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Aug 3, 2006 02:38 AM

Oakland - Breads of India – Free-range chicken tiki masala, wild salmon tandoori & organic naan

The two year drama of this place opening got to me. So when it finally did open, I had to go.

Get the tandoori dishes ... I didn’t ... and I looked on in despair as the next table was served the tandoori salmon sizzling on a hot platter ... the smell of the spice wafting over to my table ... the menu describes the wild salmon as marinated in garlic paste, ginger paste, red onion paste, roasted cumin powder, paprika, lemon juice, malt vinegar, rock salt, home-made yogurt and the house-blend of garam masala with over 18 spices. Gee it looked good.

I ordered a combo plate that had –
- Attierchi Theeyal – leg of Napa Valley lamb cubes in South Indian style spicy gravy (Keralea, South India)
- Dahiwala Murga – free-range chicken in yogurt garlic, ginger, cumin and correander curry
- Baby dill garlic naan
- Sweet lassi – housemade yogurt, sugar, milk & natural screwpine flower essence
- Hot chai – choti elaichi, cardamom and other spices

Plates come with turmeric rice, some lightly dressed organic lettuce and daal.

I can appreciate the quality of the ingredients, but the curries I ordered, while tasty, didn’t wow me.

The five cubes of lamb were on the lean side and not fall apart tender. The spice was medium-low heat and good, if one dimensional.

The three pieces of chicken were ok and I liked the sauce.

There are menu suggestions for which bread to order and the dill garlic naan was suggested for these curries. It was the right pairing. The naan brought out additional flavors in the curries.

The rice is organic basmati and was a lovely yellow color but was on the dry side and didn’t taste like much. The lettuce was ... lettuce with a nice light dressing. The daal was mediocre, at best. It was luke-warm, very thin and didn’t have much flavor to me.

This is really excellent naan. It was platter sized, soft pillowy a little chewy with char marks. On the top was finely chopped garlic and fresh baby dill. So good ... the best naan I’ve had to date.

Ditto on the sweet lassi, an elegant light drink. The chai was fine, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.

There are four permanent entrees:
- Coorgi roast pork ($11.95)
- Chicken tiki masala ($10.95)
- Tandoori prawns
- Tandoori salmon ($13.95)

There are also five curries that change daily. A combo of two curries can be ordered for an additional charge. Today there were three meat curries and two veggie curries.

Breads change daily and there is an extra charge for them.

There are two desserts
- Hyderabadi Phirni pudding
- Gulab Jamin

Other curries today were:
- Jaipuri muragh tikka tandoori – chicken in saffron, nuts, herbs and pomegranate mix (Jaipur, India) $11.95
- Mushroom Makhani – butter & saffron flavored curry sauce (Arbee, Paratha) $6.95
- Keriki Sabzi – several veggies cooked with red onions, garlic, tomatoes and raw mangoes ($6.95)

They also have-
- Yogurt raita – grated cukes spiced lightly with roasted cumin pasted $2.
- Samosas – 2 for $3.95

Breads today included:
- Arbee paratha – whole wheat griddle cooked bread stuffed with mashed & spiced taro root
- Kaju herb kulcha – tandoori bread garnished with cashews and oriental basil
- Multani – with cilantro & cumin seeds

They also have the standard plain Indian breads

Drinks include
- Mango or guava juice ($2.50)
- Mango lassi – using looza mango juice $3
- Golden Eagle or Kingfisher beer $4
- Woodbridge wines - $4
- Navarro Gewürztraminer or chardonnay - $24.95 bottle $13.95 half bottle

Located right on the corner of Clay and 10th in the block with Swan Marketplace in Old Oakland.

The restaurant is modern, light and airy with Indian touches. The high unfinished ceiling has beams painted gold and a gold balcony around the room keeps the focus on the restaurant. There are a few rugs and pieces of artwork here and there. The heavy wooden chairs are red and beige brocade. The tables are plain wood. With the large windows, it has a clean spacious look.

Service is serviceable. A sign in the window says for now only cash and checks are accepted for payment.

I’d go back if I was in the area. I want to try that salmon and some of the other breads. I might skip the curries. Here’s an East Bay Express article about the Walnut Creek location. Sounds almost identical to me.

Breads of India doesn't pack the flavor hit or complexity of Curry Corner in Hayward or Indus Village in Berkely when it is on target. However, I didn't feel robbed or totally disappointed like in a upscale place like Gaylord.

Descriptions are almost in the category of short stories. It took about two years for this restaurant to open. It almost takes that long to read the menu for the half dozen dishes. However, I'd agree with with the EBE review that said "the romance of the menu description dimmed quickly".

I’m just glad they finally opened. First sighting ...

Breads of India
968 Clay Street
Oakland, Ca 94807

(510) 701-7684

Lunch: 11:30 – 2:30
Dinner: 5:30 – 9:30

The sign on the door didn’t mention the days

*** Note: Edited on August 02 at 10:30 am to include the phone number. Found their business card.

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  1. Thanks for the note. My wife and I went yesterday for lunch, and the food was good, but service still has kinks. There were several people standing by the door (some in, some out), and for some reason, the "desk" is most of the way across the room. An odd layout for a restaurant, it is a big open room with a huge ceiling. The desk and serving station is at the opening to the kitchen, which is across the room from the front door.

    Anyway, we were seated pretty quickly. Lunch menu of the day seemed to be as above mostly, with the tandoori dishes (about $12) and four others: Attierchi Theeyal (lamb), Dahiwala Murga (chicken) (both $7) and two vegetarian dishes ($6). Still only cash, so given a light wallet, we split the Dahiwala Murga, samosas and an herb cashew kulcha.

    The chicken came very quickly. I enjoyed the dish a lot, but the dal was cold and lacked salt. [note, I'm no expert on Indian food]. A couple minutes later the samosas showed up, and I really enjoyed these. We finally flagged someone down to tell them our dal was cold, and where the heck is our kulcha (the chicken is now getting cold). When she leaves the kulcha showed up, piping hot and fresh. More dal showed up, which served as dip for our kulcha.

    It was $19 including tax and tip. The food was fresh and enjoyable, but would have been nicer to get it all together. It was obvious the plates of salad, rice and dal were sitting around for some time before the orders came in. Like the poster above, I'd like to go back and order the tandoori.

    1. Well, there's something I should have thought of, telling them the daal was cold. You are right about the rice and daal probably sitting around.

      You don't need to be an expert in Indian food. I'm not either, but I've had enough daal to know this was really mediocre. ( I don't usually find daal inspiring except at Curry Corner).

      The bread with the cashews sounded good. Yeah, service was odd. They forgot things like silverware for quite a few tables while I was there, but the water glasses were always filled.

      1. If I lived or worked in the neighborhood I'd be really happy to have a Breads of India, but in Berkeley I don't find it very competitive.

        This is actually their fourth branch. The original's on Sacramento at Dwight in Berkeley, across the street from Mehak. The second was Zaika on Shattuck in North Berkeley, where Taste of the Himalayas is now.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          It will be competitive since it is the only Indian place in downtown Oakland. And, no, Sabina doesn't count.

          1. re: merle

            Absolutely, I just wouldn't drive from or past Berkeley to eat there.

        2. I ate lunch there today. BLAND BLAND BLAND BLAND. I had the chicken kebab tandoori. Once I drenched the chicken with lemon it was okay. The rice was lame. The salad greens were not dressed at all. The naan was the only standout in the entire meal, but this type of bread does not really do much for me.

          My lunch companions seemed to like the food more than I did, but I don't think anyone thought it was great. Kinda felt like 'Americanized' Indian food or what one may be served in a hospital.

          My lunch with naan but no beverage was about $16, tax and tip and it was one of the more expensive items on the menu.

          I'll give it another try, but I won't be waiting in line.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Gary SF

            That's pretty darn expensive for mediocre chicken kebabs. That's around twice what you'd pay at Naan 'n' Curry.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              While my dish was one of the more expensive on the menu, it was VERY overpriced. But since I panned the place I did not want to be the first one to talk about the prices.

              I think the chicken was listed for 11.95, but the "recommended" naan is extra; we shared 3 orders of it between the 6 of us.

              The chicken item listing on the menu also 'recommended' that I order a side of curry sauce for $2.50, but as others here in this thread had complained about the curry, I did not order it. It sort of felt like I was buying a car from a shady dealer, with the recommendations of adding the "options" of the sauce and naan and all.

              Still, I liked the decor of the place - it is a fun mishmash of Indian kitch, and the large window for viewing the turban-clad tandoori chef made me feel like I was in Las Vegas, a la Benihana of Tokyo.

              My advice: Don't go there for the food, unless naan is something that really excites you.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yeah, even though this place isn't wildly exciting, price or no price, I'd pick it in a heart beat over Naan 'n' Curry where I've never had anything edible except the naan ... and breads of India has better naan.

                The thing is you are paying for the fancy pedigreed meats and veggies.

                I am currently out of my cycle of upscale dining. We've discussed this before Robert, but there is a sameness to these restaurants that bores me if I eat at them too often. I thought at first that Picco might have reversed the cycle and I was ready for high on the hog again, but nah.

                There is just something about upscaling that consistantly dumbs down the flavor and the food ... Breads of India is in Walnut Creek ... it belongs there ... it is a suburban restaurant not too far from PF Changs.

                Just take any ethinc restaurant ... raise the prices ... dumb down the food ... the Mexican place in the Ferry building for example ... Slanted Door, etc, etc. All food with excellent ingrediants and skillfully prepared, but they just lack the soul and flavor of the real thing.

                And yet, I would still eat at Breads of India before Naan 'n' Curry.

                1. re: rworange

                  I just picked Naan 'n' Curry at random--all the funky Pakistani places have similar prices. Best food of the ones I've tried so far was at Indus Vilage and at the Shalimar near the courthouse in Fremont (only upside to jury duty).

                  If I'm going to spend more, I'll go to Ajanta.

                  1. re: rworange

                    As always rw, your observations are good. I did not consider this restaurant in the same light as Slanted Door, etc.

                    I do apprciate that they use good ingredients and that is part of the reason for the higher prices.

                    Still, I prefer the flavors of the smaller, "grittier" family run restaurants. Breads of India, like Slanted Door, is a restaurant where I would take timid family members or friends "ease" them into their introduction to Indian food.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Naan n Curry is without question the worst Indian food I have ever eaten in my life. It is the McDonalds of Indian restaurants. I haven't tried Breads of India, but I think comparing anything to Naan n Curry is unreasonable.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Which location of N n C? Unlike McDonald's, the quality at each branch varies.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Irving and the one off Columbus in North Beach. While there might be better locations, given it takes a lot for me to be impressed by Indian food, I don't think even the best of Naan n Curries is going to do it for me. There is just too much interesting food out there for me to give Naan n Curry another chance. And at the least ... the service could have been pleasant ... I don't like the attitude there.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Telegraph Ave location. Had a bagain bartha (sp?) and saag paneer. Both were absurdly oily, and the curry had no real flavor aside from the standard spice mix. The naan was fine, but if the curry sucks who cares?

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              The tandoori dishes (particularly the chicken leg), channa masala, and okra are my favorite dishes at Naan 'n' Curry. For saag I'd go to Udupi.

                              Pakistani food is often very oily. Apparently that's how they like it.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I've enjoyed the food at the Geary and... Taylor, I think?, location. I've also found the couple that runs it very nice and helpful. I love the rice (with a whole cinnamon stick in it- just remove it before you refrigerate the leftovers. Learned that the hard way!) Yes, it is oily- I get the tikka masala and saag allo, neither known for being healthfood, but I find it hits the spot when I don't have time to make it myself (or feel like ordering delivery from my favorite, if not pricy, delivery- Raja Cuisine of India on Haight and Fillmore.)

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  My wife loves Naan 'n' Curry's chicken tikka masala. It's too rich for my taste.

                                2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  Wow... have you had Indian food in secondary midwestern cities 10 years ago? Steam table food court Indian? It's not THAT bad! (Or perhaps you're just smart enough to avoid the really bad places)

                                  I thought the N n C on College Ave in Elmwood was not great, and much worse than many options in Berkeley, but far from inedible. But I think I saw it's changed names now -- has the food changed?

                            2. hello, the Old Oakland branch of "BofI" is one of the closest sit-down Indian places for us (not counting the little place next to the Kerry House saloon on Piedmont); the other candidate, Khana Peena on College nr. Broadway was overpriced for the quality when we tried it, so we gave the new place a try-out.

                              We had the tandoor salmon, one of the vegetable curries, and the naan spiked with mint and coriander. For $13.95 the salmon was one of the best meals of wild salmon you could expect anywhere for that price, with two strips (about 2in wide) of a thick filet, cooked through just to the point of color uniformity w/o overcooking/dryness. The spice coat was very mild, presence enough to enhance the fish, and salt was not dominant as it is in many grilling/roasting rubs. The fish was served on a bed of lightly grilled onion and red cabbage in a hot pan, with a big platter of the rest of the sides, namely, rice, dhal, mixed lettuces with a bit of carrot, and papadum. The naan(2.25) was excellent and huge,nice varation in thickness and lightly scorched in spots. The veg curry($6.95) was above average by virtue of its non-greasiness and freshness of the veg's, which included a pleasing slice or two of lotus root.

                              Service was good and the padded chairs much more comfy than those at Indus Village. We like the spicing better at I.V.,the free chai, and their prices are hard to beat for the quality, but BofI's ingredients did make a difference [one of the specials was roasted free-range(Niman?) pork] in flavor,the naan is worth the extra charge, they're much closer for us, and we ate well with leftovers for under $30 for two. Folks who like the spicing more assertive should probably ask to have it adjusted, I'd say that's the main deficiency. have fun and be careful runnin'around

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: moto

                                Thanks for the report about that salmon. It really did look very good.

                                1. re: moto

                                  Since you mention it, what's the story on the place next to Kerry House on Piedmont? worth going?

                                  1. re: Bryan Gros

                                    We kind of like it... I think tastes like the good British-styled Indian food I've had in London, rather than "authentic" Indian food. Which is authentic in its own way, I suppose.

                                    1. re: Bryan Gros

                                      hello, regret to say, since the Kerry H. place is a ten min. walk from my door, and the people there are pleasant and hard working, that if 'Breads' is equally accessible/convenient, it's better in nearly every way (ingredients, ambience significantly so). Real estate on Piedmont Ave. being what it is, the prices to my recollection are pretty close on some entrees and on naans, but the Piedmont place has a number of lunch specials. I try to occasionally visit the close-by 'dives'(others incl. Simply Greek and La.F.C.) hoping that the 'hood isn't taken over by pricier gourmand eats. You won't have to wait for a table(bare bones decor) next to Kerry H, nor very long for your food. My experience at the Old Oakland "Breads" in that regard--it was half empty when we went--was very different than the crowd scene on Sacramento in Berserkly when we went to the original. cheers