Monday, July 13, 2015

Interview with Troy MacLarty, Owner and Executive Chef of Bollywood Theater

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Photo by Jeremy Fenske

Troy MacLarty, Owner and Executive Chef of Bollywood Theater

Previously of Chez Panisse, Chef Troy MacLarty opened Bollywood Theater in Northeast Portland in 2012. The restaurant simultaneously filled the Indian-food gap in Portland and served up authentic Indian street foods that were hard to find anywhere in the United States. Finding a particularly fast following was the Kati roll, a specialty from Calcutta, involving either marinated meat or paneer cheese wrapped in paratha bread with pickled onions, a spicy tomato sauce, and green chutney. Yes, Chef MacLarty brought an Indian burrito to Portland.

Chef MacLarty is an expert at importing rare ingredients that cannot be locally produced, and this includes Indian culture. The two Bollywood Theater locations have the feel of India, from the steel water glasses to the Bollywood films playing nonstop in the bathrooms. That said, the restaurant sources everything else that it can locally. Notably, both locations offer counter service, with patrons busing their own tables, too.

1.   How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

I would say that the food scene in Portland is really personal. Diners gravitate towards places that have a lot of character and have put a lot of heart into their business. Places that are "in it for the money" don't seem to do as well. Also, I would guess that there are more restaurants in Portland owned by chefs than in any other city in America. If the chef wants to create an Indian or Thai restaurant, or focus on just one dish, this is the city in which that can happen. That has led to an eclectic and evolving food scene that follows the whims of individuals. I don't know that I could have opened Bollywood Theater in another city.

2.   Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with? Why do they stand out?

Being an Indian restaurant, it can be difficult to find products that live up to our expectations. Because of this we have created many of the products we use. We have a small Indian market inside our Southeast Division location. For this market we create our own line of products, from snacks, like Cheewra and Sev, to fresh Paneer and Ghee. We are working on chutneys, sauces and additional snacks to expand our line.

We've also been working in conjunction with the Reluctant Trading Experiment to create a line of spice masalas based on our blends. These masalas will be blended in India and shipped quickly to maintain the best quality. Currently, we are working on a Chai masala, Tikka masala, Garam masala and Vindaloo masala and expect them to be available by this summer (2015). 

One way we differ from many of the Indian restaurant in our area is our use of local and seasonal products. We buy from local farms like Dancing Roots and Groundworks Organics.

3.   When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

My new favorite place in Portland is my friend Brian Leitner’s restaurant Le Vieux. Brian and I were on the line together at Chez Panisse, and he really captures the ingredient driven, simple-yet-detailed food that I crave on my days off. I can’t wait to go back.

When I’m looking to splurge I walk up the street to Ave Gene’s for vegetables, salads and the best pastas in town. Nobody fills the gap between farm and table better than Chef Josh McFadden.

4.   Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire? Why?

Now that I own two places, I have the most respect for those who took the plunge and stuck their neck out. I greatly admire Nong Poonsukwattana for her “do one thing and do it well” focus. Nong’s Khao Mon Gai is definitely the place in town I eat most. I’m definitely biased towards counter service places that do it right. Rick Gencarelli opened the first Lardo sandwich shop around the time that we opened the first Bollywood Theater. Since then, he's opened two more Lardo's and the pasta restaurant Grassa. I've been impressed with his ability to manage their growth while maintaining his sanity. And you couldn't find a nicer guy in our food scene.

5.   In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

In my opinion, what Portland does best is the $18-$24 entrée. Our rents are relatively low, which allows us to serve exactly what we want. We generally don’t have to put a bunch of unnecessary ingredients on a plate to justify a $35 price tag. I love that Portland generally chooses delicious food over crystal and silver.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I am excited that there are more and more delicious take-out places popping up in Portland. Some of the best food in town can be found at food carts or counter-service restaurants. I don’t often have the patience or time to sit down for an extended meal. I’d choose the Blazers on TV and a box of Nong’s chicken over any fancy restaurant in town.

In the kitchen I am most excited when teaching and sharing my knowledge with others, and a great deal of that has nothing to do with Indian food. Showing a young cook the road they could take to be successful really excites me. We start with our people. Good food follows.

Bollywood Theater
2039 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

3010 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
www.bollywoodtheaterpdx.com

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