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Mar 9, 2006 06:57 PM

Best Indian food in Berkeley

  • d

Where's the best Indian food in Berkeley? I remember someone telling me that there is a fantastic Indian restaurant that she goes to whenever she's within 20 miles of Berkeley. And she's the real deal...a fabulous Indian cook herself.

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    1. re: shoobie

      $$$$$ to Ajanta. It is not Indian food, but similar-Pakistani- Indus Village- more casual and way less expensive and very good.

      1. re: Diane

        I am still looking forward to my first visit to Indus Village - having read many glowing reports on the food and what a good value it is. However I am familiar with Ajanta and I'm not sure I'd give it a $$$$$ rating for it's prices. Just checked on their website and they have a prix fixe lunch and dinner menu: lunches range from $10-12.50 with most of them running in the $10-11 range. p.f. dinners range from $14.50 -17.00 with most in the $15 range. that's for an app, entree with naan, basmati rice, spinach & potatoes, chutney/condiments and a dessert. ( the app & dessert are smaller than the a la carte versions) this is not a lot of money for a complete meal in a pretty nice setting (you can hold a conversation) with
        reliable service. Most of the entrees can also be ordered as a dinner for only 3-4 $ more than the a la carte price - largely in the $12-15 range. So, although I hear that Indus Village is an exceptional value - the prices at Ajanta are not that high - $$$$$ ..... : ~ )

        1. re: Gordon Wing

          indus village recently raised the price

          1. re: Gordon Wing

            I agree - Ajanta is hardly $$$$ - its fairly reasonable actually given its ambience and service levels.

            As for Indus Village - I like a lot of their items but find some of them curiously tasteless. I was really disappointed in their Nihari (Sabri Nihari on Devon in Chicago has an immensely superior version - albeit to my taste). I did love their goat curry, bengan bharta and the murgh achari (yum).

            Indus Village is more like the local 'Dhaba' back home in India where the food is good, plentiful and hearty but not quite fine dining. Ajanta is on the other hand, tasty, (even innovative to some extent) food and not just the typical Punjabi / Mughlai kind of Indian restaurant fare thats so common. Oh and their service is excellent - I'd taken my mother (who's visiting me from India) there and she quite liked the food specially the tandoori mushrooms and the kashmiri lamb korma (I forget the name!).

      2. r
        Robert Lauriston

        She's most likely talking about Vik's. 11am-6pm, closed Mondays.


          1. re: seth friedman

            Sorry, Breads of India is over priced Indian cusine with no flavor or spice. Would not recommend.

            1. re: daalmaster

              Agreed. When in the neighborhood, head across the street to Mehak.
              Cheaper, tastier, no having to deal with the waitress trying to upsell
              everything: "Are you *sure* you don't want samosas?" Jesus.

          2. c

            My favorite prix fixe Indian buffet is at Priya on San Pablo just south of University. Their buffet has more and more varied selections than most, including curried goat and multiple dals and soups. I have never ordered off the menu.

            If you're nice the owner will bring you a bowl of highly spiced yogurt. I'm told that Priya is where all the Indian cabbies eat. I prefer it to all the other options in Little India, which is my 'hood.

            1. m
              Morton the Mousse

              For sit down dinner - Ajanta. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is nice and the prices are very reasonable. They have a rotating menu and feature dishes from regions of India that you wont find elsewhere. It's not "ethnic food dive" cheap but a full dinner with drink, tax and tip is $15-20 and lunch is very reasonable. It's certainly cheaper (and better IMO) than the other "nice" sit down Indian options in the Bay Area - Indian Oven in SF and Amber Indian in Mtn View. The tandoori portabello mushrooms are incredible and the chicken pistachio korma on this month's menu is delicious. They also have the best mango lassi I've ever had and very good desserts.

              For lunch and snacks - Vik's in South Berkeley. I'm not as wowed by Vik's as most b/c I'm from LA and the chaat is much better down there. But Vik's is definitely the best chaat house in town and well worth a visit.


              7 Replies
              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                I agree on Ajanta for a nicer's still my overall favorite Indian in the bay area. I haven't tried the various chaat dives so I can't comment there. I have tried Udupi a few times and haven't yet been impressed...their food (or the thali anyways) always seems tired, like it was prepared far too long in advance.


                1. re: nja

                  I ate at Ajanta circa 1993 and had a great meal.

                  Ate there again in 1998 and had a grim experience. Bland greasy pakoras with an icky-sweet sauce that tasted like apple butter. Pork and lamb curries that were bland and almost indistinguishable--the waiter reversed them and we had to taste several times before we were sure which was which. Strange, dry chhole, tasted like it had been made with those dried, roasted snack chickpeas. Memorably bad lighting.

                  A few years later I'd been thinking of giving them another try, but the below 2002 Chron review pretty much matched our experience.


                  1. re: lauriston
                    Morton the Mousse

                    You really should consider giving them another try. Not all of the dishes are great (and it sounds like you ordered some of the weaker ones) but when they're on, they're on.

                    For dinner for two, I highly recommend starting with the tandoori mushrooms and then sharing the saag paneer and the chicken pistachio korma a la carte (I don't rec ordering full dinners with this combo b/c the veggie dinner comes with a so-so chick pea dish and the meat comes with saag which you're already ordering). If you have big appetites you could add the palak kofta a la carte. The lamb can be inconsistent (sometimes it isn't braised for long enough). The tandoori meats are also hit-or-miss. The naan is so-so but the rice is wonderful (if you order a la carte you only get rice). But the desserts are the best Indian desserts I've had in Northern California.

                    Anyway, If you go to Ajanta and get this combo of dishes with a couple of mango lassis I will be shocked if you don't enjoy it. I've never met a person who didn't love those tandoori mushrooms.

                    1. re: Morton the Mousse
                      janet of reno

                      You just met one. But then again, I'm not a big mushroom fan......and hubbie says he never ate them growing up in India...but I don't want to start the whole "deliciousness vs. authenticity" thing again. My one dining experience at Ajanta was also less than great, but it has been a few years.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse
                        Robert Lauriston

                        Took your recommendations. The tandoori portobello mushrooms were wonderful. Also tried the tandoori asparagus, another nice light appetizer.

                        Chicken pistachio korma was wonderful, very subtle, reminded me a bit of a great chile verde. Liked the palak kofta a lot, too. Palak kofta was also very good. Saag paneer was an interesting variation but I wouldn't order it again, I prefer the style at Udupi where it's mostly greens and not so rich. I appreciated how every dish had a very distinctive spice mix.

                        Pretty decent wine list for an Indian restaurant, drank a nice $20 Mosel riesling.

                        The place has been redecorated since our unfortunate previous visit. Great lighting, comfortable chairs, good service. Pricey for Indian but quite reasonable given the neighborhood or overall style of the place.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Hurrah! I'm happy to hear that they have done right. Their wine list is excellent and it holds a special place in my heart since it is where I first remember having Navarro Gewuztraminer.


                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Morton the Mousse

                            Yes! Your post made my morning, Robert. Now if only I could convert you on Gregoire (vbg).