a guide to VIK's (a little long, sorry!)
I've seen several messages about VIK's (a place I drive 200 miles to eat at!....hey, that's what you have to do when you live in Reno) that don't quite get it...so thought I'd put my 2 cents in.
Someone mentioned a lot of potatoes...well, remember, most of the food there is vegetarian. That doesn't mean it all tastes the same.
And everyone says "Don't go on weekends; its too crowded" Well, besides the fact that weekends are the only time I CAN go (see above note about where I live)...there are reasons to go on weekends; mainly the weekend specials. So, go on the weekend, but have a game plan:
1) Take a group. This way you can sample more dishes, and some can wait in line while others wait to pounce on available tables and chairs.
2) Try right after it opens or just before closing. The middle of the afternoon is very crowded; many Indian families taking a break from their University Ave. area shopping.
3) yes, try those "weekend specials." I am especially fond of the Pav Bhaji (A Bombay special). This is basically a spicy Indian ratatoiue (sp???): a vegetable stew of eggplant, potatoes, peas, tomatoes and onions, cooked to almost a pasty consistency and served with french bread (you spread the veggies on the bread and eat like an open-faced sandwhich). Delicious, and the only place I've had it better than Vik's is at my sister-in-law's! (And she lives in Florida, which is an even LONGER drive!). They also have good dhokla on weekends....and of course no trip to Vik's is complete without the old standbys: Bhel Puri and samosas.
This was the perfect weekend: a trip to Vik's with my family; that great double-overtime Cal basketball game; and Lupita's tamales on the way home. Can't wait to go back! (Oh yeah, and the weather was pretty nice too.....)
4th and Allston
gee, please don't apologize for the length! the more specific info about the dishes, the better (for me, anyway, because not only do I love to read about food, I get a huge kick out of reading about how excited people get just THINKING about a meal or a restaurant, and I love hearing about how good food plays a central role in making for a really good day, you know what I mean?).
Anyway, I don't know a thing about Indian chaat dishes and the few times I've been to Vik's, I haven't really been able to ask many questions of the proprieters because it's always been really crowded, and I have hardly been able to read the menu on the drywrite boards against the wall. So I have always just squinted at the menu and hastily ordered things, crossing my fingers that I had made good choices. So far I've enjoyed most of the things I've tried (though I haven't developed a taste for the desserts there so much.)but would like to be better informed so I'll know what not to miss.
Will you describe the Bhel puri dish for me? and what are those little white rice cakes called? and the little fried, puffy ones? thanks for any help!
re: katie young
OK, I'll try to answer your questions:
Bel Puri are puri (fried dough bread about three inches in diameter....kind of like small Indian - the Native American kind - fry bread) piled high with puffed rice, cilantro, potato (I think), tamarind sauce, onions, etc. Kind of a sweet and sour thing going on there. Delicious blend of tastes and textures.
The little white steamed cakes are idli (steamed rice cakes...a southern India special). They are served with a dahl (lentil) sauce to dip in. The idli themselves are pretty bland; the sauce makes the dish. These are not to be confused with dokhla, one of those "weekend" dishes, which are more yellow in color and square rather than round like the idli. Dokhla (sp?) are steamed cakes of garbanzo bean flour and spices (caraway?) served with a mint sauce. I assume that the little round puffy things you mention are more puri (see above). Usually the puri at Vik's are served with some kind of sauce to dip in. My kids like to eat them plain (they are best served hot and fresh!) or with (don't shudder; its good) ketchup.
Does that help?
As I said before, take a group to Vik's and then you can just order a lot of different things and decide what you like. (Do as my stepfather does: take notes!) If the crowd is too daunting, get it to go! One of my favorite recent memories is returning on BART from the Bay to Breakers which I walked last year to my Mom's in Berkeley...and seeing my husband waiting for me at the station with a "to-go" bag of my favorites from Vik's. Now that was a thoughtful gesture!