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Spicy Leaves - Sri Lankan/Indian in Los Altos

  • m
  • mdg May 2, 2009 09:39 PM

Spicy Leaves opened last month in Los Altos. They advertise as an Indian restaurant, but the chef is from Sri Lanka and the menu has several Sri Lankan dishes that we focused on for our first visit.

The Fish Patties Sri Lankan Style came with a great "sweet & spicy tomato sauce". The patties themselves were good but a bit underspiced to my taste, but when combined with the sauce they were delightful. Both our entrees were real winners. Haran's Special Chicken Curry (Sri Lankan Style) is a pair of drumsticks in a nice complex sauce. The sauce featured the namesake "spicy leaves" - but unlike other places which let curry leaves totally dominate a dish, here they were well integrated into a more complex whole. Dum ki aloo was six potatoes served in a rich onion/tomato gravy; we didn't ask but I suspect coconut milk may have been involved here as well. They had sold out of their Sri Lankan coconut cream caramel dessert; maybe next time.

While the menu has several greatest-hits northern dishes, the southern dishes are the focus. There are many dishes on the menu that are not very commonly offered in this area (yet), so I am looking forward to exploring in more depth. They do not have a liquor license yet, but the mango lassi was very nice - quite rich in body, but not too sweet.

This is a very welcome addition to the Los Altos restaurant scene! They are in the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of El Camino and San Antonio, in the spot that used to be a very sub-par Indian restaurant. What a turnaround - delicious cooking and a menu that brings much-needed variety to the area. Check it out!

Michael

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Spicy Leaves Indian Cuisine
4546 El Camino Real #A5, Los Altos, CA

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  1. Somehow I missed this review, you are right about the "much-needed variety". Thanks for the report.

    1. We have been back several more times over the past month, and some of the other menu highlights have been:

      - Pumpkin carrot soup. Very nicely spiced and extremely appetizing.
      - Mulligatawny soup. An excellent lentil soup - not as unusual as the pumpkin carrot, but very satisfying.
      - Prawn balchao, with a most intriguing and complex sweet and sour tomato sauce.
      - Fish masala. The rich sauce is reminiscent of the Haran's Special Chicken Curry, so I wouldn't order both in the same meal.
      - Chicken biryani. A rich version of this dish (coconut milk maybe?), again with complex spicing. The chicken is a mix of boneless white and dark meat.

      I'm not a big buffet fan, but I tried out the lunch buffet here. It's good, but there's no comparison to the quality of the a la carte dinner menu.

      The tandoor salmon, achari chicken, naan, and tandoori roti were all good, but not as special to my taste as the other dishes. We still have much more of the menu to discover.

      This is one of the best additions to the Los Altos-area restaurant scene in quite a while. They're doing OK but could use more business, so please check them out!

      Michael

      4 Replies
      1. re: mdg

        Thanks for the pointer, mdg. How oily is the food there?

        1. re: maigre

          It's not very oily at all - enough oil for full flavor, but none of the extra puddles (or slicks) you find at places like Shalimar. Note that this is a higher-end place relative to many Indian restaurants with entrees in the $10-$19 range, but the quality matches the price. My understanding is that the chef is formerly from Amber.

          Michael

          1. re: mdg

            Sounds good. I look forward to giving it a try soon.

            1. re: maigre

              I recommend the Goan curry with scallops- very highly in fact. I think it would work better with shrimp, however.

              I wish their breads were a little better, and they are pricey.

              We will go back because we think the flavors are very high quality.

      2. Hey - Stett Holbrook read about Spicy Leaves here - and credited the source! - then wrote a nice review at:

        http://www.metroactive.com/metro/06.1...

        So if you want another perspective on this place, check it out.

        In the 15 or so years we've lived out here, Stett is by far the best local restaurant critic I've read. He reminds me of my Boston-area favorite, Robert Nadeau, in both his searching out for under-represented cuisines in the area and in his knowledgeable enthusiasm about food and cooking.

        Michael

        2 Replies
        1. re: mdg

          Spicy Leaves is still cooking up great food, and now they have a beer and wine license with interesting choices in both categories. For tonight's dinner we started with a tasty cheese kulcha, then tried the chicken vindaloo and the prawn biryani. Both entrees were excellent and the flavors were very complimentary. The vindaloo was oilier than other dishes we have had here, but very tasty.

          Remarkably enough, the Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc went great with both dishes, especially the vindaloo. The Franciscan Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon went OK but wasn't as fine a match. There are some local El Toro beers available too (in bottle only, I'm pretty sure).

          Michael

          1. re: mdg

            The food is still good here some six months later. We had the Sri Lankan specialities (fish cutlets, chicken curry, and dal) tonight and all were excellent - the fish patties in particular were tastier than I recall from when they opened. The prices are generally a bit lower too.

            They are now on Open Table, but business was slow on a weeknight. Given them a try if you're in the area; they're cooking some dishes that nobody else is, and doing a fine job.

            Michael

        2. My friend had a birthday party here. Great food and a lot of variety. I certainly enjoyed the buffet