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Aug 17, 2008 08:26 PM

I dream of Rangoli Sweets

i am an la hound who visits the bay area every once in a while. no offense to anyone, but i stick to indian food when i am in the south bay. we get good indian food in los angeles, but the bay area is just phenomenal.

to cut a long story short, on my next-to-last visit, one of my friends offered mithai (indian sweets) from this store called rangoli. it was really good and warranted more attention. caveat: i haven't visited any other strictly indian sweet shop in the bay area (nor do I know of any). also, i am excluding all stores/restaurants who sell chaat (fast/street food) along with an assortment of basic indian sweets.

rangoli sweets is punjabi-owned, but their usp is their rendition of classic bengali sweets such as chamcham, malai sandwich, sandesh, gulab jamun sandwich and a whole lot of other sweets - almost impossible to find here. most of these sweets are made from a single ingredient - khoya (product obtained upon prolonged open heating of milk) with sugar, and a combination of dry fruits. this is to give you a general idea and quite frankly i don't know the intricacies of sweet making.

gosh each and everyone of the sweets i have tried so far is excellent. usually the problem with indian sweets at least in the us is they are too sweet, or are made from inferior ingredients, or the process lacks the detail of the old country. rangoli has certainly got the right formula - perfect sweetness accompanied with a freshness almost always lacking in most indian sweet stores. people, i kid you not, RUN to rangoli if you haven't. IT IS THAT GOOD. for the last seven days, it has been pure bliss, and soon i am going to run out of this other-worldly godliness.

other notes:
lately, i have tried dasaprakash (good overall, but not great) and saravana bhavan (frankly overrated or mediocre). however, i love madras cafe (weird hours, closed in the afternoons). great sambars, rasam (though i think its tomato, and i prefer tamarind) chutneys, and i absolutely love their spicy kara dosa (crepe which is lined with a spicy chutney on the inside). the uttapams, idlis and vadas are also good. haven't tried udupi place (or palace?). also tried atithdi which is andhra pradesh-style food. super fiery chicken chili, chicken 65 and andhra-style chicken fy. this is good stuff folks, and i bet you are lucky you can try it here in the states. they also serve bad Indian beers (all indian beers, imho are BAD). i still have to try annapoorna for the same dishes (have to keep something for the next trip!).

north indian/pakistani:
i love the naan-n-curry at o'farrell in sf. their lamb chops are made by the devil himself with the intent to enslave mankind. the lamb karahi is another favorite of mine, along with gobi chicken. however, avoid their chicken tandoori/tikka - i find too dry. shalimar is good (leg quarters are great, curries are ok) - though I haven't tried the bheja fry (which I hear is their usp). kebabs-and-curry is an absolute monster hit imo. terrific kababs (again very good lamb chops and great chicken leg quarters), curries are great (chicken karahi - you may have guessed I am a karahi fan). i won't talk of the lamb biryani, because the biryani discussion is worthy of a paragraph. i am not a huge buffet fan per se, but turmeric is pretty solid, if not great, though I tend to think that buffets are not great in general.

lamb biryani: we tried two different renditions during our last trip:
1. annapoorna: by and far favorite. terrific rice, chunks of meat, spiced perfectly!
2. atitdhi: rice was flavorful, but very little meat, and spicing was nothing spectacular.
3. kebab-n-curry: close second to annapoorna. good stuff, but i think annapoorna takes the cake!
chicken biryani:
1. spice hut: our hosts love spice hut but it was way off. the rice was flavorful, the chicken dry and wasn't spiced adequately.
2. kebabs-n-curry: definitely way better than spice hut (sample size of one story).

what i haven't found in the bay area is good chaat. the chaat house on el camino (tried a couple of those) are mediocre. i haven't made the trip to vic's in berkeley as yet. i think chaat is the only arena where socal rocks thanks to surati farsan mart in artesia.

fwiw, i hope you guys find this summary useful!

Rangoli Sweets
1584 Halford Ave, Santa Clara CA, 95051.

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  1. Thanks for the very nice report.Seems like some good tips in there.

    Where is atitdhi located? Is kebabs-n-curry different from kebab-n-curry ... or is it the name in the link below.

    I've been reading some very mixed reports about Rangoli on the web. Eithrer you have lucked out or perhaps you need to stick to the Bengali items.

    Have you tried the mithai or chaat at Lovely Sweets in Sunnyvale?

    Don't they also have a dining room and serve savory snacks such as samosas, rasogollas (sweet cottage cheese steamed dumplings) and veggie cutlets?

    Or have you tried Passage to India Bakery in Mountain View?

    I'm really new to mithai and Passage to India was the first place I ever had them. They were so good I try them whenever I see them though none has ever matched those from this Bakery. Like you mentioned they were not overly sweet.

    Lovely Sweets had ok mithai, but their chaat was what impressed me. However, keep in mind I have little experience in this area. Just that Passage to India was so good it made me a fan and on a search if I could find any better.

    Madras Cafe
    1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

    Joe's Restaurant
    1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

    Turmeric Restaurant
    141 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

    Kabab & Curry's
    1498 Isabella St, Santa Clara, CA 95050

    Rangoli Sweets
    1584 Halford Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95051

    573 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      I Think the OP was referring to Athidhi in Sunnyvale.

      727 South Wolfe Road, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

    2. Thanks for the summary!

      Two more for you to try:

      A (South Indian) friend of mine raved about lunch at Komala Vilas in Sunnyvale, a Tamil restaurant where waiters walk around and ladle stuff onto your plate. I tried dinner there, which was cafeteria-style (and limited to starch-heavy items like dosa and pongal, none of the veg dishes you would find at lunchtime) - it was good but a little more expensive than I'd expected. I would love to try it for lunch one day, though.

      I wasn't blown away by the chaat at Vic's, but I was very impressed by the pani puri at Chat Patta Corner in Fremont - it's also closer to the South Bay than Berkeley is. It's a little chaat stall in a grocery store - if you order the pani puri, the woman waits until there are a few of you, then lines you up and makes them one by one (six to an order), ensuring that the shell of each one is super-crisp.

      Chat Patta Corner
      34751 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555

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

      7 Replies
      1. re: daveena

        There are two locations of Chat Patta Corner. The one you linked to is not in a grocery store, but has its own storefront in a small strip mall. The location you described is in Dana Bazar, an Indian market. Same recipes and owners for both spots, two sisters I believe. I prefer the Ardenwood location because it has tables and chairs and I don't have to worry about knocking over any merchandise.

        Dana Bazar
        5113 Mowry Ave, Fremont, CA 94538

        1. re: daveena

          thanks, xiao you are right, i was referring to athidhi in sunnyvale. thanks, rworange for your comments, and yes, i was talking about the kabab & currys located on isabella in santa clara.

          i haven't tried the passage to india bakery, but will certainly do so on my next visit. i have only tried their egg-free cake at a birthday party, and it was passable. incidentally, while driving to rangoli, i did notice lovely sweets. they had a guy standing outside making pani puri. it definitely aroused my curiosity.

          i may have just lucked out at rangoli - they do have a dining room next door (iirc), and they do sell samosas and other stuff, but i didn't find it tempting enough. the bengali sweets - now that's a completely different story.

          on another note, i was at an event where the food was catered by amber india restaurant (mountain view and san jose, this event was catered by the mountain view kitchen). overall, the food was ok, but the dum aloo bukhara was outstanding (to quote their website: "danish potatoes stuffed with mint and apricot chutney and cooked in rich gravy"). in the future, i may visit amber only for this entree.

          daveena, thanks for your recommendations, i had heard of chat patta corner, but somehow haven't made the trip to fremont so far. i will make it a point to go - it seems as though they are trying to recreate the chaat experience to the fullest extent (i.e. wait until there are enough customers). wow. komala vilas and udupi palace are also on my to-do list.

          i don't know what you guys think of shiva's in mountain view (castro). i went there once for buffet based on strong recommendations from folks i trust, but thought it was a bit of a letdown.

          1. re: losfelizhound

            Did you catch this recent thread about Dosa Palace

            Amber India Restaurant
            2290 El Camino Real Suite 9, Mountain View, CA 94040

            Shiva's Indian Restaurant
            800 California St Ste 100, Mountain View, CA 94041

            1. re: rworange

              thanks for the tip on dosa palace. that makes its three: dosa palace, udupi palace, and as cicely recommends below: komala vilas!

              based on rworange's statement "I've been reading some very mixed reports about Rangoli on the web.", i googled, and found some reviews on yelp, which point to condescending attitude of the owner (not surprising), and in general, a lack of customer service. i did not find any which considered the product to be of low quality.

              customer service in indian restaurants/stores in the united states is usually a joke with rare exceptions of stellar customer service. i wouldn't generalize, but my experience with servers in india, was the exact opposite.

              cicely: what would you say is the difference between the coffee you had madras cafe versus what you had in the city of madras, aka chennai?

              p.s. cicely: i agree with "“The taste and texture of face creams belongs in the boudoir, not on the plate". note: my threshold for "sweet" maybe higher! :)

              1. re: rworange

                Just had a disappointing dinner at Shiva's. Everything was tired and dry (like bad leftovers): dum lamb biryani, rice, poori, and 3 apps. The naan was the only thing that tasted fresh. Probably the second-worst Indian dinner I've ever had in the South Bay, and we eat a lot of Indian food. (The worst was Bombay Oven on Stevens Creek, but surprisingly, I see lots of cars there.)

            2. re: daveena

              daveena, Chat Patta Corner rocked my socks off.

              I visited it a few months ago - it was phenomenal. Now here is my comparison of Surati Farsan Mart (Artesia, CA) versus Chatpatta Corner (Fremont, CA).

              To read on further, note: pani is the water-based cold soup, puri is the deep-fried, puffed wheat-based 3d dorito-like thing (thanks to modernist, for this), stuffing mixture usually involves boiled lentils and potato, and chutneys, are usually sweet and sour in taste.

              SFM is like gourmet street food. You get your puris, pani, chutneys, and the stuffing mixture in separate containers. Then you mix it all up yourself, i.e. you add the stuffing mixture, and the chutneys to the puri, dunk the puri in the pani and go gulp. Bliss.

              CC on the other hand, has a pani-puri maker. So he mixes the stuffing, asks you for the chutneys you like, then puts them (i.e. stuffing, and chutneys) in the puri, dunks the puri in the pani and serves it to you, then you go gulp. Bliss, again.

              IMO, the key difference here is that the pani-puri maker mixes the chutneys, in the pani, and over time, the pani's taste is constantly altered, due to the addition of chutneys, and this creates an effect, which SFM can't match, because the pani is left "pure". However, SFM's pani is quite unique - it has flavors, that either are missing or not easily decipherable in CC perhaps due to the constant addition. However, when the pani-puri maker asks "one more plate?", it is surrealistic - like you travel thousands of miles, and a few decades (there, I give away my age) within a few seconds, and ask yourself "is this for real?", and your response is (and should be for how good it is): "yes, please".

              So in summary, CC is an uber-authentic experience and SFM is "gourmet"experience. However, both are doing a spectacular job for what they serve.

              Also, in that trip, I made a brief visit to Lovely Sweets and Snacks for paranthas - and they were quite good. I will do the rounds of Komala Vilas in the future. Thanks a lot!

              Dana Bazar
              5113 Mowry Ave, Fremont, CA 94538

              Lovely Sweets & Snacks
              41031 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538

              1. re: losfelizhound

                Just saw this - so glad you loved it! I love your description of the way the flavor alters from piece to piece, and the transporting qualities of the pani puri - there really is something about them where everything around you kind of melts away and your entire world becomes encased in that tiny shell.

            3. wow, I'm really excited by this review of Rangoli. I've never much liked Indian sweets (one-dimensionally sweet), but Daveena and I went to this place in Chennai, India, that was just amazing ( and had fresh, warm, spiced jamun. Actually, that place seemed exceptional even in India; we tried other sweet shops in other towns and never encountered that level of freshness and flavor.

              I've tried rasmalai from Passage to India and was unimpressed. I'm not a connoisseur of rasmalai, but they fell perfectly within my original assessment of Indian sweets. Too sweet, and with a weird rubbery texture. Plus, you can't buy just a couple but have to get a whole box.

              I'd like to find more (and better) South Indian food in South Bay. I consider Madras Cafe barely decent. The flavors are just really dull, and the coffee is awful. Saravana Bhavan is okay, and Komila Vilas is good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cicely

                Have you tried Spice Hut for south-indian food?

                As for sweets, there are a few sweet-makers like rangoli, raja sweets, passage to india , etc which supply to sweet-shops all over the bay-area, even upto sacramento. That is the reason sweets have a similar taste , and also taste stale at all the places that sell them. There are very few sweetshops that make good quality sweets for their limited consumption.
                My personal fav for fresh sweets is in berkeley

                Spice Hut
                594 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                India Chaat & Sweets Indian
                824 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

              2. Bengali sweets like rasmalai, rosogulla and chamcham are made of "chaina" aka paneer. Gulabjamuns are made of mawa.

                If you are looking for chaat , which tastes like the chaat @ Rasraj or Surati farsan, try Milan in Milpitas . All these have a gujarati twist to their chaat, very sweet, not spicy and lacking in salt. If you like khandvi, Milan is the place .
                For a good punjabi-style chaat, try New India chaat cafe, also in Milpitas.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JiyoHappy

                  here are the links

                  Milan Sweet Center
                  296 S Abel St, Milpitas, CA

                  New India Chaat Cafe
                  454 S Main St, Milpitas, CA 95035

                2. Next time, try Chaat Paradise. Their chaat baskets and masala poori are terrific!

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