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Taste Buds in Sunnyvale

m
mdg May 8, 2007 12:10 AM

Does Sunnyvale need another Indian restaurant? Well, yes, actually. Taste Buds fills the gap for a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, cooked well and inexpensively. Most of the business is takeout, but there are 6 or 8 tables available for eating in too. I've had good luck so far with the mutton biryani and chana masala. It's on Grape Ave. off of El Camino, opposite Lozano's car wash. It's not a destination place but a great addition to the neighborhood.

http://www.tastebudsindianfood.com/

Michael

  1. Melanie Wong Nov 13, 2007 09:58 AM

    Michael, I'm tracking with you. I stopped by Taste Buds on Friday for a late dinner on my way back to the City. This is a sweet little place. No kidding that it does a lot of take-out business, big trays too, which made my seat by the door too cold and drafty. But it was nice to have table service, tasty food, and such low prices. From the tableware and the Chinese good luck ornament still on the wall, I guess it was a Chinese restaurant before.

    For an appetizer, I tried the cut mirchi. These were made with a long, skinny, fresh green chili with medium heat. These were somewhat oilier than the ones at Tabla Flavors. The breading was interesting. The inner layer was tender and crumbly, then the outer coating had a hard, crackly crunch to it. The wonders of double-frying! These were dusted with cumin salt and served with green mint chutney, a slice of red onion, and a wedge of lemon. The chutney was good, though I would have preferred a South Indian style coconut chutney with this dish. Combining a bit of the red onion with the cut mirchi was magical. Shows how spicy this is that the sweetness of something like a raw onion would have a moderating effect!

    Image of Cut Mirchi, $2.99 -
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2234/1942482253_bd60eb7371.jpg?v=0

    I wasn't really in the mood for biryani, but since it was available this night (only Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun), I figured I need to jump on the opportunity. Also, I had asked the server where the cooks were from, and when he said Hyderabad, then biryani became a must. The style is much softer with more melded flavors from the steamy dum cooking, unlike the version at Hyderabad House in Palo Alto. The chunks of boneless lamb were very tender and still succulent. The well-seasoned rice had the occasional suprise bite of hot green chilis, and those who dislike whole spices in their food will need to proceed with caution. This was accompanied by a thinnish salan (curry sauce) and some cooling raita. The raita was fresh as can be with just-cut veggies and a kick from bits of fresh green chilis. The serving size is pretty large and I took half of it with me.

    Image of Mutton Dum Biryani, $7.49 -
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2323/1942482221_4352800c6d.jpg?v=0

    I was offered a complimentary dessert of kheer, maybe because I was there so late and they had some to give away. I'm glad I had a chance to try it, as it was made with vermicelli, tapioca pearl, and golden raisins, and a new taste for me.

    Image of Kheer, $1.99 -
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2112/1...

    My mango lassi, $1.99, was good as well. Not super thick or oversweetened, it had a nice kick of tartness that made it a good accompaniment to my meal and not a dessert.

    I liked this spot very much. You're right, it's not a destination. But it serves up honest food for a good price. I noticed that it has lunch specials on weekdays from $4.49 to $6.49, and they make chapatis and phulkas on Tues and Thurs. Would like to hear about those or the dosa side of the menu.

    -----
    Taste Buds
    673 Grape Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      m
      mdg Nov 14, 2007 01:13 PM

      Hi Melanie,

      Glad you liked it! I've had several more of the non-vegetarian entrees over the past few months plus some more of that fine mutton biryani, and all has been very good or better. It's hard for me to go here for a dosa with Madras Cafe across the street, but I suppose I really should give it a try sometime!

      Michael

      1. re: mdg
        Melanie Wong Nov 14, 2007 01:17 PM

        Hey, aren't you supposed to be on the other side of the Pond? (g)

        The staff are very nice there. I tried to get a good look at the dosa across the aisle, well, as much as I could without creeping out the other people. It was kinda thickish on the ends and not my platonic ideal.

    2. k
      katya Nov 15, 2007 04:30 PM

      Thanks for the report. Has anyone tried the lunch combo I saw on their website? Can you pick any two/three/four dishes off the menu starting at under $5?

      1. c
        ceekskat Nov 26, 2007 09:44 AM

        Just got some take out from here. It is a neat, cute little place which I never would have found without CH! Looks like they recently started a lunch buffet (approx. $7.5) on weekends. I just ordered the mutton biriyani & vadas. The biriyani was good, reminded me of my mom's, but not as moist. This definitely is more homestyle than others I've tasted. The vadas were hot, fresh & crisp. Delicious as it was, it could have used more salt. Sadly, the accompanying coconut chutney was more like coconut flavor soup as I was really looking forward to dunking that hot vada into the chutney. The sambar was thin but passable. Prefer Madras Cafe for this item as vadas are just not the same without the chutney:-(.

        As Michael has stated, perhaps one should stick with their meat dishes. There was a chicken item in the buffet that looked good & when I asked which item on the menu that was, he said it wasn't from the menu. If I were to order that, he said to ask for chicken curry but "drier, roast" style. Also, since this is a small operation I don't know why they feel the need to keep a hundred items on the menu. I wish they would just concentrate on the family's specialties. Since the folks are from Andhra, the South Indian meat dishes should shine. Read, do not order chicken tikka masala:-) Worth a return visit.

        BTW, anyone know how the mutton biriyani is at nearby Shalimar? I had the chicken biriyani at a friend's place & really liked it.

        9 Replies
        1. re: ceekskat
          m
          mdg Nov 26, 2007 09:28 PM

          I recall the mutton biryani at Shalimar as being pretty good, but in general I like the food at Taste Buds better. The main exception so far are the tandoor dishes which Shalimar does really well. I don't think I've been back to Shalimar since discovering Taste Buds, but Madras Cafe hasn't lost any of my business.

          Michael

          1. re: ceekskat
            Melanie Wong Dec 1, 2007 04:12 PM

            Thanks for the post. The food does feel more homemade than some of the other places. Do let us know if you try more from here.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              m
              mdg Jan 31, 2008 04:54 PM

              I tried the lunch buffet for the first time today. Usually I avoid these, but Taste Buds is the type of small place that can make it work. A special attraction is that they serve several dishes that aren't on the regular menu. I had two vegetable dishes (couldn't understand the names, couldn't really identify the ingredients, but they sure tasted good) together with some lemon rice. I was pretty hungry today, but you can also get a 2-item buffet (e.g. one dish plus rice / naan) for less money, or a 4-item buffet for more. Next time I'll also try the chapati or roti, which you can get for an extra 50 cents.

              I was inspired by a previous Chowhound topic to try their Pesarattu Upma a few weeks ago. I've never had pesarattu before, but found this a little on the bland side for my taste.

              On a previous visit we had the baby eggplant and shrimp coconut curry dishes, and both were excellent.

              I still like this place more and more every time I go!

              Michael

              1. re: mdg
                m
                mdg May 14, 2008 08:49 PM

                Taste Buds has been featuring some gongura specials lately. Last week I had the gongura chicken special which was out of this world. This week I tried a non-vegetarian thali special which featured a magnificent gongura dal. This sour green is new to me; it has a wonderful flavor that made these two dishes so thrilling to me.

                The thali also included a nice chicken curry, chana masala, yogurt, a very tasty sambar, good roti, perhaps the tastiest papadum I've yet had, and some kheer for dessert.

                Taste Buds continues to shine!

                Michael

                1. re: mdg
                  c
                  ceekskat May 15, 2008 11:07 AM

                  Thanks for the update Michael. Is this available at lunch?

                  1. re: ceekskat
                    m
                    mdg May 15, 2008 01:17 PM

                    These are daily specials so it's a day-to-day thing. Lunch includes a buffet that tends to have several off-the-menu specials on it each day. So it's a good bet but I think it all depends on when you get there. I don't know what gongura's seasonality or availability is around here.

                    Michael

                  2. re: mdg
                    Cicely Jul 8, 2008 05:50 PM

                    I stopped by for lunch today and got all the veg dishes on the buffet. (Not a vegetarian, but something about the heat makes meat seem unappealing.) I didn't ask specifically about gongura, but there was a dish of flat bean pods that had a sourish tinge, and the rasam was brightly tangy. They definitely seem more comfortable with the sour end of things, which is a nice change. I'll have to try the biryani.

                    1. re: Cicely
                      Melanie Wong Jul 8, 2008 07:07 PM

                      How many vege dishes did you have to choose from on the buffet and how much is it running these days?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        c
                        chow_eb Jul 15, 2008 10:42 PM

                        We went here for dinner recently. Absolutely fabulous. We tried lots of different dishes and liked them all. This is the quintessential Chowhound-like place. It's tiny, kind of a plain interior, the server was friendly and knowledgeable, the prices are very reasonable, and the food was great. Be certain to order the garlic naan.

            2. m
              mdg Dec 27, 2008 10:47 PM

              Just an update to let people know this place is still going strong, with food as good as ever! The potato eggplant dish has become a new favorite from the vegetarian options. One of today's specials was a delicious goat biryani which I haven't seen here before. They've also added some weather-stripping to the door so the restaurant is more comfortable on cooler nights than it was last winter. This remains one of the best chow places in our area. I'm glad that others have found it to be a quintessential Chowhound-like place!

              Michael

              1. m
                mdg Jun 14, 2009 08:10 PM

                Gongura is back! Today's specials included gongura chicken, goat, and mutton. I had the chicken and it was as fabulous as I remembered - the sour green complexity of this sauce is amazing. I'll try the goat next. Goat biryani was also being offered as a special; it's nice to see another use of goat beyond their standout goat curry dish.

                Michael

                1 Reply
                1. re: mdg
                  m
                  maigre Jun 14, 2009 10:31 PM

                  Thanks for pointing this out. I'll go get some in the next couple of days.

                  Since I read your mention of Taste Buds in the topic about healthy Indian food, I've become a semi-regular. I'm looking forward to trying gongura.

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