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Jan 2, 2008 12:34 PM

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.

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    1. re: wolfe

      Ajanta is great. They change the menu each months in order to work in as many obscure regional specialties as possible. If you subscribe to their e-newsletter, you can keep track of the menu changes.

      1. re: wolfe

        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

        1. re: janetofreno

          Thanks Janet. Chaat. How could I forget ?

          Dana Bazaar and Chaat Paradise(?) in Fremont.
          Viks in Berkeley.
          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.

            1. re: RWCFoodie

              Chaat House is on El Camino in Sunnyvale. Never eaten there. Have you ?

            2. re: osho

              "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.

              1. re: ceekskat

                ceekskat, Thanks for the name. Chaat Paradise serves pretty decent chaat, AFAIK.

              2. re: osho

                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

                Dana Bazar
                5113 Mowry Ave, Fremont, CA 94538

                Chaat Paradise
                165 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                Tabla Flavors
                6830 Village Pkwy, Dublin, CA 94568

                New Tabla
                1088 Shell Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

                4040 Pimlico Dr Ste 116, Pleasanton, CA 94588

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Don't know what I was thinking when I posted the link to Chaat House - I was thinking of Chaat Paradise and just zoned out on the city... Chaat Paradise in Mountain View is very good when you have that hankering for chaat....

                  1. re: RWCFoodie

                    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.

                    Ajanta Restaurant
                    1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                    Chaat House
                    939 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                    Shree Swaminayaran Mandir
                    25 Corning Ave, Milpitas, CA

              3. re: janetofreno

                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.

                1. 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....

            3. 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.

              7 Replies
              1. re: osho

                Looks like someone should organize a crawl in Sunnyvale...?

                1. re: osho

                  A place that deserves special mention is Dasaprakash. When I posted about my first visit there years ago, , 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.

                  Udupi Palace
                  1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  Dasaprakash Indian Restaurant
                  2636 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                  Udupi Palace
                  976 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                  341 Lafayette St #101, Santa Clara, CA

                  Udupi Palace
                  5988 Newpark Plz, Newark, CA 94560

                  1. re: osho

                    Thanks Melanie. Correction above. Dee Dee's in Mountain View serves Maharastrian cuisine from time to time.

                    1. re: osho

                      What bad thing happened at Cafe Dhaka? I've been meaning to try it since a South Indian told me it was very authentic Bengali food.

                      1. re: walker

                        Cafe Dhaka has good food, but service there can be very slow sometimes. It's well worth trying, but don't go if you're pressed for time.


                        1. re: walker

                          Adding the link...

                          Cafe Dhaka
                          3284 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051

                        2. Tirupathi Bhimas also serves Andhra cuisine.


                          Tirupathi Bhimas
                          1208 S Abel St, Milpitas, CA 95035

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            And Tirupathi Bhimas does have Pessarattu: a plain and an Uppuma version. I've ordered it a few times and enjoyed it though I only have one other version to compare.

                            1. 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 -

                              1. 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.

                                1. re: osho

                                  The first Sunday of the month features Gujarati and the fourth Sunday is Kathiavadi at DeeDee's. There's a kutchi burger on the chaat menu . . . whatever that is.

                          2. 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.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Lori SF

                              Absolutely the South Bay, but don't forget about Fremont too for the highest density of Indian/South Asian on the ground.

                            2. Dosa in the mission serves south indian food. I've only been there once and it's good. I wouldn't say it's great, but that's because I compare all south indian food to my mom's, which is unbeatable. But, if you judge by crowds and buzz, it's got both.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kumarc

                                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).