When the “open” sign was off and all the blinds were closed at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday night when we pulled up in front of TO5 Bollywood Grill, I wondered if this review was going to happen at all.
Lucky for you, I decided to go see if the door was unlocked. It was.
I’ll happily claim this moment as one where I got a “wild hair,” as my grandma used to say, to do something that I wanted to do even if no one else was interested: Review the mysteriously named TO5. (Editor’s note: since this review came out, I learned that the name stands for “Team of Five.)
Anyway. It turns out, in spite of forgetting to turn on the “open” sign, TO5 is serving some solid Indian takeout — it’s not Kinaara, mind you — but we found some gems. And, I have to say, the takeout order we got on our second visit was packed with more care than any single takeout order I’ve ever received.
Two friends who live near the restaurant told me on separate occasions that TO5 was one of their takeout go-tos. That’s how it found its way onto my radar.
On our first visit, we were one of only two tables dining in the restaurant, and that’s how I learned, like my friends, most customers order their food to go.
We landed on some of our favorites from the menu: matar paneer, chicken tikka masala, naan. And I ordered, just for fun, a jalapeño and onion salad.
I really liked its simple mix of pickl-y, lemony onion mixed with chopped raw jalapeno and topped with warm spices. I would not advise ordering it on a first date, but if you’ve been married 14 years, you’re in the clear.
Both the entrees we ordered surprised us with how solid they were. Matar paneer came packed with plenty of Indian cheese and crisp-tender peas; I ordered the sauce medium and it packed a pleasant heat. The chicken in the red Tikka Masala sauce was tender, without even a touch of dryness. I also appreciated that in both dishes, protein abounded. Another small but nice touch: the bowls of jasmine rice are unlimited, and as a diner who almost always runs out of rice for leftovers, I appreciated it.
We tried the “bullet naan,” filled with cheese, chopped jalapeño, cilantro and spices, all topped with melted butter. It’s very good.
Inside, TO5 is a mashup of design: It looks and feels like it used to be a Mexican restaurant because it did. The space also used to be a former Godfather’s Pizza. Now, it’s decorated with , with blown up photographs of Bollywood movie stars in romantic poses, and that romance theme runs through the menu and several signs in the space that say “The Food. The Taste. The Romance.”
Maybe that’s why all the blinds were closed: Mood lighting.
Service at TO5 was a bit slow but friendly; I ordered a glass of pinot noir and got a pinot grigio, but the server exchanged it with no problem. Doordash drivers and folks picking up takeout arrived in a steady stream the night we dined in, and a week later, when I arrived to pick up my own, it was ready right on time. Another nice touch: complimentary, hot chai tea for drivers or guests who are waiting. And it’s quite good, too.
We discovered the real gem of all our visits in the takeout order: Karahi chicken. Made with layered Indian spices, plenty of ginger and a good amount of heat, I learned that Karahi chicken is one of the most popular curries in both India and Pakistan. The dish is named after the vessel its prepared in, which is similar to a wok. The signature bright flavor of ginger cools the heat. This dish alone would make me order takeout from TO5 again.
Lamb curry also had plenty of meat and flavor, thanks to a thick, deeply flavored curry.
The Bollywood Combination is a combo basket of fried Indian appetizers, the best of which is the meat and pea filled samosa, though I also enjoyed a veggie pakora, which reminded me of a hushpuppy.
I’d recommend ordering a side of the mint chutney and dipping basically everything in it: verdant with herbs and bold with citrus, it’s just great.
Most dishes at TO5 we tried were well-executed and packed with protein. Small touches, like the well-packed takeout, the free chai and the unlimited rice made me like it even more.
TO5 Bollywood Grill
7515 Pacific St.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.