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What is the BEST Indian Restaurant in the S.F. Bay Area

  • c

Hi Everyone.

OK , my partner and I love Indian food, we have been to a few wonerdful Indian restaurants in San Francisco and in San Mateo. But we are looking for recommendations for the best and most authentic Indian reataurants in the S.F. Bay Area in order to select one we can dine at this coming Saturday evening. We don't mind driving, we are located on the northern end of the peninsula.

Thanks in Advance

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  1. I would have said Vik's in Berkeley which is also one of the cheapest Indian joints in the Bay Area. However, I'm guessing from your post that you're a) looking for entrees and not chaat, and b) Vik's closes at 6 p.m.

    My fav Indian restaurants:

    -Vik's, Berkeley
    -Passage to India, Mtn View
    -Nawab, San Mateo
    -Mayuri, Santa Clara (I've only had the Wed. dinner buffet)
    -Priya, Berkeley (I've only had the buffet but have heard the off the menu stuff is good)
    -Real Ice Cream, Santa Clara (for cheap chaat)
    -Ajanta, Berkeley (for some unusual upscale stuff in nice environment)
    -Naan 'n Curry, SF & Berkeley (cheap and quality is as good or better as places that charge double)

    2 Replies
    1. re: katya
      Robert Lauriston

      Vik's is great food but not quite a restaurant.

      I don't think any of the other Indian places in Berkeley are better than what you can find on the Peninsula or in SF. I wasn't impressed enough with Priya or Ajanta to go back.

      Ajanta's not as dark or dingy as your typical Indian hole in the wall but I still found it grim and depressing. Khana Peena across the street is by far the nicest space of any Indian place I've been to around here.

      The Naan 'n' Curry on College near Ashby is by far the nicest of the N'n'C / Shalimar / Shan-type places.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        When did you last go to Ajanta? I found the interior very enjoyable (elegant even)

    2. r
      Robert Lauriston

      Which Indian places did you find wonderful?

      1. More info on Ajanta at link below. I disagree with Robert's assessment of the place, and I've been there a couple dozen times.

        I too would like to know which places you have enjoyed.

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        4 Replies
        1. re: nja
          Morton the Mousse

          I also disagree with Robert on this one. I go to Ajanta about once a month. I've had many excellent meals there. I've brought friends and family who love Indian food to Ajanta and they've always been pleased. I appreciate that they use sustainably raised meats and organic produce. I've eaten at countless Indian restaurants, both sit down and hole in the wall, throughout Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Ajanta is my favorite. The prices are reasonable, especially if you order A La Carte.

          Indian Oven (not Indian Clay Oven) in SF makes an amazing Tandoori Chilean Sea Bass but they don't understand how to make a decent veg. curry.

          I tried Naan n Curry once, it was awful.

          Link: http://www.ajantarestaurant.com

          1. re: Morton the Mousse
            Robert Lauriston

            What did you find awful about Naan 'n' Curry? If you didn't have a particularly unlucky meal there, we must have very different standards for Indian food.

            I keep thinking I should try Ajanta again, since so many people like it, but our meal there was so sad, the server such a jerk, and the atmosphere so depressing I can't bring myself to.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Morton the Mousse

              The Saag Paneer at Naan N Curry was awful. The saag was oily. Oily curry is usually a sign of a bad Indian place - it means they're too cheap to use ghee, butter or cream. The paneer was tasteless.
              The naan was fine, but I don't think I've ever had a bad piece of fresh naan in my life.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                You should definately go back Robert! I've gone twice (dinner and lunch) and enjoyed it both times. The service is slow, but the atmosphere was fun, the server was sweet and the food excellent.

          2. My favorite is still Amber India (the original in a strip mall on El Camino - Mountain View). The lunch buffet is great as are the regular dishes. I really like the tandoori fish, okra and butter chicken.

            Another one I like a lot is Roti on West Portal in San Francisco. This is the second restaurant with the original being in Burlingame (I've never been). I love the sheek kebab and their curries. I would say that seafood is a weakness at this place. A co-worker spoke with the owner one time and found out they owned a restaurant in India located at the town she's from. It was apparently a very good and popular restaurant.

            1. Don't forget Dhasaprakash down in Santa Clara. Southern Indian, vegetarian. Good stuff.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Kim Cooper
                david kaplan

                Was just going to suggest Dasaprakash as well. I really like their dosai and other south Indian specialties. And the ambience is upscale.

                1. re: Kim Cooper

                  I'm not qualified to judge, but I recently took a friend from Bangalore to the lunch buffet at Annapoorna (Southern Indian vegetarian) and he proclaimed it the most authentic Indian food he's had since he moved to the Bay Area.

                  The people who work there are really nice, too.

                  2299 South El Camino Real
                  San Mateo, CA 94403
                  (650) 345-4366

                  Between 24th and 25th on the east side of the street. Parking behind the restaurant.

                  1. re: Liz
                    Melanie Wong

                    I'm glad to hear that Annapoorna is open for lunch, as it didn't use to be. While it's good and authentic, Dasaprakash cooking and atmosphere are kicked up a notch.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Well, I'll have to take him there then. It's kind of far to go for lunch, but I think he would enjoy it. I'll report once we do that.

                      Thanks, Melanie.


                      1. re: Liz
                        Melanie Wong

                        I hear you on the distance, Santa Clara's far from the City for me too, otherwise I'd be there more often. I haven't been recently so look forward to hearing new reports on Dasaprakash. The setting is casual and relaxing, not the hubbub and fast turnover of the other South Indian places. The design incorporates whatever the Indian equivalent of "feng shui" is and just makes you feel good to sit there.

                2. Marigold in Palo Alto is my absolute favorite in the Bay area, especially for the achari dishes, the achari-related Apollo fish appetizer, the incredibly perfumed biryanis, the dreamy eggplant dishes, and the wonderful tandoor renditions. I find that Marigold paints their flavors in oils where other places tend to use pastels - they're that much more vivid. It's in downtown Palo Alto on University Ave., just a couple doors down from Borders.

                  I've only been to Ajanta once. It was mighty nice and I bet I would eat there a lot if it was in my neighborhood.

                  The south Indian vegetarian places are of course a whole different style and hard to compare to places like Marigold and Amber India. Dasaprakash is on my list to try, but it's hard to make the extra drive down when Udupi Palace is closer and so good - my favorite of the ones I've tried. Dasaprakash is a much nicer setting though!


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mdg
                    Robert Lauriston

                    What's achari?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Achari is a prepartion with hot pickling spices, usually fairly dry. It seems a lot more common in restaurants in London than in the USA. I've had it in the Bay area at some other places like Naan 'n' Curry. While it's usually good elsewhere, I haven't had any as vibrant as at Marigold.

                      I'd like to find a good recipe for it. I can figure out how to cook Italian dishes from tasting them a few times, but Indian dishes are way too complex for me to figure out on my own.


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Melanie Wong

                        You can buy mango achar (pickled) in jars at South Asian grocers. But don't get the lowest priced ones --- I recall a jar that I opened at home that smelled like toilet bowl cleaner.

                    2. c
                      Craig Maxwell

                      OK ,,
                      First off, we rally appreciate the suggestions and opinions, I feel a bit shy about my humble opinions, but we really liked Clay Over on 3rd in San Mateo. We thought it was good.
                      I have also been to Shalamar in S.F. and while the decor was sparse, it was some really great food.

                      What abot, Amber and Passage to India, both in Mountain View.. Any comments

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Craig Maxwell

                        Amber's very good. I don't think it's as good as Marigold, but reasonable people can differ.

                        Passage to India is very ordinary and nowhere close to the best in the area. It's fine if you're in the neighborhood, especially for the buffet, but hardly a destination.


                        1. re: Craig Maxwell

                          I used to live around the corner from Amber India. I always thought that it was above average, but never agreed with Michael Bauer that it was the best in the bay area. Their specialties seem to be curry dishes heavy on the dairy. I haven't been there in over two years.

                          If you like Shalimar, you may also want to check out Shan. It was opened by former Shalimar employees. Similar menu and quality, in a cleaner environment and easy parking. Shan is on 3rd at Bryant in SF.


                          Link: http://www.zabihah.com/_details.php?r...

                          1. re: nja
                            Robert Lauriston

                            Second on Shan, it's my favorite of the Shalimar / Naan 'n' Curry style Pakistani places. Also the cleanest. Easy street parking in the evenings provided there's nothing going on at the baseball park.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Does Shan in San Francisco have the same owners as Shan in Santa Clara? I've been to the Santa Clara Shan a few times with my Indian coworkers (they love it, and they are also very big fans of Shalimar). It's a great place for a casual meal. One unusual dish was Beef Jalfrazi, which had a really nice flavor to it. I also liked their biryani, Naan and kebabs. And you get a free cup of Chai with your meal (the good stuff, made with milk and spices... not the cheap teabag stuff you get at some Indian buffets, and not oversweetened like at most coffee places).

                              My favorite restaurant for a nice sit-down Indian dinner is Amber India but I would also recommend Shiva on Castro Street in Mountain View. I like their Biryani better than Amber's. Shiva's lunch buffet is good too. It changes every day so you can't be sure what you're going to get (which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it).


                              800 California St # 100
                              Mountain View, CA
                              (650) 960-3802

                              (I can't find an online address for Santa Clara Shan, but they are located in a strip mall right off of 280 (next to the Bed Bath and Beyond on Stevens Creek near Lawrence Expressway)

                        2. in the south bay, i would recommend saravana bhavan on mary ave in sunnyvale. my indian friends and co-workers all love this place. i'm no expert on indian food, but i also think it is delicious. it's southern indian style all vegetarian food. i usually get either the quick lunch, mini-tiffin, or a dosa. it's all delicious and quite different from the northern indian/pakistani style. udupi palace is also pretty darn good for southern indian, but saravana is better.

                          in sf, my favorite is naan-n-curry. just can't get enough of that naan and aloo ghobi.