Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont - Fresh Pani Puri
- Melanie Wong
This is an overdue report owed to Ms. rworange on my favorite chaat place. Ironically, she had pointed it out to me earlier in a discussion of Perry Farms in Fremont -
But fixated on South Indian food at the time, I didn't check it out until a few months later. Unfortunately, my time in Fremont was up before I'd had a chance to cover the whole menu. Everything I've tried has been top notch, and the ladies who run the two locations of Chat Patta Corner have been unbelievably sweet to me. The food is made to order and has an uncommon freshness.
The pani puri, made one at a time and to your spec, is like no other I've had in the Bay Area. The delicate puri shells are housemade, so thin that you can see through them, yet manage to retain the pani-water with an unseen fragile strength. And, they're absolutely fresh and don't have the too-long-on-the-shelf stale taste and texture of the prefabbed ones used elsewhere.
Ordering them is a trip in itself, described well here in Amanda Berne's article in the Chron -
My first experience with the pani puri (6/$3.50) was at the location within Dana Bazar (sic) where you stand to eat them because there's no where to sit. The stacks of rice bags and other dry food goods have warning signs to not even think about plopping down on them. For the first taste, the lady behind the counter started at medium spicy, medium sweet. From there I tried various combinations and ended up at hot spicy and more sweet, finding that the extremes of both gave a bigger thrill in my mouth yet balanced each other well.
At the location in Ardenwood, you order and pick up at the counter, then choose your seat. For the photo below, I asked for the last three together. When you've had your puri allotment, then you can ask for another ladleful of the pani to sip as a cooling yet spicy hot chaser. The spicing and prices are the same as Dana Bazar, and soon I shifted my business here for the longer hours and more comfortable surroundings.
Chat Patta Corner
34751 Ardenwood Blvd
Fremont, CA 94555
Chatpatta Corner (located within Dana Bazar
5113 Mowry Ave
Fremont, CA 94538
Here's a photo of the mix chaat ($4), which has a little of everything. The onions and cilantro are dewy fresh. The sev on top is superfresh too. The garbanzos have an almost meaty bite to them without being too hard or too soft. I've found a tendency to use a little too much of sweet tamarind chutney for me in the cold chaat here, and I learned to ask for a little less.
I love the pav bhaji ($5.50) here. Something about the uneven textures and blend of flavors just resonates with me. The bjaji is made with cauliflower, tomato, potatoes, onions, carrots, lemon, and more . . . maybe it's that heap o' love that makes the difference. Served steaming hot with some fresh baked toasted and buttered rolls (pav), the bhaji has a little puddle of fresh lemon juice and a melting dab of butter for richness.
The frothy mango lassi is fruity and wonderful. I wasn't as thrilled with the mango shake made with ice cream.
re: Melanie Wong
The falooda ($3.50) here rocks. Made with pistachio kulfi ice cream, basil seeds, sweet syrup, and noodles, the balance is so well-tuned, I pick the bowl and drink every last melted drop. The ice cream sometimes has a bit of freezer burn, but I just blame myself for not ordering it more often and not telling all my friends about it.
re: Melanie Wong
Until now, my favorite gulab jamun had been from Ajanta. Well, the ladies here at Chat Patta have a fine hand with sweets too.
The gulab jamun are fried to order and come out blazing hot. Those well-browned balls are amazingly tender with just a bit of chewiness. The very light syrup has an uncommon delicacy with but a faint whiff of rosewater and restrained sweetness. At $1.50 an order, this is now my top pick.
re: Melanie Wong
The choley bhature ($5.50) is my favorite version. Skeptical at first when I saw the watery broth with the choley (spiced garbanzo beans), but the outstanding taste soon won me over. I managed to get part of the secret out of the ladies --- they use more black cardamon and roast the pods longer. The broth has a darker, inkier color and deeper, more complex flavor and aroma. This too is assembled to order, and the freshness shows. Not warmed over, the broth stays watery rather than picking up starch and thickening from the garbanzos. The puffy bhature could be crisper, yet I like the chewiness and that they don't soften as much when they cool down. The vegetable garnishes include some addictive pickled carrots and very good achar. The sliced, cold cucumbers dusted with the magic salt are fantastic when you drag them through the silky dahi (yogurt).
re: Melanie Wong
Samosas are a buck apiece, and I can't praise them enough. The crust is has an interesting pebbly, crumbly texture. Maybe it's made from gram flour? Anyway, they're different and so much better than the leaden, tough-crusted pyramidal things served elsewhere. Served dangerously hot right out of the fryer, the upper tip of the one in the photo below melted the rim. A little continer of the green mint chutney livened up with a dab of red chili sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the savory filling and slightly sweet crust.
re: Melanie Wong
For me, the bhel puri highlights how special the chaat is here. All three kinds of crunchy bits - bhel, sev and puri - couldn't be fresher and more satisfying to bite into. This is a great afternoon snack.
re: Melanie Wong
Perhaps what most endeared the lady proprietors to me was the night I dragged myself in here just before closing. Tried and bedraggled, I couldn't make up my mind what I order. After clucking her tongue and scolding me for working too hard, the counter lady said that I should have the aloo puri. It would make me feel better. And, she was absolutely right.
The aloo puri ($5.50) includes FOUR pieces of freshly fried small puri and made to order potato curry. The potato curry is not as highly seasoned as the choley. It has a warming glow rather than a spike of heat, and the rounded, roasted spicing does lend comfort. I was told to drink the broth from the bowl, and I swear it did restore me. Again, the mango achar, cucumbers, and yogurt make a cooling, contrasting flavored counterpoint.
This was my last time, in mid-January, at Chat Patta Corner. The chaat is truly excellent. What makes it even more special is the loving kindness that radiates from its kitchen.
I'm so enjoying your adventures at Indian restaurants ... from whatever region.
Thanks to that link to the Chronicle article which is a nice little overview of chaat. That along with your reports and pictures have given me a better feel for what it is. I'm direct linking that article at the end since some people don't cut and paste to follow links.
Also was glad to see Amanda Berne call papri chaat "Indian-style nachos" since that was my take on the first chaat I tried at Lovely Sweets ... makes me feel a little less dumb describing it like that.
Good post for all sorts of reasons. It reminded me to get down to Parry Farms and now I have a place to try when I'm down that way. I have yet to find a samosa that I've liked, so that will definately be something I give a try.
Will definately try that great looking falooda ... have to do my part to save the kulfi from freezer burn ... and never in a million years would I have known those were basil seeds.
Maybe the magic salt on the cucumbers is that gray salt that Berne mentions in her article.
Will have to add the gulab jamun to the things Morton recommended at Ajanta ... have to do a comparison you know. That's another thing I haven't yet found a good version of.
I wonder if they buy produce from Parry which might account for some of the freshness in the dishes.
I hope they are doing good business. Sounds like a worthy little business taking care to serve good food. Look forward to trying it and these posts will help me enjoy the food that much more. Might work this in with my annual trek to Olson Cherries ... down one side of the bay and up the other.
Great report. Thanks.
Chat Patta Corner is still going strong. We drive to Fremont to eat there a few times a month, usually to the Ardenwood location so we can sit. My favorite is the tikki chole - we tend to go for dinner, and while I crave the sweet/sour/spicy//yogurty flavor combo, I also want something hot, so a piping hot spiced mashed potato patty topped with spiced chickpeas, topped with sauces and yogurt does the trick. We'll also usually get one or two of the cold chaats (honestly, we have a hard time keeping them straight, so we order semi-randomly and have yet to be disappointed), and either a paratha or one of their simple thalis.
I'm more likely to order pani puri at the Dana Bazaar location - partly because I'm more likely to be looking for a snack than a meal, and partly because the mob of folks waiting for pani puri at Ardenwood can be a little too much when I just want dinner.
My most recent visit was a little over a year ago and the first time I've been disappointed in my selection. I tried the kachori. The puffs were not puffed at all, stale tasting and sodden with oil. I kind of ate around them, enjoying all the other chaat fixings. A younger woman helped me this time. I guess the daughters are now involved.
It's not a dish I know well, having only tried it once before in San Diego.