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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.