GEORGE

We’ve been dining for two decades at our favorite Indian restaurant, Bombay Mahal, in Brunswick. Raj and Bina Sharma opened their restaurant 25 years ago, and it’s now the oldest Indian restaurant in Maine (and we would also argue, the best Indian restaurant in Maine).

I could sit in this intimate place for hours, entranced by the low lights, music, art and awesome food, starting with naan and ending with a delightful bowl of ice cream. I do have one tip for you: Don’t fill up on appetizers and naan. Portions here are large, and we didn’t make a dent in our main courses on our visit two weeks ago.

Raj came out of the kitchen twice to visit with us; and our server, Harish, Raj’s nephew, who came here directly from India, regularly checked to make sure we were enjoying our meal. He always approached with a smile and thanked us as he moved on.

Raj grew up in India’s Punjab region; and Bina, in Mombasa, Kenya. They were in London for a while but fell in love with Maine when visiting friends in New Hampshire. They are a hardworking couple who have put all three of their boys through graduate school.

Raj has trained many other chefs, including Iqbal Hassan at the Dancing Elephant in Fairfield, another place we love.

If you think you don’t like Indian food, you need to dine here. The staff will help you through the lengthy menu and make sure you get just what you will enjoy. For example, Indian food need not be hot and spicy. You decide that, and we generally prefer the medium spices.

As a meat-and-potatoes, beans-and-franks guy, even I am amazed at how much I love the food at Bombay Mahal. I let Linda do the ordering, and she’s never ordered a dish here that I didn’t love.

She started us off with two soups: mulligatawny, an Indian chicken soup with lentils, a stew with a deep rich flavor; and dal shorba, a lighter stew of fresh veggies and yellow lentils. Both were delicious.

LINDA

It has been far too long since we have been to Bombay Mahal. A couple of friends mentioned eating there in the past month, and my mouth watered as I remembered the incredible food served there.

I did a little homework prior to our visit by searching their extensive menu for dishes we have not yet tried. I then Googled these unfamiliar dishes and made a short list of new tastes to experience. George always craves the things he is familiar with, but he happily relinquished the ordering to me.

We began with a mango lassie, a yogurt drink with pistachio and rose water. It is smooth and fruity without being overly sweet. And an Indian meal is not complete for me without naan. These unleavened flatbreads are baked in a tandoor oven, and if you only know the version from the supermarket, you should try freshly baked ones.

I ordered garlic naan ($4.50), but Raj sent out two flavors, with a half order of garlic and half of onion kulcha. Garlic, ginger and cilantro were pronounced in the garlic one; and a milder flavor of onions and peppers stood out in the onion kulcha. With an array of condiments on the table, the naan is a great start to the meal.

After the soup, from the vegetable dishes I selected shahi paneer ($14.95). Paneer comes as soft cheese cubes, and they make their cheese right here. The creamy sauce was made with cashews, raisins and tomatoes. From the meat dishes, I chose Mughlai chicken ($15.95). Pieces of chicken are marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven. The sauce was tomato, butter, yogurt and cream, garnished with sliced almonds.

When the entrees arrived, the two dishes looked similar but held different flavors. We ordered both dishes in medium spice, a good amount of spice, which was perfect for us. Mildly spiced would be a good starting point if you are new to Indian cuisine. The chicken dish was the spicier of the two and featured ginger, while the shahi paneer was sweeter.

I am always amazed by the perfection of the rice in ethnic restaurants. How do they get rice that perfect? George doesn’t like rice, but he loves it here.

It struck me that threads of ingredients were woven throughout our meal. Nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashews adorned our drink and showed up in dessert and our entree dishes. Ginger and garlic were featured in the naan and the entrees as well.

We ended this lovely meal with pistachio kulfi, a traditional Indian-style pistachio and cashew ice cream. The icy cold treat was the perfect ending to this wonderful dinner.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.