Indian food in Portland is hard to come by; this is something that Erlend, my boyfriend, complains about on a regular basis. His parents were expats stationed in India for a while, and as a result, he’d spent several months and holidays there and frequently craved Indian food. We’d tried several Indian restaurants around town, but were unimpressed; put simply, there isn’t enough of it and what is available tends to be standard takeout/buffet-style fare that’s hard to get excited about. That is, until Bollywood Theater came along.

The restaurant is a great example of everything that’s currently trending in Portland (and elsewhere, for that matter); that is, upscale street food amid mismatched tables in a casual setting. It felt like I was in a Wes Anderson movie — the tables and walls are adorned with quirky, foreign knickknacks from the owner’s travels. 90s hip hop blasts in the background as a Bollywood movie is silently projected onto a silk screen relegated to the corner of the restaurant. There’s even a little shop tucked into the corner of the restaurant where you can buy imported spices, sauces, and ingredients:

Bollywood Theater is the brainchild of Chez Panisse and Laurelhurst Market chef Troy MacLarty, who recognized the void in the market and opened up the restaurant after longing for the Indian food he used to have in Berkeley. The menu focuses on South Asian street food, and is divided up into Street Food, Small Plates, Thali Meals, and Vegetable and Sides. During our first visit, Erlend and I wanted to try as much as we could and chose a dish from both the Street Food and the Small Plates menu.

From the Small Plates section, we shared the Dahi Papri Chaat (housemade crackers topped with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, cilantro and tamarind chutney) and the Aloo Tikki (pan-fried spiced potato patties served with chickpea chole and green chutney):

Although I enjoyed both dishes, Erlend found the chaat to be a little dull and explained that it had paled in comparison to what he used to have in India. I rolled my eyes and ate more than my fair share of the potatoes in the Aloo Tikki (they were like mashed potatoes, but more garlicky and spicy and delicious) and left all the chickpeas for Erlend to eat.
Erlend perked up considerably when our Small Plates (which turned out to be not so small) arrived. We’d opted for the chicken curry and the pork vindaloo :
We both agreed that these dishes were outstanding. The chicken in the chicken curry was still tender and obviously high quality; a rarity, considering the cheap Indian takeout we were used to.
The real standout, however, was the pork vindaloo. The pork was tender and perfectly spiced, accompanied by soft and buttery Portuguese bread rolls that had been fried perfectly on one side. This plate is currently one of my favorite dishes in Portland, and I’d recommend coming to Bollywood Theater just for this one dish.

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