Bombay Spice Grill & Wine offers escape with nontraditional fare

Why eat: Even meat-and-potatoes folks are unlikely to balk at nicely grilled tandoori chicken wings. The dish may not sound so Indian — neither do chickpea ceviche and baked samosas — but Bombay Spice isn't going for traditional preparations.

Who eats: Trendy downtown workers pack the small restaurant at lunchtime. The bar is full of solo diners.

Ambience: A modern, pretty room decked out in rusty reds, gold and glass. Casual, with a little corporate polish. (It's owned by JNK Concepts, which also operates Roka Akor Sushi & Steak next door and sister spots in Phoenix).

Noise factor: Serious, and the seating is tight. This is not the place for client meetings or confidential conversations.

Overheard: "It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can't stop eating it." That would be behl puri ($4.95), a pile of puffed rice, tiny chickpea flour noodles, chopped tomato and onion topped with spicy yogurt-tamarind-mint sauce (ask for a little extra).

Reliable options: The menu, most of which clocks in at 500 calories or less, is primarily small plates: spicy chili shrimp ($10.95), lentil cakes with crispy chickpea noodles and tamarind sauce ($5.95), grilled lamb chops ($14.95). The mango salad ($6.95) is about 200 calories whether you add perfectly pan-seared tofu or roasted chicken for $2, or grilled or sauteed shrimp for $3. If you like your portions big, hit the create-an-entree section: You choose your vegetable, meat or tofu; sauce (including vegan korma), and grain: basmati rice, brown rice, noodles or quinoa ($9.45-$14.45).

Service: The super-friendly staff is well-trained in the menu and eager to offer suggestions. They also may refill your pop or masala or green ginger tea ($2.25) if you step away from the table, a nice touch.

Cellphone reception/Wi-Fi: 3G is strong, but no Wi-Fi.

Expect to pay: $10-$15 per person.

Reservations: Recommended for prime times.

Contacts: 312-477-7657; bombayspice.com.

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