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Sakoon (Mountain View)

d
dump123456789 Jun 28, 2009 02:29 PM

Anyone been to Sakoon on Castro in Mountain View ? It's in the old (2nd) TK Noodle location across the hall from Sono Sushi.

Side note: It seems to have been open only one week, and already there are 15 verbose reviews on Yelp. I assume that means most of them were guests/friends/relatives of management, and their opinions should be ignored. Which is why I'm asking here instead.

  1. m
    mdg Sep 17, 2010 10:05 PM

    We just had our first meal at Sakoon with the menu installed by new chef Alexander Paul Xalxo. As eatzalot has mentioned elsewhere, this menu is decidedly more conservative, which is a real shame. A higher percentage of the dishes are more similar to Indian restaurant food elsewhere in the Bay Area.

    Fortunately, there are still a few fusion-y dishes and more unusual regional specialties. We had one of each - Mango Olive Kachumber salad on the fusiony side, Konkan Fish Curry on the regional side - plus two more familiar dishes: Delhi Ki Aloo Tikki (potato patties) and Chef''s Special Channa Pindi.

    We were delighted that everything tasted wonderful. I've heard about Maharashtran food here on Chowhound, but the Konkan Fish Curry was my first chance to sample it. The tomato-y sauce was amazing, and the fish was excellent as well. It went great with both a glass of Minervois and a glass of luscious Robert Hall Viognier.

    I've had lots of channa dishes over the years, but this channa pindi was one of the best ever - a very dark dish with plenty of black spice flavors, garnished with fresh ginger strips. The potato patties were very well spiced with cumin and chili, and passed the all-important test of "the chutneys are good, but the potatoes are better on their own." The salad tasted like you would expect from the list of ingredients if done with care, which it certainly was.

    Service was probably the best we've ever had at Sakoon - personable, knowledgeable, and well-paced. It was a great improvement over the service on our last visit.

    It's great to see Sakoon doing well after such a dramatic chef change. I do hope that Chef Alex takes (or is allowed to take) a few more chances in adding more adventurous dishes to the menu - there are tons of specialities from different Indian regions that we rarely or never see over here.

    On a related note, I read in the Chronicle that Sakoon's opening chef, Sachim Chopra, is planning to open his own place at the 1602 S. El Camino Real location in San Mateo that last housed Chef Gator's Back Porch BBQ and Dollie Marie's. This is a bit more sensible than the Half Moon Bay idea I read about earlier, but still seems like a bad mistake. It's a charming building, sure, but you can't see it from the street, signage is poor, parking is tougher than it could be, and San Mateo is too far removed from the more concentrated customer base in Santa Clara County. I'd like to see him succeed so I hope he finds himself a better space for his solo venture, preferably further south. (And we're finally getting to Chef Gator's new place Bayonne next weekend!)

    Michael

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    Sakoon
    357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

    1. m
      mdg Dec 18, 2009 08:58 PM

      Sakoon's new winter menu is full of wonderful sounding new dishes. We tried two that were just superb - the Chettinad Shrimp and the Batak "Lal Maas", a fabulous Muscovy duck leg curry with potatoes and tomatoes. Both had just great depth and complexity of flavor, and the two complemented each other very nicely. We also finally tried the Calamari Kalamirch appetizer - an Indian take on the ubiquitous fried calamari that was even better than we hoped, with light breading and lots of interesting seasoning.

      Sakoon is another Silicon Valley place that touts its organic and sustainable ingredients, both in the menu and wine list. But the big news is what a great deal this place is. The food is at least equal to some of the finest Indian places in London and comes in a very nice setting, yet it costs half as much - or less. Besides being one of the very finest restaurants in the Bay Area, it's also one of the best values.

      Michael

      3 Replies
      1. re: mdg
        m
        mdg Jun 4, 2010 10:19 PM

        I was sorry to read that chef Sachin Chopra has left Sakoon. Apparently he's planning to go solo with an Indian fusion restaurant. The Chronicle says this might be in Half Moon Bay, which seems like the wrong side of the hill for this type of venture, but we'll see.

        So we went tonight to see how Sakoon is faring in his absence - the web site hasn't announced a new chef yet. Generally all is well - the Kerala fish curry, the shrimp Chettinad, and the calamari appetizer were all as good as ever. It was also amazing how well our half bottle of Sancerre went with the Shrimp Chettinad!

        The samosa trio was way off, though - thicker skins than before, not as elegant a presentation - and worst of all, all three samosas were similar paneer-filled ones, not the great diversity the trio used to have. If this is a harbinger of greater carelessness in the future that will be very sad, but the great flavors of everything else offers encouragement.

        Another disappointment was the rushed service, which we never had before in previous visits. At these prices this type of rush is inappropriate. I'm not looking for a 3-hour meal for 2 here, but bringing the entrees before the appetizers are done is not good.

        So a mix of good and bad omens. Hopefully a new chef of similar credentials to Mr. Chopra will be announced soon to avoid any further drift away from the great quality of our past meals.

        Michael

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        Sakoon
        357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

        1. re: mdg
          m
          maigre Jun 5, 2010 04:08 PM

          Interesting. Thanks for the report. Last time I want, maybe a month or six weeks ago, was the first time the meal wasn't that good. It was the buffet, though. But still, things were off and the food didn't feel great to have eaten, didn't hit the spot, a characteristic that matters a lot to me, if not to everyone. It wasn't terrible, but some of the dishes were oilier and had less distinctive flavors than before. The difference was noticeable. I almost said something to the people at the front of the house, but they were in crankier than usual moods and I let it go.

          1. re: mdg
            i
            IanW Jun 21, 2010 05:03 PM

            My wife and I dined at Sakoon on Sunday. The food was excellent. The Trio of Samosas seemed to be back on target as it was a true trio. I throughly enjoyed it along with the Seafood Briyani and the Paneer Kundan Kalia(which was my favorite). I was looking for an upscale experience on par with the high end London Indian restaurants and I felt the food delievered on that front. Also, all of the food was spicy so they didn't dumb it down like a lot of "high-end" Indian restaurants do.

            The service however was a mess. The waitress forgot to bring my second drink though it still showed up on the bill(me and my wife made a bet on how long it would take her to realize it was sitting at the bar...she never did). She just didn't come across as very professional. Also, when we asked one of the staff if we could order a drink- he just said ask our server....the point is for you to ask our server for us otherwise we wouldn't be flagging you down!

            It is too bad the service sucks as this fills a badly needed niche in the Bay Area. I feel that Amber India's menu is a little too on the generic side and Ajanta doesn't have the diverse menu that Sakoon has.

            -----
            Amber India
            Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

        2. m
          mdg Nov 2, 2009 11:13 AM

          Sakoon continues to excel and amaze. On our last dinner visit this weekend we had:

          - The ahi tuna appetizer. My wife got this as I am not a big peanut fan, but in my taste i could appreciate the nice complexity of the sesame / peanut / pear accompaniment. The tuna itself was excellent. This is a larger portion than many of the appetizers and would be good for sharing.

          - The samosa trio. This was our one repeat dish; my wife had it on our first visit, and I ordered it this time. These are the best samosas I've ever had - three mini samosas with a much lighter (and better seasoned) pastry than usual, with delicious and unusual fillings. The mushroom samosa went absolutely great with our 1/2 bottle of Chateau Haut-Beasejour St.-Estephe.

          - Parsi Subz Biryani. This vegetable biryani continues the somewhat sweeter biryani theme we noticed in the shrimp biryani - though with apricots listed in the menu, we were expecting that this time. Another very tasty dish, with many more vegetable ingredients than those listed in the menu.

          - Shahi Raan. For me this was the highlight of the meal, and one of the best dishes we have had here. The lamb shank came with a wonderfully complex spiced sauce with a whole different flavor profile than I've had before - and so blended I could not figure out what was going on. The menu claims Kashmiri flavors, and I don't think I have had many Kashmiri dishes before. This one was superb.

          Sakoon does play a bit fast and loose with the menu descriptions sometimes. This dish described the shank being accompanied by lotus root and baby root vegetables. I didn't see any lotus root, and while there were carrots in the dish, the main vegetables were yellow and green summer squash. Very delicious, and it went great with the dish, but hardly root vegetables. I guess the chef updates based on seasonal availability (good) but neither the menu nor the servers reflect this (not so good).

          - Lime and coconut soup dessert. As advertised, a very refreshing and light end to the meal. The carmelized lichee was a bit odd. I was vacilating between this and the much more traditional Indian sweets platter, so they included a couple of sweets in place of the almond brittle. My preference for Indian desserts remains on the modern vs. the traditional side.

          It's great to see Sakoon mantaining its consistent high quality since its opening!

          Michael

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          Sakoon
          357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

          1 Reply
          1. re: mdg
            c
            Claudette Nov 2, 2009 02:24 PM

            Nice reports, Michael - thanks!

          2. bbulkow Oct 3, 2009 06:32 PM

            The lunch buffet here is great. I believe it surpasses Turmeric. Quality of most dishes is higher, a little less oil, a little more spice, about $2 more per person ($13 -> $15).

            3 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow
              m
              maigre Oct 3, 2009 07:20 PM

              It surpasses Turmeric pretty handily, to my tastes. But I'd say it's less spicy. Depends on what day you pick, I think. They change most of the dishes from day to day.

              I've still yet to order off the menu. Gotta go for dinner or resist the buffet at lunch.

              1. re: maigre
                bbulkow Oct 3, 2009 07:35 PM

                By "spicy" I don't mean "hot" I mean ... with spices. Some days, Turmeric is hot like crazy, but usually it's simply good --- but Sakoon is just better.

              2. re: bbulkow
                j
                jsaimd Oct 3, 2009 07:23 PM

                I agree. We tried last week and enjoyed it. I usually don't like tandoori chx on a buffet but it was good. butter chx OK, but I am not a butter chx person. Favorite was the saag with corn and chicken malai.

                Desserts were just OK.

              3. m
                mdg Jul 17, 2009 10:51 PM

                We finally tried Sakoon tonight and were very impressed. It looks at long last that Silicon Valley has Modern Indian done right:

                - Authentic Indian tastes with no fear of spices
                - Updating with California ingredients and some innovative twists
                - Reasonable prices for the quality: entrees are generally in the $15-$20 range

                Other previous attempts at modern Indian in Silicon Valley have generally done only the second, while underspicing and overpricing.

                Everything we tried was excellent with full and vibrant flavor. The trio of samosas was outstanding, though one of the samosas, delicious as it was, did not seem to match the menu description. The heirloom and watermelon salad sounded too interesting to pass up. It was also delicious, but here too differed from the menu description: the roasted walnuts were minimal, but there were grapes in addition to the generous portions of watermelon and tomato. The spices listed were roasted coriander and fennel, but to my taste it seemed like ground curry leaves were involved (but I don't know if I have had roasted fennel before, so maybe that was indeed it).

                For entrees we had two smash successes: a wonderfully deeply flavored soft shell crab vindaloo, and outstanding tandoori prawns with eggplant chutney. Excellent rice and good naan accompanied. The wine by the glass list is wonderfully well chosen; our glasses of Albarino and Torrontes went very well with the more wine friendly shrimp and tomato/watermelon dishes. We would have picked something else if we wanted them to stand up to the vindaloo, but the samosas were also spicy and richly flavored enough to dominate these white wines.

                Some of the discrepancies may have been caused by the restaurant getting slammed just before we arrived - with our reservation we filled in the last table in the place, and most of these people had apparently arrived quite recently. The place has only been open a few weeks so there are still some service kinks to work out. But the food is already exquisite. We will certainly be back to explore more of this delightful menu.

                Castro Street has always had a lot of good neighborhood restaurants. Now with places like Sakoon and Nami Nami, it appears to be developing a roster of destination restaurants as well.

                Michael

                3 Replies
                1. re: mdg
                  m
                  mdg Aug 21, 2009 09:37 PM

                  Our second visit was just as tasty as the first, and with the glitches worked out. We started with the dum aloo soup and avocado jhalmuri aloo. The soup was new potatoes and cherry tomatoes in a bowl, over which is poured a yummy and tangy broth. The second was like a reconstructed new-wave chaat, with the three named ingredients in layers, visually (but not culinarliy) dominated by the jhalmuri.

                  For entrees we had the tandoori game hen and the Kerela fish curry. The tandoori was excellent, and came with nice touches such as a couple of deliciously marinated onion slices - and presented on a plate, no sizzler overcooking your dish while you wait. The fish curry managed the feat of letting you notice the outstanding taste of the fish while presenting a rich, multiflavored coconut-based curry. The waiter recommended a glass of Amador Zin with the fish curry, and it actually went very well with everything except the somewhat citrusy soup.

                  Sakoon continues to excel, setting the standard for Modern Indian (but authentic!) in Silicon Valley.

                  Michael

                  1. re: mdg
                    52X Sep 5, 2009 12:27 AM

                    great review mdg. would you say this is the best place for indian in silicon valley right now?

                    1. re: 52X
                      m
                      mdg Sep 6, 2009 06:52 PM

                      Best for what? Best for a modern Indian dinner, absolutely! If you compare to places like Junoon, Mantra, or Turmeric, this is far better. I haven't been to Amber since Sakoon opened. In the past, Amber has gotten better as their competition got more formidable, so maybe that will happen again.

                      But there are plenty of great places with dishes you'll get better noplace else. Nobody matches the gongura dishes at Taste Buds. Nobody else has the Sri Lankan dishes that are at Spicy Leaves. Nobody makes achari dishes as good as Hyderabad House. (I haven't had the achari dish at Sakoon yet; from the menu description I'm pretty confident in that judgment.) I'll take the dosas at Madras Cafe over anyone else's, though there are numerous worthy alternatives in different styles.

                      Indian cuisine is a vast territory. No one restaurant is going to be "the best" for everything in that cuisine.

                      And for lunch buffets, I have no idea - I am no fan of that genre.

                      If you go, let us know what you think and what your favorite dishes are!

                      Michael

                2. m
                  mdg Jun 28, 2009 03:35 PM

                  The menu looks very promising. It's on my list of places to try in the near future, but I haven't made it there yet. Why don't you check it out and let us know what you think?

                  Michael

                  -----
                  Sakoon
                  357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mdg
                    v
                    vaparna Jun 30, 2009 04:31 PM

                    I tried the lunch buffet at Sakoon today. I was lured by the tempting menu and the description of the dishes on Yelp.
                    The buffet is definitely among the better Indian buffets out there. There is an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes and a good mix of the tried and tested dishes and a few new ones. The salad bar had a kidney bean salad and a chicken salad which was excellent. The chicken was marianted in kebab spices and was very moist and flavorful . The standouts in the buffet were paneer bhurji ( the indian answer to veggie scrambled eggs), the mutton seekh kebab, the sweet and spicy eggplant curry & the seafood molly. There was also a veggie tawa fry ( stir fry) which was fantastic. The buffet also included butter chicken, lamb curry & yellow dal which were very good but not great. The desserts included rice kheer, gulab jamun & mango halwa. The desserts were disappointing and I recommend skipping them.Since it was lunch time I did not try their cocktails but I did try the virgin mojito and was impressed .

                    I was not too impressed by the decor which was over the top buddha bar/lounge with trance music playing in the background. While the decor seems pretentious and over the top, the food definitely has substance.

                    Overall the buffet was good but my main complaint was that all the dishes were drowning in oil. In spite of the greasiness the flavors do stand out, but they would do well if they went easy on the fat. I definitely will go back for dinner to give the al a carte menu a go.

                    1. re: vaparna
                      m
                      maigre Jul 18, 2009 09:53 PM

                      The food wasn't overly oily at all last week when I ate the buffet. I'm particularly sensitive to this, because I don't much like greasy food. One of the head guys was asking lots of questions about the food and ambiance, so he must have heard some complaints about greasiness and responded. He told me that they'd be serving different food from day to day, which is always a nice thing, and some of the dishes vaparna mentions were not there when I was.

                      I was favorably impressed by everything I ate except the fish tawa, which was salty.

                      At first, I was OK with the decor, but it wore on me quickly. There's not much light in there, either, which I don't really get, and it was too cold for me, though maybe nobody else minded. I complained about it, though, and they warmed it up.

                      I live in the 'hood and am really excited about the prospect of a good restaurant on Castro. It's quantity over quality there and this could be a major exception. I can't think of a lunch buffet I've liked as much as this one.

                      I'm looking forward to trying dinner.

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