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Sep 14, 2009 08:50 PM

Need help with Indian food

coming up from LA. please give some recs on the best indian indian food~ thanks!

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  1. What style or regional specialties are you seeking? Price range? Are halal meats important to you? Vegetarian?

    What town are you visiting? This board covers the 9 Bay Area counties and the better choices are outside the City of San Francisco.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      With meat, price range = $$ to $$$, Will be in the Peninsula and San Francisco. Anything in between would be great. Thank you =)!

      1. re: cynthia105

        Amber India has locations both in SF and the South Bay; a little pricier than your typical Indian food, but you're paying for quality and it's still within the $$ to $$$ range. Lunch buffet is the best way to go.

        1. re: cynthia105

          Given that OP asks for "price range $$ to $$$$" and "Peninsula and San Francisco",
          following are my recommendations. Amber has 2 locations in SF/Peninsula -- very good (mostly north) Indian food. Dosa has 2 locations in SF, but the Fillmore location is slightly more upscale. Dosa serves mostly South Indian food. Junoon has good Indian food and is upscale.

          I dont think in the SF Bay area we have that many choices when looking for upscale and really stand-out quality Indian food (Such as Tabla in NYC). Speaking of Tabla, Floyd Cardoz of Tabla I think is a "consulting chef" for Junoon, whatever that means.

          150 University Ave Palo Alto

          The fillmore location of Dosa is at
          1700 Fillmore Street San Francisco

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

          Amber India
          Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

      2. You might consider:

        340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        1. I moved up from LA a few months ago and have been exploring the Indian options with reckless abandon. In Palo Alto, I'd recommend Hyderabad House for Biriyani and Achari. Or Darbar.
          If you want to go upscale, you could do Amber or for something you can't get in LA, go to Sakoon in Mountain View. It's the best (read:only worthwhile) fancified Indian food I've had outside of Boston (Tamarind Bay) and DC (Rasika). For a night out on vacation, that's your best bet.
          If you're just dropping in for a casual lunch, do Hyderabad or Madras Cafe in Sunnyvale.

          7 Replies
          1. re: PAHound

            i have very little knowledge of indian cuisine; what's the difference between fancified indian food versus traditional indian food? does fancified mean high end/gourmet?

            1. re: 52X

              Fancified: Do a search for Amber India or

              Typical restaurant: tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, channa masala, naan, a plain basmati pilaf scented w/ any combination of cardamom/cinnamon stick/clove/maybe whole cumin. Many of the "Indian" restaurants in the Bay Area are Northern Indian-Pakistani hybrids but the following is a pretty typical menu (except for the brain masala)

              Traditional Indian: In restaurants you will mainly find the North Indian/Punjabi restaurant food that I mentioned above because that is what is popular with the masses. India is too culturally diverse and there are too many regional variations in cooking for there to be any one cuisine to be considered traditional.

              1. re: adrienne156

                There is some regional Indian food in the Bay Area, though I think not as wide a variety as in LA:


                I don't get the Sardinia comparison at all. There are lots of restaurants and hawker stands in India. Sardinia is not culturally diverse.

                There is a good Sardinian restaurant in SF, which is something they don't have in LA.

                La Ciccia
                291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  There is some regional variation - South Indian being the most common - but within that there are the same dishes you see over and over again: dosas, vadas, lots of vegetables, tamarind, coconut, etc. In this realm, Dosa in SF ($$) would be one to check out although I don't think have red meat on their menu.

                  I took out the reference from No Reservations because I realized I might have to go into a deeper discussion which I did not want to do, but since you were so quick on the draw, I'll use my family as an example. In the southern district of Khulna in Bangladesh, you will not find restaurants that cook the dishes you would typically have at home - shrimp with coconut milk, bottle gourd greens cooked with shrimp, fried tilapia with caramelized onions for example - because every household knows how to make these dishes at home. Instead you will find Chinese and American restaurants featuring "banglafied" variations of many of the same popular dishes you find here (honey walnut shrimp, Mongolian beef, fried rice, burgers, pizza) and a lot of kabob houses - not food you would make at home – that has cropped up in more recent years. My grandparents never visited restaurants and my parents believe it is a treat, but will go out for things they do not know how to make or for things it would be more convenient to buy – the offerings of hawker stalls falling into this category. (It is much easier and economical to buy a handful of onion bhajis for 3 people than to deal with the amount of oil that is needed to fry them properly.) From my recollection, what Anthony said about Sardinian food culture being home-centric is akin to what I am saying about [Indian] food culture.

                  Bringing this back to the States… While I can't speak to the immigration patterns of all Indo-Pak immigrants to this country, I do believe that the relative youth of many of the communities that exist here has brought this home-centrism here and not yet deemed it necessary for there to be restaurants with regionally variable “home”/traditional food, thus why they do not exist. My generation will probably change this though.

                  995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  Dosa on Fillmore
                  1700 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

              2. re: 52X

                Yes, higher-end/gourmet. Sakoon features more creative takes on Indian favorites, with some Californian influences - but still very much having traditional Indian flavor profiles. It's modern Indian done right for the first time that I know of in the Bay Area. Junoon, Mantra, and Turmeric all tried, but their seasonings and spicings lack / lacked both traditional flavorings - including heat where appropriate - and complexity on a pretty consistent basis. Amber sort of straddles the fence between traditional and more innovative, at least in the San Jose branch, and I feel the traditional dishes in the Mountain View branch have been the most successful.

                You know Sakoon must be doing something right when San Francisco's main critic, who lacks discrimination about Indian cuisine, orders the soft-shell crab vindaloo and then complains that it is too hot. Most fancier places in the Bay Area have dumbed down the spices for the idiot critics of the world; Sakoon does not. Sakoon also draws its menu from all over India; this reviewer made it sound primarily northern Indian.

                I agree wholeheartedly with PAHound's recommendations for Sakoon for upscale, and Hyderabad House / Madras Cafe for more casual (Madras is vegetarian). Other great choices are Spicy Leaves in Los Altos, which includes Sri Lankan and southern specialties at upscale prices, and Taste Buds in Sunnyvale for real hole-in-the-wall casual. But those are more for locals rather than an out-of-town visitor.


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

                Hyderabad House
                448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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

                Taste Buds
                673 Grape Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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

                357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

            2. may fit the bill. Went a couple of years ago. It was very good but not wowing. They use very traditional flavors with a bit of deconstruction. Service was a little rough. As I said it was a couple of years ago, perhaps others have been more recently.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chefj

                Junoon is good but not the best Indian we had. We had a nice meal there, and the flavors were good, but not as complex as some places. i did enjoy it. The service was very off though. maybe it was b/c we were using a certificate, but the server was completely aloof and not at all helpful. He just seemed to want us out of there. Not a way to get people to return.

                I want to try Sakoon, but I do like the MV Amber India (not the Santana one). Like Tumeric in Sunnyvale and Athidi (but have only been to the latter once). Second Madras cafe.

                1. re: chefj

                  Nothing against Sakoon, but Bauer hasn't eaten enough Indian food to judge.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Usually his reviews of most ethnic restaurants seem to come from a very ethnocentric view point, but most people have little experience as well and often agree with his recommendations. Personally I have no idea how much experience MB has had with Indian food or if he has been to India.
                    In my opinion unless you go to the source it is very hard to have an thorough understanding about the cuisine and even then you need to make a real effort to seek out the knowledge.

                    1. re: chefj

                      If you live in the Bay Area, you can get a fairly wide exposure to different regional Indian cuisines, but you have to eat at a lot of cheap places in strip malls and low-rent neighborhoods.

                      Bauer eats almost exclusively at upscale restaurants. I don't think he's ever reviewed an Indian restaurant without a wine list. He suffers from the same lack of perspective on pretty much all cuisines other than American, Californian, French, Italian, and sushi.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Don't forget Vik's Chaat Corner has been on Bauer's Top 100 for quite some time, by no means upscale, and I'm pretty sure they lack a wine list.

                        That being said, I don't think we'll be seeing Udupi Palace replacing DOSA on his Top 100 list anytime soon.