollywood Theater, he offers a snapshot of the idealized chaos and sensory excitement of a moment in an India most of us will never see. We are lucky to have it, and the intriguing pleasures within.
Child friendly, and comfortable. Counter service keeps it affordable, and plentiful tables make an ideal setting for a few rounds as well as a meal.