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Berkeley Indian restaurants

brunello said some very positive things about Berkeley Indian restaurants in a topic on the Food Media & New board (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/425116 ).

Vik's is great, and Ajanta is unique (though the dishes are hit and miss), but generally I don't feel like we're getting the un-Americanized cream of the crop here.

Which dishes at which places really hit the mark?

The best I've had in recent memory was the lamb curry at Jayakarta. Not an Indian restaurant, but any Pakistani place would be lucky to serve such a dish.

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  1. Karahi Lamb at Kabana. I grew up hating Indian food, but as soon as I went away to college I started craving it. Whenever I made a trip back home I would go to Kabana for the karahi lamb and naan. Definetly not Americanized.

    I've long thought that people just don't challenge Indian chefs enough out here. Plenty of people will frequent restaurants that serve mediocre, or even less than mediocre, food.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Fussy Foodie

      Strongly second Lamb Karahi, Vegetarian Kadhi and Chicken Biryani at Kabana. And I still cannot fathom how Vik's gets rave reviews.

      1. re: osho

        As a former Berkeley-ite, I second that about Vik's--thought it was overpriced and not good at all. My all time favorite was Kamal Palace, but I just heard that it closed--anyone know if this is true?

        1. re: NYer28

          overpriced? huh? where is chaat cheaper?

          Here is what a bunch of us had for $10 each (tax and drinks included), recently. It really was a ridiculous (well maybe not to Chowhounds! :-)) amount of delicious food.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/407736

          -----
          Vik's Chaat House
          2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

          1. re: susancinsf

            Well, it has been several years since I was there so maybe things have changed but at the time I thought the food was overpriced for what they gave, especially in comparison to a place like Kamal Palace which was really tasty and relatively cheap.

            1. re: NYer28

              Kamal Palace closed. Maybe they weren't charging enough.

            2. re: susancinsf

              Re. Vik's, the prices really do not matter. It is the quality of food, which I have found to be pathetic.

              Here's a thread with details:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411781

            3. re: NYer28

              Not sure what you got, but the masala dosa at Vik is my gold standard -- the one at Saravanaas in Manhattan did not quite measure up. The prices at Vik's have risen in recent years, but they've also improved the decor, facilities, and menu, and it's cheap compared to just about any other food of comparable quality in the area. (You may have to go down to the Fruitvale taco trucks to get a better quality/price ratio.) --PR

              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                Absolutely right, Prabhakar! Masala Dhosa (In caps because it's heavenly and deserves caps) at Vik's is wonderful. It's ALWAYS crispy and mushy (wrap and potato filling) with a deelish green chutney. Even the soupl that comes with it is very good.

              2. re: NYer28

                I've been to Vik's twice in perhaps the last 3 months, and it was *outstanding.* The food was nothing short of great. We had a lot of different things because we always order way too much.

              3. re: osho

                I love Kabana! I also love Vik's, but mainly for the masala dhosa. They are the best. Since they make them to order, you're guaranteed to get that magnif crispy, gushy potatoey spicy combo. Mmmmm.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  I have switched my allegiance to the vegetable dosa. The mixed-vegetable filling is more interesting (in my opinion) than the primarily potato filling in the masala dosa. Both have the same high-quality dosa, and I must admit that as potato fillings go, Vik's is better than most (this is the Achilles heel of many a dosa -- bland, mushy potatoes). --PR

                  1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                    Ditto on the vegetable dosa!! It is one of my favorites...now if only I could convince DH that it really is worth waiting for...(They never seem to have the vegetable mix quite ready when I go - I always go to Vik's right when they open - but always tell me "just 15 minutes." DH is always too hungry to wait :-)

            4. I had that Jayakarta lamb curry a couple of days ago, and while it was good (though they could have taken the trouble, when they were making the lamb bite-sized, to take off a little more of the fat), it isn't quite East Indian style -- I could taste coconut milk, lemongrass, and galanga.

              The only "Americanized" thing I've noticed about Udipi Palace is their putting a few North Indian dishes like bhatura cholle and samosas on the menu. But the range of dishes offered is not as varied as, say, at Saravanaas in NYC. I wonder if the Fremont branch is better.

              Apart from Vik's, we've stopped going to the other Berkeley Indian restaurants (Breads, Ajanta, Mehak, etc.) though I must admit that the food at Kabana was good. --PR

              5 Replies
              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                Udupi Palace is good, I've just had better in Manhattan.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Tried the palak paneer at Udupi? It might change your mind.

                  1. re: hulan

                    Yeah, it's pretty good, but Mavalli Palace in New York was better.

                2. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                  Conventional wisdom is that the Newark branch of Udupi Palace is better than Berkeley, but I've not been to the Berkeley one for a long time to offer a personal opinion.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Yes. I've heard that too but haven't tried it yet. Been to Bombay Garden? Also excellent.

                3. The most consistently delicious dishes at Ajanta are the korma and the saag. Chicken and veggie are better than lamb and fish. Love the okra on the menu right now.

                  1. I'll probably be drawn and quartered for this, but the naan at Pasand is the best I've had. It's light and just crispy enough to add texture without being too stiff to scoop stuff. I went there very late that one night Solano Ave lost power (within the past 5 months) and was totally surprised.

                    4th(?) the Lamb Karahi at Kabana and the Lamb Vindaloo while on the greasy side really does hit the spot.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: adrienne156

                      We've had many excellent meals at Pasand. The moment my wife and I walk in the door, they start frying up the hot chile pepper pakoras. We're always good for a couple of orders of those delightful appetizers.

                      1. re: adrienne156

                        I just realized that I never said where the lamb vindaloo was from - Curry Cafe on Solano. Both Kabana and CC are technically pakistani btw.

                        1. re: adrienne156

                          Curry Cafe is now a branch of House of Curries. Have you had the vindaloo since it changed ownership?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Yes. I am completely brain dead and you are right, it is House of Curries.

                            1. re: adrienne156

                              So you had great lamb vindaloo after it changed to House of Curries?

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Yes. It's a bit on the greasy side, but the spicing is correct and they actually deliver on the heat.

                                1. re: adrienne156

                                  Im surprised the chowhounders haven't hit this place yet. It's my current favorite lunch spot on Solano.

                                  My co-worker always gets the lamb vindaloo there and I am thinking of getting it next time. It smells and looks fabulous, especially yesterday. I got the chana masala yesterday. That was good too. Actually, I can't think of any really bad dishes we've tried here. btw, the naan at House of Curries was different this week. It's usually thick and bready but this week it was thinner and crisper.

                                  I thought the Durant House of Curries was going to be good too (one brother owns the solano and college one and the other brother owns durant) However, I had a horrible meal there a couple of weeks ago. Dirty silverware, i can't even remember what i had...i just remember it tasting like stale paste.

                                  1. re: choctastic

                                    Ooh, the naan thing is good to know as that was my main strike against them. They have these tandoori chicken wraps at lunch for around $6 that beats any other sandwich for that price on Solano.

                                    Do you (or anyone) know if it's the same family that owns Khana Peena that has taken over House of Curries?

                                    1. re: adrienne156

                                      How does it compare to the Desi Chicken Wrap at Chaat Cafe? I'm a big fan of that dish.

                                      1. re: Fussy Foodie

                                        I haven't been to Chaat Cafe in about 3 years. What do they put in it?

                                      2. re: adrienne156

                                        I don't think the Aggarwals are involved with House of Curries. They own Taste and Le Bistro Elephant.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Le Bistro Elephant is now Kawayan (Filipino).
                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/430153

                                          On topic: Flavors of India, on College Av near Alcatraz, has excellent tandoori fish. And many other tasty dishes.
                                          It is in Berkeley, but the next quake might shift it into Oakland.

                        2. Love the Chicken Kathi Kabob weekend special at Vik's. The only other restaurant that makes this dish is Amber Cafe, and Vik's is better. (However Amber Cafe's other kabob wrap is better.)

                          I love Chaat Cafe's samosas accompanied by channa masala, and their stuffed potato naan served with yogurt sauce.

                          Other than that, nothing else really stands out in memory among Berkeley Indian restaurants. Many are good but no dishes really stand out against others.

                          1. I like House of Curries in general. I've had the Sada Bhindi (okra) which was delicious, as was the Palak Paneer. But I thought the Lamb chops Tandoori were not as good as Indus Village and the Naan is already stale after the 5 minute drive home. Maybe I should eat there. I would like it if they had a combo plate. I follow Adrienne156's lead on authenticity.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Curmudgeon

                              You're just trying to get a free dinner out of me... You may have succeeded. :o)

                              It takes too much effort to revive naan that's gone hard - it involves damp clothes, the microwave, and then the toaster oven. The guys at House of Curries are very friendly and abliging, so if you don't want to eat there the best thing to do would be to ask them not to cook it all the way through and throw it into the toaster oven when you get home.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                >effort to revive naan that's gone hard - it involves damp clothes,
                                >the microwave, and then the toaster oven.
                                >
                                at least it doesnt involve an "unoon" [oonoon?] :-)

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  Naan 'n' Curry? I like their tandoori items, but Tandoor Kitchen a couple of blocks south (old Bison Brewing place) is maybe a bit better.

                                  -----
                                  Naan N Curry
                                  2366 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                  Tandoor Kitchen
                                  2598 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                            2. When I moved to Berkeley, I was really excited about finally being close to Indian restaurants. I've grown up with Indian food (father is Indian), and lived in India for a year, so my opinions on the following restaurants are probably biased. I'm also vegetarian and enjoy very spicy food. Anyway, here we go...

                              Naan N' Curry: Not a fan at all, except for their naan. I can't understand how so many people can order the chicken/paneer tikka without getting a major stomach ache. I used to get the sada bindhi (okra) years ago, but even that was drowning in an inch of vegetable(?) oil. I've noticed that Indians flock to the one in San Francisco in the Tenderloin, leaving me to doubt that seeing natives = good food.

                              House of Curries: Tried the panner tikka masala. Tasted and felt like Naan N' Curry...had an upset stomach for a long time (2 days). Decided not to ever order anything with cream in it again, seeing as I probably had a pint of it with my meal. Aloo gobi was decent.Chai was excellent and the staff was friendly. Garlic naan wasn't very good.

                              Breads of India: Very good, even though it's pricey. I like how they feature dishes from many regions of India. My friend had a dish that resembled some her family makes in India. My mom loved the tandoori chicken. Their food is pretty mild, but still spiced enough for me.

                              Vik's: I like Vik's because they serve chaat, and their mithai (sweets) are good. I recommend the dosas and the ras malai for dessert. The chutney for the chaat tastes a little old, or maybe even from a bottle. If they improved that and lowered the chaat prices, I'd probably go more often.

                              Udupi: Not a fan. I've been a few times and their dosas are always soggy and overpriced. They also have very mild and dull food. Instead, I'd drive to Dasaprakash in Santa Clara for good south Indian food.

                              Kabana: I like Kabana. Their dishes seem to be more authentic and they have some good specials. I haven't been there in a long time though. My non-veg friends love the lamb and chicken.

                              Tandoor Kitchen: aka Naan N' Curry. I haven't been enough to really judge much of their food, but what I had (daal, paneer masala, aloo gobi) was the standard cream and oil affair.

                              Chaat Cafe: Mediocre at best. Had some chaat and a wrap. The one in Fremont is horrible, and has made me avoid it.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: rekhas

                                Interesting opinions. I tend to agree with you. Have you tried Ajanta on Solano? If so, what do you think? If not, you should check it out. I think they offer the tastiest and most interesting Indian food in Berkeley.

                                1. re: rekhas

                                  Also curious to know if you've tried Priya on San Pablo just south of University. We like their lunch buffet quite a lot.

                                  1. re: rekhas

                                    Pakistani places (Naan 'n' Curry, House of Curries, Kabana, Tandor Kitchen, Indus Village) don't tend to be very vegetarian-friendly.

                                    I think the thali's the thing to order at Udupi (100% vegetarian). I also like the uthapham and the medu vada.

                                    Tandor Kitchen's not associated with Naan 'n' Curry. Different menu.

                                    1. re: rekhas

                                      There have been several bad reports about the tikka masala at House of Curries. Tastes like velveeta and campbell's tomato soup to me. Their vindaloos and daal are quite good. They use garam masala and the usual curry spices (cumin/coriander/turmeric, etc, etc) in their daal which makes it taste a lot like haleem.

                                      1. re: adrienne156

                                        Speaking of which, do they serve a good bowl of Haleem ?

                                    2. Tried the College branch of Flavors of India last night. We ordered everything spicy.

                                      The fish pakoras ($5) were the best version I've had of this dish. Thin slices, very lightly battered with a spice mix indluding cilantro, black pepper, and chiles, stayed juicy. It would be hard not to order this. Makes me want to try some of their other pakoras.

                                      Mushroom mattar curry ($9.50) from the specials menu, only had a couple of bites, tasted unpleasant to me.

                                      Saag paneer ($8.50) was very good, nice slow afterburn. I'd prefer more spinach and less cheese. I prefer Udupi's version.

                                      Baingan bhartha (eggplant, $8) was delicious. I liked the dense, somewhat dry texture.

                                      Channa masala ($7) was good but a bit bland for my taste. I prefer Naan 'n' Chutney's.

                                      Paratha ($2) was a litle undercooked. Forgot to try the pilaf ($3.50).

                                      Some of the dishes were a little expensive, but that goes with the neighborhood.

                                      -----
                                      Flavor of India
                                      3211 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I see a passing mention of Khana Peena here. We were in the Rockridge area last night and didn't know restaurants off hand to try so stopped here for dinner. We were very disappointed--- quality and price. Service isn't great either but ok. We ordered lamb chop tandori, vegetable tandori, samosas and nan.
                                        Cherry nut nan turned out to be cocount and bottled cherry type nan. Not good, artificial tasting.

                                        The vegetable tandoori had a few large pieces of vegetables and either over or undercooked (cauliflower and eggplant).
                                        Lamb was ok.
                                        I didn't even like the rice...
                                        I haven't eaten in a lot of Indian places and my favorite is Bistro Roti and a place in Albany.
                                        For the price and quality, we didn't think Khana Peena hit anything. Reminder for us to be more prepared!!

                                        1. re: rln

                                          link

                                          -----
                                          Khana Peena
                                          5316 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                          1. re: rln

                                            Khana Peena is, I think, going for the tres chic crowd. It's expensive and not that great. Actually, it may be cheap and delicious now since we've not gone there for several years. Rin confirms our opinion.

                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                              Khana Peena, to me, produces the same quality food as Naan n Curry, but at a higher cost and table service. I ate there once and had the chicken tikka and lamb vindaloo. In both these dishes the meat was overcooked and the sauces were nothing special. I wouldn't go back.

                                              Flavors of India, however, is much better. I have had the following:

                                              chicken tikka masala: I've ordered this serveral times. The quality is inconsistent but the chicken is always well cooked.

                                              Lamb coconut: Delicious. Lamb cooked perfectly, delightful gravy.

                                              Baingan Bharta: Delicious. I agree with the poster who said it was thick and on the dry side.

                                              Saag Paneer: Meh, it's just ok. Paneer is alright, but most of the time it lacks flavor.

                                              Mushrooms and Peas (cannot remember what this is called): just ok. Wouldn't order again.

                                              The naan is always delicious as are the samosas. When I order take out they always give me a cup of chai while I wait.

                                            2. re: rln

                                              Khana Peena has a beautiful outdoor space but the food is not good.I know it's pedestrian but for me there is no better dish than the chicken tikka masala at Kabana.The naan and the tandoori are also top notch as is most of the other food.I always order the saag but lamb curry and seekh kabob are also yummy.This is the STUFF for me,not tailored for american palates.I also enjoy Viks too but Kabana is the place!

                                          2. Has anybody tried Kabab & Karahi? Newish place on Telegraph between Parker and Blake, seems to have snagged all of Tandor Kitchen's customers.

                                            http://kababandkarahi.com/

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              a few of us were there 2 weeks ago for a quick lunch.
                                              it was good. not greasy. need to go back to really test.
                                              much better than Tandor Kitchen., which to me served cheap but way too salty food.

                                              1. re: escargot3

                                                What have you tried so far?

                                                -----
                                                Kabab & Karahi
                                                2566 Telegraph Ave Ste A, Berkeley, CA

                                            2. Haven't been in about a year, but last time I tried it I really liked Priya (Berkeley, on San Pablo).

                                              Their food is much lighter-tasting than the average Indian fare while still retaining an authentic flair (if a Bangalore restaurant tried to make California Indian cuisine, they might end up with something like Priya). They offer both North and South Indian dishes. The South Indian dishes can't compete with Saravannaa Bhavan/Tabla Flavors but are better than Udupi.