Regional Indian in the Bay Area (enough Punjab already!)
I have been cooking the sumptious recipes of Monisha Bharadwaj's "India's Vegeterian Cooking"... and have fallen in love with the some of the regional specialties I rarely find in restaurants. So I am wondering - given the large Indian population in the Bay Area - where I can go taste them first hand from an Indian cook.
Two dishes I particularly like are:
> Cauliflower Sukke - A curry made with coconut, tamarind, jagger, arbol chiles, tumeric & fenugreek that is from Karnataka
> Pessaratu - A lentil pancake made with mung beans, serrano chiles, onions, coriander, cilantro leaves & cumin that is from Andhra Pradesh
But please don't limit the recommendations to those two styles of cooking... I just want to get beyond the same 100 or so Punjab & Maharashtrian dishes that seem to always end up on Indian menus.
With all due respect, I don't see much on that menu that varies from the usual fare...with the possible exception of a Goan dish or two. I've eaten at Ajanta, and not been overly impressed.
Vik's in Berkeley is definitely different from the usual (its Mumbai-style chaat, or street food), so try eating your way through their menu (especially on weekends). Lots of posts here on Vik's.
But your best bet is to cultivate some Indian friends. In general, home cooking is far superior to restaurants when it comes to Indian cuisine....
Vik's Chaat House
2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
"Another place - in the strip mall right after the 85 exit ramp off El Camino in Mountain View. I can't recall the name now, or if it still exists."
I believe this is Chaat Paradise...same complex as the Burger King.
There's also Tabla Flavors who may have pesarratu since it is an Andhra place.
The twin of Dana Bazar (sic) is Chat Patta Corner with the latter having tables and chairs so you can take a seat to eat. I much prefer the chaat offerings to Vik's, though the kind ladies who run these places are Punjabi I believe and might not be what EN is seeking.
I agree with ceekskat that Chaat Paradise is probably the place you're thinking of in Mountain View.
Chat Patta Corner
34751 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555
5113 Mowry Ave, Fremont, CA 94538
165 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040
6830 Village Pkwy, Dublin, CA 94568
1088 Shell Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404
4040 Pimlico Dr Ste 116, Pleasanton, CA 94588
No worries, I'm hoping someone can tell us more about Chaat House as it hasn't been mentioned much on this board.
Another spot worth mentioning is Shayona Snacks & Catering located in the Shree Swaminayaran Mandir temple in Milpitas for guju snacks.
1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
939 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Shree Swaminayaran Mandir
25 Corning Ave, Milpitas, CA
The OP was looking for regional cuisine beyond Punjab and Maharashtrian dishes. In the past year, Ajanta has featured dishes from Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Kashmir, and Pakistan, as well as traditional Mughlai dishes. The owners travels to different regions of India each year for inspiration.
I know you had one unimpressive meal there a couple of years ago. I've been eating at Ajanta regularly for five years. Although I have had a handful of clunker dishes, most of what I've eaten at Ajanta is better than what is offered by most of the sit-down Indian restaurants in the Bay Area and Los Angeles (I consider chaat houses such as Viks to be in a different category of restaurants altogether).
I don't want to build up Ajanta *too* much. The food is good, often unique, and sometimes great, but it rarely blows my mind. If I was a visitor in the Bay Area for a couple of days it wouldn't make my list. Regardless, someone looking for less common regional Indian cuisine (who doesn't have access to home cooking) should consider subscribing to their newsletter, or occasionally checking the (always accurate) on-line menu for dishes of interest.
re: Morton the Mousse
Actually, I've eaten there more than once, but the last time was probably two years ago. And I don't want to knock Ajanta that much because I admire any place that varies the menu and tries to put different regional dishes on from time to time. But the menu I looked at on the website looked pretty heavy on the North Indian variety. In my experience, there really isn't much difference between the food you get in Rajastan and that from Punjab....its all milder than the more Southern varieties and meat-centric. (and yes, I've traveled in those areas....)
Frankly, I haven't found a sit down Indian restaurant anywhere in California that comes close to what is served in my sister-in-law's house everyday...or even some of the dishes that come out of my own kitchen:-) And that's really my point....the best cooks from India unfortunately have not opened restaurants in this country.
To the OP: There are several good South Indian places in the South Bay, or so I hear...I never head down that way but I'm sure other hounds will chime in here with ideas. South Indian food is definitely different, and there are those of us who prefer it to anything from the north....
I can point out some places serving regional specialties. Unfortunately, I cannot readily recommend most of these places, because they are simply not consistent, but I suppose no harm in trying your luck, really.
Udupi Palace - food from Karnataka (South) - locations in Berkeley and Sunnyvale
Spice Hut - features some food from Kerala (South) - locations in Sunnyvale and Fremont
Sarvana Bhavan, Komala Vilas - food from Tamil Nadu (South) - Sunnyvale
Banjara, Annapoorna - food from Andhra (South) - Sunnyvale
Sultan in SF sometimes has Gujarati Muslim dishes.
Cafe Dhaka in Sunnyvale has Bangla style food - I had a terrible experience there though.
I think Melanie posted a while back about Sue's Kitchen serving Maharashtrian cuisine.I have never been.
Niloufer King sometimes organizes Parsi dinner events in SF and I think at Chez Panisse on the Parsi New Year's Day. They are pricy though, at around $120 per head.
Food from other states like Uttar Pradesh (melt in the mouth kababs from Lucknow) and Madhya Pradesh is just not available. Maybe other 'hounds can educate us.
Alas, AFAIK, not a single place serves a "propah" thali, like the one at Quilon in Central London.
A place that deserves special mention is Dasaprakash. When I posted about my first visit there years ago, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/18732 , I got an email from Jonathan Gold that I needed to try the pesseret.
I've not been to Udupi Palace in Sunnyvale or Berkeley for a long time, mostly because the Newark location is reputed to be the best of the three. There was one in Livermore, don't know if it's still there.
DeeDee's is the place with the Maharastrian spread once a month. The cooks there are Guju, but they feature other regions on some Sundays.
1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Dasaprakash Indian Restaurant
2636 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051
976 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
341 Lafayette St #101, Santa Clara, CA
5988 Newpark Plz, Newark, CA 94560
re: Nathan P
Here's a photo of the plain pesarattu filled with red onions, fresh ginger, jalapeno peppers, shallots, herbs at TB. It's accompanied by sambar, coconut chutney, and the addictive tomato chutney.
Image of plain pesarattu -
For "osho", Tirupathi Bhimas makes my favorite thali, which come in spicy Andhran and non-spicy versions. Much fresher and lighter tasting. The non-spicy is still full-flavored, but does not have the mindblowing Andrhan heat . . . one of the waiters there once confided in me that the spicy one is can be too hot for him too sometimes. I like the variety of vegetables used (e.g., black radish, gongura, beet, bottle gourd, drumsticks, okra) and the different preps. I will usually ask what's in the thali before ordering it here, but it usually always appeals with kozhambu, majjiga, kootu, poriyal, avial, etc. made with those veggies, plus various types of dal, a sweet, and rasam and sambar.
Image of "non-spicy" thali -
More photos from Bhimas -
re: Melanie Wong
I ate at Bhima's around the time it first opened back in 2005. I must have had the non-spicy version, because I thought the food bordered on the insipid. Maybe some teething troubles back then.
Also, I should clarify that the thali I am hankering for is probably Gujarati or Kutchi food.
Becareful to close your spice cabinets with a earthquake secure vice.. my Indian spices went flying out of the cabinets in the 1994 earthquake in LA and my kitchen never recovered from smells and stains.
What I know is the South Bay is the area. I do not recall a particular spot but I will get the recommendations that I once had again and post them.
IMHO, Dosa was excellent on all counts when it first opened in early 2006. Last time I went with a group of friends, I came to the conclusion that it's turned into a trendy hipster spot. Nothing wrong with that, just that the food is more expensive and I thought the quantities of food were reduced.
Also, Sultan in SF has introduced Dosas very recently. I had some at the buffet a couple of weeks ago, and I would say they provide an excellent alternative to Dosa (the restaurant).