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Indian food in San Diego

What is your favorite Indian restaurant in San Diego? I'm looking for an Indian restaurant that has a pretty nice atmosphere and where you can sit down and enjoy a great meal. I don't want reccomendations for fast food Indian.

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  1. It's a shame you're more interested in the atmosphere, the best stuff I've found is at casual places like Surati Farsan or Punjabi Tandoor. Taste of India, down in Mission Hills near El Indio, is pretty decent, if pricey, though I don't think it holds a candle to the aforementioned casual spots.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh

      I concur. Surati Farsan is probably the best Indian place I've been in San Diego with Punjabi Tandoor a close second. The Indian food here is pretty weak and in my experience you're not going to find a really nice Indian restaurant. That said, it's not like the atmosphere at Surati Farsan or Punjabi Tandoor is like walking in to a McDonald's.

    2. I have to agree with Josh, it's not necessarily about the atmosphere with these places. That being said - Gourmet India on 4th downtown (near Horton Plaza) is very good.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Alice Q

        What about Bombay or Royal Exquisite India Cuisine?

        1. re: lovesfood11

          Bombay isn't bad. An Indian friend of mine who ate there gave them pretty high marks. It's pricey, but you can eat well there.

          1. re: Josh

            Yah i heard it was a little bit pricey but I'm fine with that as long as my experience is good. Would you say Bombay is the best sit down Indian in San Diego. Also if Punjabi Tandoor's a sit down place I wouldn't mind going there. I just wanted to eat at a restaurant because most likely I will be going for Indian this friday night.

            1. re: lovesfood11

              The last few times we went to Bombay (granted it was a while ago b/c there is better Indian in this town), it was on the Americanized side. Saag paneer was tasteless and dull. I remember not tasting enough spice and heat in the dishes in general.

              Punjabi Tandoor has a few tables to eat at but it is not a "sit down and they bring you the menu and food to your table" kind of place. You order at the counter off the menu on the walls, they call your number and you get it from the counter. Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils. But the food is worth it! If you are new to Indian food, this is one of the best you'll find in the city.

              Surati Farsan Mart has a very different menu than Punjabi Tandoor. They specialize in vegetarian chaat, which I liken to dim sum, tapas or izakaya dining. Order several plates to share to create a full meal. It is also sit-down but you order off the wall at the counter and then pick up your food when they call your name. The place is bigger and has a nicer ambiance than Punjabi Tandoor (ie: flat screen tvs playing Bollywood videos) if you really don't like eating at hole in the walls.

              1. re: daantaat

                Usually I don't mind eating at hole in the walls. But when I go out for dinner on Friday nights I usually like the restaurants I go to to have some kind of atmosphere. Where is Punjabi Tandoor again?

                1. re: lovesfood11

                  Punjabi Tandoor is on Activity Road, 1.5 blocks west of Black Mountain Rd. It has zero atmosphere, but the food is great. Surati Farsan Mart is on Black Mountain Road, between Miramar and Activity Rd., and is much nicer in decor than Punjabi Tandoor, though it's still very casual.

            2. re: lovesfood11

              Bombay is absolutely awful. I hope you didn't go there. We really should have walked out after they (1) offered me a bag of stale Lipton's when I asked if they had tea, and (2) served an awful "appetizer" of dried out "sliders" which I think were supposed to be lamb.

              Skip it.

          2. We've given up on indian in san diego. Bombay is run by some folks who used to live in london, so its anglicised then americanised!!

            If you're looking for a good bit of curry I really love Khyber pass in Hillcrest. The boys love the lamb dishes there and I had the veggie mix plate and it was delicious.

            The food isnt spicy-hot but its very flavorful. The atmosphere is very nice too and the service is great. They've just started doing some new desserts too, a rice pudding and a pistachio panna cotta.

            11 Replies
            1. re: jennywenny

              Have you tried either Surati Farsan or Punjabi Tandoor?

              Given the almost exclusively Indian clientele, I don't think you could call these places Anglicized or Americanized.

              1. re: Josh

                Some people consider Little India (Miramar Road at Black Mountain Road) to be "North County", out of their range. :)

                On the other hand, Khyber Pass is a decent recommendation, IMO. It is more Afghani and Turkish than Indian, IMO, but it's enough in the genre that it deserves a try. I think it gets passed over a lot on this board because it is a hybrid that doesn't fit any of the usual categories.

              2. re: jennywenny

                Ummmmm...London has the very best Indian outside of India. While there is an anglicized component (which is natural) in the usual Indian food in London, there are parts of London that are filled with tiny streetside to-go joints that cater to strictly Indian tastes and churn out food that you simply wouldn't believe.

                Upscale restos in London, such as The Red Fort, Last Days of the Raj, Bombay Brasserie and the like stand amongst the finest Indian restaurants in the world.

                It's a big mistake to dismiss an Indian owner or chef simply because he/she is from London.

                1. re: deckape

                  Jenny is from England - so I think she probably knows this. Why would you assume otherwise?

                  1. re: Alice Q

                    I assumed nothing, Alice, and only posted to her sense that it was "anglicized, then americanized". I had no particular sense or knowledge of Jenny's nationality.

                    I agree with her that giving up on Indian in SD is a temptation, I have as well for the most part. When I do go out for an Indian I keep my expectations well in check and I'm never let down. I just look forward to my trips to London to indulge and savor.

                    That said, I have no preference locally for Indian. Save for Madras and the market on Black Mtn Rd, it's all virtually the same for Indian in SD. While frustrating, it's understandable.

                  2. re: deckape

                    Hi there,
                    I didnt mean to sound all condescending! I realise London has some awesome food, having lived round the corner from brick lane for several years! It just seemed that bombay had picked up the worst of the british provincial town curry houses and everything was brightly coloured and not that good, according to a friend of mine. He said it really reminded him of a curry in the 70's back home and then he realised it totally was, as the owner had moved from there at that time.

                    Its one of those examples of cooks trying to please the local population instead of sticking to their guns and following their traditional recipes.

                    I'm always happy to try a new place though if it pops up and I love a trip to black mountain road to try the food, get some pg tips teabags and other wonderful groceries from Ker.

                    1. re: jennywenny

                      "I'm always happy to try a new place though if it pops up and I love a trip to black mountain road to try the food, get some pg tips teabags and other wonderful groceries from Ker."

                      So let me clarify - are you saying that some restaurants there are worthwhile, and that your "giving up" comment was directed towards the Indian restaurants closer to downtown? Not trying to argue; just trying to figure out where everybody stands on the issue. :)

                      At least from my (limited and fairly ignorant) perspective, it is not worth driving from UTC to anywhere other than the "Little India" area in Miramar. It does sound like if I'm stuck downtown (cough, jury duty, cough), Gourmet India might be a nice place to try for myself. During my last stay, I was anything but blown away by my visit to Monsoon - both off the menu and from the buffet.

                      1. re: RB Hound

                        I think you've hit the hammer on the nail. The places where there is an indian community and an indian restaurant nearby are absolutely great, but trying to go for an indian in hillcrest, la jolla or downtown is often a bit of a disappointment. I'm all embarrassed now, as I'm no connoseur of indian food, but a lot of the other food in San Diego is so exceptional that I usually wait until I go back to Birmingham, UK to get my fix at our local balti house.

                    2. re: deckape

                      I'd throw Singapore in there for Indian food too. (response to deckape)

                    3. re: jennywenny

                      I love Khyber Pass too. It is Afghan food, so it has different seasonings and preparations, but it is quite good.

                      1. re: jennywenny

                        If you like Khyber Pass I highly recommend Pamir House in Poway which has excellent Afghan food. Just went there last week again and it is was good as ever.


                      2. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to go shopping at Ker & Little India on Black Mountain Road off of Miramar and then have lunch at Ashoka. In fact, there are several good places in that little strip mall area. And, even the buffet, which I usually don't care for, is very good at Ashoka.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sandiegofoodstuff

                          I've found the food at Ashoka disappointing. I've had some of the worst lamb ever there. I really enjoy Madras across the parking lot form Ashoka. It's southern Indian and vegetarian.

                          My favorite is Punjabi Tandoor, but I haven't tried Surati Farsan yet.

                        2. If you aren't opposed to the Indian food at places like Bombay I highly recommend checking out Monsoon downtown if you want ambiance. The menu is far more diverse, spicy, and interesting than Bombay. They try to pull in the Gaslamp crowd with cocktails and martinis and such, but the food is still very good for the style.

                          I love the little places on Black Mountain Rd, especially because there are several styles available, but none of them are really somewhere you want to be on a Friday night.

                          1. Do not go to Bombay. One of the worst restaurant meals ever, and not inexpensive. We were actually ashamed that we hadn't walked out after the appetizer.

                            1. I've had a good meals at Bombay and found the ambiance and service to be fine. I think the experience could be improved at other places, but I'm not sure where. I've heard both good and mediocre things about Masala in the Gaslamp. I think the latter part might be the drawback for some people. I sense that there's just a rampant distrust of Gaslamp restaurants--now more than ever.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: gpdexter

                                Any restaurant can have an off night. It's usually best not to assume any one negative experience is representative. Bombay has been in business for more than 10 years, it's hard to believe they'd still be around if they were as bad as mlgb is making out.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  If you tell the waitress that the lamb is as hard as a piece of shoe leather, do you think they should do more than offer an equally awful free dessert? If you ask for tea, and after hunting around in the back, they offer you a bag of Lipton, what kind of Indian restaurant do you presume this is? The mains weren't much of an improvement. Perhaps you would go back and give them another chance, but I certainly wouldn't and I wouldn't wish them on anyone else, either. I can't honestly think of an Indian restuarant, or any other restaurant, that was as totally disappointing. We passed a Baja Fresh after dinner and were sorry we didn't eat there. Or even McDonalds. Believe me, they are every bit as bad as I said. I suspect they survive based on atmosphere and a lack of alternatives, which seems evident from the responses above.

                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    Like I said, any restaurant can have an off night. I don't go to Bombay because there are better options close to where I live, but when I have eaten there I didn't have the experience you're describing.

                                    I do know that if I had some lamb that was tough, I probably wouldn't tell the server that it's as hard as shoe leather, though. There are more diplomatic ways to express your displeasure.

                                    You're probably right, though. Had I only been once, and my meal been as bad as you describe, I'd be disinclined to go back. That said, I'd also be fully cognizant that it might have been an off night, and I probably wouldn't vent my spleen about it on the intertubes based on only one meal.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      How about :"It was a little dry?"

                                      1. re: mlgb

                                        I've had the same problem (though not at Bombay). It was very bizarre. At India Princess (also in Hillcrest) I had some lamb that was so tough it was inedible. I said something about it to our server, and he took the dish away. I assumed it would simply be removed from the bill, but about 10 minutes later he returned with the chef in tow, who presented us with a new bowl of the lamb, with whipped cream on top of it. He then stood over us while we sampled it to make sure it was OK. It was much better, but the whole experience was so disconcerting I've never gone back. I still don't know wtf the deal was with the whipped cream, either.

                                        1. re: Josh

                                          I would have been happier if that had happened. The server didn't check back within a reasonable amount of time. I don't even think she asked, I think we mentioned it, as in, "You know, that really wasn't very good." We should have just left immediately after the Lipton incident but were too hungry after a day at the zoo.

                                  2. re: gpdexter

                                    It depends on how authentic you want your food to be. In my 2 visits, service at Bombay was decent and the ambience is nice. However, the food was bad. I don't think it can be written off as a bad night. We ordered 2 curries - the 'vindaloo' and 'tikka masala'. The sauce in both was the same color - an unnatural shade of red. The flavors stood apart, rather than blended in, which is a key element of Indian food cooked correctly. Also, the roti was made of all-purpose flour rather than whole wheat flour, which is what they use at good Indian places (and in India!). Overall, not worth the money. I would probably not go there even if someone else was buying the meal.
                                    A better option near Bombay is India Princess. Again, not great, but better food than Bombay, and far more economical.

                                  3. Overall, do not expect good authentic Indian food in San Diego. I am relatively new to the town but have spent a lot of time trying Indian food and asking for recommendations from long-time residents of the area who are Indian. Based on a combination of feedback and experience, I can suggest
                                    - Madras Cafe on Black Mountain road for South Indian food. The food lacks the fire of classic South Indian food, but remains the best option I have found so far.
                                    - Surti Farsan which ithers have discussed in this thread has decent Gujarati food, Avoid their sweets however - they use milk powder instead of real milk for their 'pedas' and the result is a hard crumbly mass.
                                    - Star of India in Del Mar - I have yet to try it, but many Indians I know in San Diego claim that it is the pick of the lot for North Indian food. However, they add in the same breath that the closest authentic Indian food is to be found on Pioneer Blvd in LA...

                                    Star of India
                                    3860 Valley Centre Dr Ste 401, San Diego, CA 92130

                                    Madras Cafe
                                    9484 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92126

                                    Surati Farsan Mart
                                    9494 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92126

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsit

                                      Is Surati Farsan Gujarati or Rajasthani type Indian food?

                                      1. re: DougOLis

                                        They have Gujarati speciaties - khandvi, sev khamani, khichadi-matho. They also serve some Gujarati curries and have a pre-fixe Gujarati 'thali'. I dont recall any traditional Rajasthani food on their menu, but their specials change daily and I may have missed some. The farsan is also Gujarati. They have some generic Indian snacks like kachori and samosas as well as South Indian dishes. The staff manning the counters was mostly Gujarati.

                                        1. re: ipsit

                                          Ahh, I was thinking that thali was a Rajasthani cuisine. I don't really know the differences between all the types of Indian cuisines so I'll take your word for it. How do they differ?

                                          1. re: DougOLis

                                            Thali just means the way food is served in an assortment of little bowls on a tray (sort of the way bento means the Japanese lunch boxes). It is used in all kinds of regional cuisines.

                                            1. re: DougOLis

                                              As 'mlgb' said, thali translates as 'plate' - consists of a pre-fixe meal with a large plate and several different dishes in little bowls. It is a way of serving - does not refer to any cuisine per se - There are Rajasthani, Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Punjabi thalis (and many others).
                                              Usually a thali will include 2-3 curries, a dal (lentil curry), some salad, rice, bread(chapati/naan/roti etc). Often, pickles, pappadums, yogurt, savory snacks(samosas, pakodas etc) are included. There's usually a dessert too. How many different things you get in a thali can vary and depends entirely on the restaurant and how much you pay.

                                              1. re: ipsit

                                                Thanks, but I was less asking about what thali is and more what the differences is are between Rajasthani and Gujarati.

                                        2. re: ipsit

                                          Did you try Punjabi Tandoor?

                                          I wouldn't expect much more than what you got at Bombay or India Princess at Star of India...

                                          1. re: mikec

                                            Haven't tried it yet - in fact I did not know where it was exactly until recently - plan on trying it this weekend and reporting back