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Jul 23, 2001 12:24 PM

Chaat Cafe

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What a surprise and pleasure at Chaat Cafe in Berkeley. I ordered the tandoori chicken wrapped in naan with tomato, cucumber, and mint chutney. What a harmony of flavors. Fit for a raj - although wraps technically did not exist then. The chicken was tender, moist, and high quality. The naan was straight out of the tandoor (which you can view through the large glass window into the kitchen). The other ingredients bursted with fresh flavor. One of the specials of the day was tandoori paneer - grilled paneer cheese. That is a rare find and can transport you to nirvana. Everyday, Chaat Cafe offers one vegetarian and one meat combo special.

The decor was equally pleasant. The owners put thought and care into this. The colors are burnt orange and reds - the earthy Indian hues. The chairs are covered with either paisley or curvy design fabrics. The paisley pattern is actually an abstract representation of mangoes! Wall decorations include pillow covers from of a certain Indian region where small mirror like rounds are embedded into the fabric.

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  1. Sounds great! what's the address?

    8 Replies
    1. re: Dixie Day

      The address is 1902 University Ave, it's at the corner of University and MLK in Berkeley.

      I've asked about the price difference from the lunch and dinner specials and the person at the counter explained that the dinner portions are larger but it is more noticable in the tandoori specials.

      If you like salmon go on Friday, the tandoori Salmon melts in your mouth. I always start my meal with a garlic pesto naan.


      1. re: Jag Singh

        Jay, does pesto exist in India? Or is the garlic pesto naan a result of fusion? I have associated pesto with Italy.

        1. re: elise h

          Pesto may be an Italian term, but I have pesto-like sauces of ground cilantro, nuts, garlic and spices in Indian restaurants.

          While you're on the Berkeley chaat tour, there's a place on San Pablo south of University that opened a few months ago. Haven't been there yet, maybe you'd like to check it out?

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Having heard some good things about it, I stopped by Shaan chat right after another excellent meal at Kabana's around the corner on University.

            I was a little put off by the grunge lining up the metal handlebar of the Shaan Chat main entrance door, it seemed to indicate that their hygene standards are very lax. Vik's on the other hand runs a tighter ship, and their kitchen practices seem fairly clean. I made it to the sweets counter by the door, but I'm not sure if I'll go there again.

            1. re: garçon

              Thanks for the feedback. The greasy mirrors at Kabana bother me, so if this place is too grungy for you...


              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Just to clarify, Shan Chaat and Chaat Cafe are different restaurants. Chaat Cafe has become rather inviting after the remodeling. Furthermore the food at shan does not even compare to chaat cafe.

                1. re: Jag Singh

                  Yes Jag, I do realize they are different places, but someone brought up Shan Chat. I've read some bad reviews of the Chat Cafe on University a year or two ago, but they seem to have turned things around based on your recent experience.

                  As to Shan Chat on San Pablo, if they can't even feel compelled to clean their front door once a month, well...

          2. re: elise h

            I have seen pesto neither in an Indian Restaurant before the cafe, nor have I ever seen pesto in India. So I assume it is a result of fusion and creativity by the chefs at Chaat cafe.

      2. What a great description eliseh! Be aware they have different lunch and dinner prices - it's like $2-3 cheaper for the same special for lunch (before 5 p.m.). I have really enjoyed the gobi naan (with cauliflower) and the chicken tikka masala there as well.

        The decor is a relatively recent upgrade - it's much nicer and quieter and more comfortable now (used to be linoleum floor with cafeteria type tables) - so if you haven't been since say June - check it out.

        They are on University at the corner of MLK in Berkeley (on the right side as you head up University towards campus).

        1. I love getting lunch at this place whenever I can get to Berkeley (and it's not breakfast time, when I would head to Cheese Board). My favorites are the samosas, which come with wonderful tamarind and mint chutneys, as well as a rich garbanzo bean stew, 2 for $3, and just plain dal and rice ($1-2 each).

          1. Thumbs up!

            Very good lamb saag, and the tandoori chicken wrap was quite good as well. Thanks for the tip!

            1. Visions of Chaat Cafe in every neighborhood? Not quite, but the Chaat Cafe in Berkeley told me that they are looking for locations in San Francisco and Sunnyvale to open Chaat Cafes. For now, there are Chaat Cafes in Berkeley and Fremont.

              1 Reply
              1. re: elise h

                I hope you referred them to a good realtor in your neighborhood. Lots of vacant storefronts all over The City.