Looking back two decades at 319 Greenwich

The artist Jane Freeman sent along this photo of a miniature “portrait” she did of the former tenant at 319 Greenwich in 1993 — Fortune Star Chinese Restaurant. A year later, Salaam Bombay opened. That pieces a bit of the history of that corner together, since reader FredPeng dug up the Times’ review from 25 years ago.

Ruth Reichl gave the restaurant two stars in February 1995; it had opened in October 1994. And because her writing is such a pleasure to read, and because she was so effusive, here are some excerpts even though they are no good to us now with the restaurant closed. I guess we can now remember what we once had:

“I popped a crisp tiny poori into my mouth and immediately experienced a whole range of contrasting sensations: first came the crunch of the fried shell and then the softness of the potato filling. Then my teeth closed with a snap on the yellow noodlelike shreds on top. Next I became aware of the tang of the yogurt and the sweet sourness of the tamarind sauce. Finally, at the very end, the heat of the spices kicked in. It was one small mouthful, but to me it was the taste of India.

“Every now and then, a restaurant attempts to depart from tradition and showcase the richness of regional Indian cooking; the five-month-old Salaam Bombay is the newest. The owners say that they chose the name because Bombay is a melting pot where regional food from all over the continent can be found.

“But the vegetable dishes are where this kitchen really shines. My favorite is ringna bataka nu shaak, a Gujarati eggplant and potato dish cooked with curry leaves and lots of spices. Surprisingly spicy and rather rich, the vegetables have been cooked until they are soft and fragrant. In contrast, the chef has cooked the okra in bhindhi do piaza so gently that it never acquires its usual slimy quality.

“I could happily eat Salaam Bombay’s shrikhand every day. Made of drained yogurt, this dreamy, custard-like dessert tastes of saffron, nutmeg and pistachios. It is incredibly rich and yet also tangy. Like all really good Indian food, its mysterious flavor imparts a certain sense of wonder.”