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Jul 5, 2008 11:13 AM

Komala Vilas report (Sunnyvale)

KV came highly recommended from a friend of mine who's a superb South Indian cook, She described waiters walking around and ladling stuff onto plates, the way they would in India - I don't know if this only happens at lunch, or during the week, but when Cicely and I went, you had to order and pay at a counter, and pick up your order when they call your name.

I really liked everything I tried, although I did hit carb overload halfway through my dosa.
1) Uppma - I could eat this all day - super-buttery, well balanced spicing. It came with a coconut chutney (with a brighter, fresher mint note than most), and a sambar.

2) Masala dosa thali - this was a little odd - instead of serving the dosa with the spiced potatoes wrapped inside, the potatoes came on the side, along with another side of fried cubed potatoes, and some potato chips. This came with a really delicious curd rice, and a good sambar rice. The dosa itself is flavorful, if not quite as crisp as I'd like. So, on one plate, that makes 3 types of potato, 2 types of rice, and a dosa (all this after splitting an order of ghee-soaked cream of wheat). Plus more coconut chutney, sambar, and a little bit of excellent achar.

I would have killed for some green vegetables, but that was a problem Cicely and I ran into in India as well - every so often we'd luck into a veg thali that had a thimbleful of stunningly delicious okra or greens... and then we'd go down another stretch of nothing but carbs and fat.

I liked this place and would like to go back when I figure out when they do the ladling thing. I will say that it was more expensive than I'd expected - three masala dosa thalis, plus an order of uppma, and three filter coffees (not as rich or intense as the ones we loved so much in Tamil Nadu, but per Cicely, much better than other ones she's had in the States) came out to $45 or so.

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  1. Ok, this sounds seriously interesting.

    Searching around on the web, it seems it is Tamil cuisine ... it's part of that business of ladeling stuff on plates. From wiki ...

    "Thalis in some restaurant's may include "bottom-less" refills on all components of food, the idea is that one eats until fully satisfied. Such thalis are referred to as 'unlimited' thalis. In some places the term means that everything in the plate excepting a few items like the Sweet or Vada is open to unlimited helpings."

    It would seem from their website that lunch is the time to go when they serve food "Kalyana sappadu style "

    They also serve breakfast ... which has a positive mentions. Not a big breakfast menu. Dinner seems the time to avoid the place as this blog indicates ... but lots of people seem not to like the dinner there.

    That blog mentions the coffee which has its own regional variation. From this link on Tamil cuisine ...

    "Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, is famous for its filter coffee ... The preparation of filter coffee is almost like a daily chore, the coffee beans have to be first roasted and then ground. The coffee powder is then put into a filter set and hot boiled water is added to prepare the boiling and allowed to set for about 15 minutes. The decoction is then added to milk with sugar to taste. The drink thus prepared is then poured from one container to another in rapid succession to make the perfect frothy cup of filter coffee.:

    Don't know if it is like this at Kmala Vilas ... but some people have said the coffee is good there.

    Maybe your friend can confirm if this is Tamil cuisine.

    Komala Vilas
    1020 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

    1. well, to be fair, the only other filter coffee I'd had here at that point was at Madras Cafe. Really weak.

      Curd rice is deceptively simple. It's not just a matter of dumping yogurt onto Basmati rice (as I discovered in my kitchen) ... more like a tangy (and cold) risotto. It's really soothing and refreshing. There's some subtle spicing, at least I think there was at KV.

      I thought we had pongal rather than upma... ??? anyway, I had the same thing at Saravana Bhavan a few days later and it wasn't as flavorful as KV's.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cicely

        My girls had the curd rice for dinner yesterday as it has been so hot. The seasoning is a basic S.Indian formula of heating tsp. or two of oil* & when hot but not smoking, add some mustard seeds until it begins to pop, then add split gram dhal/urad, few curry leaves, minced ginger & chopped green chilies to taste and mix well with yogurt rice. I served the rice with some beans (chopped small) using similar seasoning*: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, & curry leaves. In the beans case, I season first, then add beans & stir fry until tender. *enough oil to lightly coat food a la roasted potatoes

        Funny, as an S.Indian growing up in Waco, Texas my friends always assumed I had delicious "curry" for dinner. I remember being frustrated that "they didn't understand my food." As many people know now, S.Indian is very different from N.Indian food. Gotta love both!

        rworange - yes Komala Vilas is a Tamilian restaurant. BTW, I thought you didn't like Indian. LOL. Your knowledge of various cuisines astounds me (as well as some other hounds on this board)!

        daveena - Impressive that you've travelled to Madurai, my father's hometown (& mine for first 8 yrs) and tasted some of the foods probably even I haven't! (From the Roti parata post). Now that I'm a chowhound, I am going to be fearless on my next visit:-)

        1. re: ceekskat

          Thanks for the recipe! There's something about the combination of mustard seeds and curry leaves that really resonates with me... I can't get enough of it. Will be making some curd rice sometime this week, thx!

      2. The service your friend described is available only at lunch time.

        The meal basically consists of three courses with rice - 1. Sambar - similar to that available in other Southern Indian states, 2. Rasam - which is a thin seasoned lentil curry and 3. Thayir - which is spiced or plain buttermilk.

        And there's usually a couple of sides like greens or beans, et al - all of which is unlimited in quantity.

        And yes, this is indeed *the* place for food from Tamil Nadu. Dinner time offerings are not as exciting, as I remember it.

        1. Last week I finally had a chance to try Komala Vilas, sliding in just before the 2:30pm end of lunch service. My heart sank when I saw the sign by the door that customers needed to be seated 15 minutes before closing time. But no worries, I was waved in and pointed to the counter to order and pay. Lunch thali is $10 and was brought to my table.

          Since I was the last and only customer, I did not request seconds of anything. But this was more than enough to eat as it was. The chana sundal was a little too firm for my taste and the pickle was too far toward the scent of drain cleaner but other than that, everything was very good. The sambar was a lighter style and chockful of fresh vegetables. I would have welcomed more of the okra in coconut curry or the pureed mustard greens. The very spicy spoonful of chatni packed a wallop. And I was appreciative of ghee for my rice.