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Berkeley – Charming Chaat & Curries – Indian/Nepali- $6.99 lunch buffet

rworange Jan 10, 2007 10:58 PM

Chaat & Curries on San Pablo at University has been open about a month. The owners are from Nepal though currently there are few Nepali options.

I had
- lamb curry
- mango lassi
- maybe garlic naan
- tawa roti

The lassi – deeply mango-colored from lots of fresh mango was very good ... not too tangy or sweet and full of mango flavor.

My order was a little confused, so I’m guessing that the garlic naan is what was wildly wonderful to me. It looked like a huge thick pancake folded in half. The inside yellow (from ghee?) and sprinkled with garlic and fresh cilantro. This was very nice.

The three roti looked more like convetional naan, pleasantly gummy and charred.

I asked what I should order that would make me come back again and after asking if I was vegetarian, the owner said the lamb or chicken. I went with the lamb though I don’t see it on the menu. There were about 8 pieces of lamb in a rich brown sauce that was mildly spicy. The fragrant rice with it was good with some little black seeds.

I am so not knowledgeable about Indian food, but this didn’t disappoint me like most does. I'm only close to clueless ... I know naan ... this was a little different... thicker than most and really did look something like an American hotcake - dinner plate-sized.

The food is what I imagine would be made in someone’s kitchen, it had a homey quality to it.

The small buffet changes daily and has about a dozen items inclusive of things like rice. The tandoori chicken looked good, not the usual dried out buffet chicken. It was sprinkled with fresh green herbs.

The restaurant is rather plain, but clean. It was the owner’s son who was so charming telling me stories about Nepal where the family is from. If I wasn’t chaating (heh) with him, I wouldn’t have known about the Nepali food at the restaurant.

They just opened so there is only one dish they identified as solely Napali – lamb boti (boneless cubed lamb skewered & cooked in the tandoori). How this differs from regular tandoori lamb, I couldn’t tell you.

Their definition of tandoori – Items cooked in a clay oven “tandori’ style. Each wrap contains onions, lentils & cucumbers and spiced potato fries.

They eventually will have momo’s, and the son’s eyes lighted up when he talked about them. However they are starting slow with the standards and hopefully will branch out.

Chaat is pretty basic: Aloo tikki, bhel puri, pani puri, dahi vada, samosa, samosa chaat, dahi papari chaat, papadam & vegetable pakora.

They are heavy on the vegetable curries. with 10 and only three chicken curries.

There was nothing fancy here. The food was just simply good.

Chaat & Curries Restaurant

2026 San Pablo Avenue (across the street from Lanesplitter near the Mexican market)
Berkeley, Ca
510-548-0285

Hours:

Daily

Lunch: 10 am – 3 pm
Dinner: 5 pm – 10 pm

  1. Cecelia Jan 11, 2007 03:49 AM

    Great post, RW. I'm passing along the recommendation to a girlfriend looking for tasty Indian between El Cerrito and Berkeley.

    Cece

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cecelia
      rworange Jan 11, 2007 06:15 AM

      Again a disclaimer that I don't know much about Indian except I don't like a lot of it ...

      I think Indus village has more complexity to the curries and the lamb itself is tastier, but C&C out and out beats them in terms of naan and the lassi ... I probably wouldn't order the roti again. It was fine, but I need to limit the carbs.

      However it was just such satisfying food. I just finished that lovely garlic naan which microwaved very nicely. It was tasty cold too.

    2. l
      lmnopm Jan 11, 2007 05:05 AM

      Sounds like a good find - I need to mix up the Indus Village visits. Hopefully they'll get the confidence to make more of their own native dishes soon - it seems like many of these places are Indian and "X" food (or Mexican and "X") or whatever will get people in the door for starters.

      2 Replies
      1. re: lmnopm
        rworange Jan 11, 2007 06:20 AM

        Yeah, they are definately playing it safe at the start and going with the standards.

        I did say that going with the Nepali dishes would make them stand out from the pack, but the look on their faces was that that was WAY too risky.

        They seem to be going for tasty, homey, familiar Indian food. And they are really right. People want to order lassi, chicken tiki masala and naan. Most people aren't going to order an unfamiliar Napali dish.

        If I had the time, I'd try to arrange a special chowdown and see if they would do a dinner of just Napali food.

        1. re: rworange
          l
          lintygmom Jan 12, 2007 09:13 PM

          Oh do! The Nepali food I've had at the other Himalayan/Nepalese restaurants in Berkeley was wonderful.

          On the other hand, the Nepalese food I had in Nepal eons ago (before tourism there was common--I think the only paved road was from the airport into Kathmandu) had slightly fermented yak butter on everything. At the time, I hated butter. Period. I ate rice until we landed in East Pakistan.

      2. josquared Jan 11, 2007 03:30 PM

        Thanks for the report. I might hit it up and try the Nepali dishes next time I can get into Berkeley.

        Last time I was there I was with my brother-in-law and nieces and was expecting to end up at a Thai place (my BiL is Thai) but ended up at Mt. Everest instead. The naan was on the dry side, but the Bhutanese Chili Chicken was good and it made me want to sample more of those type dishes down the road.

        1 Reply
        1. re: josquared
          rworange Jan 11, 2007 06:28 PM

          Like Robert mentioned, there's a lot of Indian restaurants in that area and my suspicion is that it is a nice one to add into the rotation rather than something to go out of your way for.

          The Nepali really is not on the menu and not their focus like Mt. Everest. Since the owners are from Nepal, it probably would be nice if they put a few Nepali dishes on the menu to distinguish themselves from the pack ... doesn't need to be yak, ya know.

          There's a restaurant in Pasadena, of all places that serves yak. There are few places for yak in the LA area. No yak in the Bay Area though (tastes like beef from what I've read).

          Anyway, stumbled across that factoid while looking for Nepali dishes. I'm thinking the one dish they did identify as Nepali ... boti ... isn't all that Nepali.
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/359313

          They aren't pushing or really even mentioning the Nepali part.

        2. Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2007 05:32 PM

          There sure are a lot of Indian / Pakistani restaurants right around University and San Pablo: Priya, Indus Village, Raja, Kabana, Mugal, Bombay Cuisine, now Chaat & Curries. Plus the new Indian grocery store's going to have a chaat counter. And Vik's is just a few blocks away.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            z
            zippo Jan 11, 2007 06:03 PM

            hmmmmmm. Robert, are you suggesting a 'curry crawl' or a 'chaat crawl?'

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              l
              Leadbelly Jan 13, 2007 05:12 PM

              This has been developing for awhile--but it somehow doesn't seem oversaturated, and only one place, Shan Chaat House, which used to be in the location now occupied by Priya, was not able to survive. I remember when Le Comptoir Rouge opened for a time where Mughal is now. I don't know if its closure was due to lack of business or the owner's own lack of interest--but the idea that a nice unique little spot like that could not survive in that location, while several like-minded restaurants can, well, it sort of boggles the mind.

              1. re: Leadbelly
                Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2007 05:20 PM

                I tried to eat at Le Comptoir Rouge five times and never succeeded. The last time, I phoned them and asked when they'd be closing, they said in an hour. When we got there ten minutes later they were closing up and refused to serve us.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  l
                  Leadbelly Jan 13, 2007 05:33 PM

                  That definitely sounds like a case of severe lack of interest! I ate there several times and loved their pizzas and salads. I never had a bad experience there, but they would close up for months at a time, then reopen unexpectedly--it could be maddening.

            2. s
              sydthekyd Jan 11, 2007 07:48 PM

              What/where is Raja, please?

              4 Replies
              1. re: sydthekyd
                Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2007 10:28 PM

                1027 University.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  l
                  Leadbelly Jan 12, 2007 11:44 PM

                  I am very curious about this. Have you actually eaten there? I live a few blocks away and don't recall there being a restaurant on that corner.

                  1. re: Leadbelly
                    Robert Lauriston Jan 12, 2007 11:56 PM

                    No, just saw a listing.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      l
                      Leadbelly Jan 13, 2007 05:04 PM

                      That address is actually right next to Bosphorus--but it is an electronics store.

              2. l
                lmnopm Jan 12, 2007 02:55 AM

                I stopped in for lunch today. I had the buffet. While it wasn't that great, I'll go back for a few reasons:
                (1) It was already a bit late, and the food had been there awhile.
                (2) They were nice, and still seemed a bit unsure of themselves.
                (3) The food had a different "non-typical Indian" taste about it.

                While I was disappointed that there were no Nepalese dishes on the buffet (which was small), here's what I had:

                (1) Tandoori Chicken. An unusual style, but moist and tasty. It didn't have any red, nor really any yellowish color.
                (2) Veg. Pakoras - already cold-ish, not bad otherwise
                (3) Lentils - average
                (4) Chicken Curry - I wouldn't have known it was curry if it didn't say so, but it tasted fine enough.
                (5) Rice - it was rice
                (6) Papadum - they were almost out (a few bits left) which were fine, and none were brought out while I was there.
                (7) Naan - a fresh basket brought out to the table.

                Although I had a pretty decent amount of food, I didn't have that "too much hidden grease" feel. While I wouldn't suggest travelling long and far for a visit (maybe they have a great standout dish on the regular menu), if nearby in the 'hood, worth a stop.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lmnopm
                  rworange Jan 12, 2007 03:07 PM

                  Thanks for the report back. I'm not a buffet fan in general but I think the better bet here is ordering off the menu. That tandoori chicken did look interesting. I would guess there aren't any great standouts ... could be wrong ... but good preparations that might have a slightly different spin like the garlic naan. Want to get that tandoori chicken next. A leg is only $2.99.

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