Balle Balle Indian Restaurant
Guangfu N. Road #12, Songshan District, Taipei
I've also updated my "Indian Restaurants in Taipei" post to include Balle Balle, if anyone wants the most comprehensive list one can come up with (there's still one on Heping Road I need to try between Technology Building and Liuzhangli).
Soon after my return to Taipei, and also soon after my husband's birthday, my good friends June and Chelsea planned a welcome back/happy birthday dinner here, knowing I'm a huge fan of Indian food and that I've been wanting to try this place. They left a comment on the original restaurant list asking me to write about them, but the reason I did is that I'm always on board with trying a new Indian restaurant!
And Balle Balle delivers. They were able to accommodate our group of 13 (one person'd had to leave early by the time this picture was taken), even in their small space and the service was good to the point of being obsequious. We got mutter paneer - which my husband had expressed a like for but we never get because I don't care for peas - on the house for his birthday and they were very good about ordering flexibly and making recommendations without flooding us with food, although we did take home lots of leftovers!
The food was also delicious - the samosas were big & stuffed, the curries just right, and the food moderately hot because even though I like my Indian food local-spicy (I did used to live there after all!), some of my friends don't.
We got samosas for all, mutter paneer, tandoori chicken, butter chicken, saag aloo (potato-spinach curry), lamb rogan josh, butter chicken (my favorite!), and channa masala, with a baingan bharta (eggplant curry) substituted for lamb at the table with vegetarians. And yes, I could confidently say that I have eaten Indian food like this in India: it's not overly twisted to suit local tastes, and for those who really can't take the heat, the spice levels can be adjusted.
My only disappointment was that they didn't have Kingfisher - we had to get Taiwan Beer. Realistically the two beers are almost identical and Kingfisher is kind of crap, but it pairs very well with curry. Just don't drink it on its own.
I won't say Balle Balle takes the place of my perennial favorite, Mayur Indian Kitchen - I like them both for different reasons! Mayur focuses on regional cuisines and you can get a lot there that you can't get at other Indian restaurants: idli-dosa, various chaats and other specialties. Balle Balle focuses almost exclusively on Punjabi-style cuisine, and I love that. It's even evident in the names of the dishes: Patiala this, Haryani that, Amritsari that. "Balle Balle" itself is a phrase uttered while dancing or found in Punjabi music, especially bhangra, to denote a feeling of happiness. They obviously take pride in their Punjabi heritage.
I love that I don't have to choose: want north Indian food with an emphasis on Punjab (where I have been, and yes, the food at Balle Balle captures those flavors)? Go to Balle Balle. Want idli-dosa or something more regional like a Gujarati yoghurt curry? Go to Mayur.