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Indian (or other) near Palo Alto/Menlo Park that I can't get in NYC

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mrsmicah and I will be visiting friends in Menlo Park next month and trying to decide where to eat for our one night in the area. We eat mostly vegetarian but also do poultry and fish.

From reading through some recent threads it sounds like there's an outstanding assortment of Indian restaurants in the area, but my head is spinning a bit from all of the choices, especially since I don't know all that much about Indian cuisine (except that we really enjoy it) or Silicon Valley geography.

Any specific recommendations for a leisurely sit-down dinner? It doesn't have to be fancy, but we probably want table service (unless there's a counter service joint that's really unique).

The ideal place would have lots of vegetarian choices and be something we can't easily find in NYC.

We'd also be interested in other unique (non-Indian) places in the area for lunch or dinner.

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  1. Sakoon is in MV and is a 15 minute drive. Within 30 minutes you have several South Indian vegetarian places. I don't know what is available in NYC, but I enjoy these places. They tend to be hole in the wall type places, but several have table service.

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    Sakoon
    357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

    1. South Indian would be a good way to go, it's generally not as well represented in the U.S. as northern cuisine, and is pretty much vegetarian.

      Madura Indian Cuisine in Sunnyvale got some really good reviews. It's food from Tamil Nadu state (the south): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683005

      Also a rave for Deedee's, which does Gujarati and Kathiawadi cuisine: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707883

      Most Indian restaurants around here that I can think of have table service. My personal fave for South Indian, Komala Vilas, is a pick-up-at-the-counter kind of place, but they have great breakfasts and thali lunches.

      Amber Cafe is unusual in its fusion approach to Indian food, including pizzas and wraps. But I've had their saag paneer (a special) and it was straight-up delicious, so they've got the traditional chops. They also do frankies, a Bombay specialty. If you're really into the leisurely dining experience in a nice setting, Amber restaurant is quite good.

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      Deedee's
      341 Lafayette St #101, Santa Clara, CA

      Amber Cafe
      600 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA

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

      Madura Indian Cuisine
      1635 Hollenbeck Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

      1. Hi,

        I don't know what you can or can't get in your part of NYC, but....

        There is one exceptional fine dining restaurant with amazing veggies that is above what you can get in NYC, because Kinch is a genius and the kitchen is unique, full stop. That's Manresa. It's a simple 20 minute freeway shot, and request the veggie tasting menu (or whatever restrictions you want - the menu will be designed by the chefs that morning) when you make your reservation - and make it early. Like, 5:30. The problem with Manresa is the tasting menu is LONG, like 4 hours. But you'll get signature dishes like Into the Garden, and the entire thing is brilliant. You can eat there without the tasting menu, which is sensible and not quite OVER THE TOP. And you'll eat where morimoto was recently turned away by the maiter'd!

        Next, veggies are the focus at Flea Street Cafe, a very pleasant medium-upscale restaurant. I think it's the closest to California cuisine in that part of the peninsula, and is a good meal. It's in Menlo Park off of the main strips but fairly central. It's about a 1/2 star on the michelin scale, in my book. Amuse is always something picked from the owner's garden that morning. Good oysters, good wine list, everything you'd expect from california.

        Downtown palo alto is pretty upscale, which places some limitations on the dining scene. For your purposes, I'd say Junoon hands down. The service there is ragged, but the food is something else. It's upscale indian with lots of peculiar dishes and a real treat. The menu will be available online so you can see if it's for you.

        All - most - of the good ethnic indian is south of Palo Alto between Mountain View and Sunnyvale. That's about a 20 minute leisurely drive on city streets. Sakoon is in the downtown part of MV, is relatively upscale, has some recent downhill reports, and I'd pick Junoon instead. Real mom-n-pop stripmall joints are the authentic south indian. I can't exactly recommend madura - even though I like it - as the 'one meal', because the menu's just too small. It's a rather brilliant everyday thali kind of place. There's another place, Saravagan Gita or something, covered in a recent thread, which might be a better choice with a wider menu. It's like a converted 80's fern bar. I'm still slowly picking through all the options down there, and don't have a clear recommendation yet.

        I know you said overwhelming --- not sure this helps!

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        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        Flea Street Cafe
        3607 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 94025

        Sakoon
        357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

        2 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Note that Manhattan has its own branch of Saravana Bhavan on Lexington Ave.

          1. re: bbulkow

            Saravana Bhavan is not a converted 80s fern bar! They moved into a CoCos and never redecorated. I think the pictures of the soccer teams that the CoCos sponsored are still up.
            Mary Ave. near Fremont Ave. in Sunnyvale

          2. Some great suggestions in here. I think we may actually go for one of the low-key southern Indian places, as they sound absolutely great. Manresa sounds incredible too, but I'm afraid it won't quite fit the bill for this trip. I'll have to make a mental note for the next time I'm in that area.

            Thanks! I'll have to report back in a couple weeks after the trip to let y'all know what we did.

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            Manresa Restaurant
            320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

            1 Reply
            1. re: themicah

              If you want lower-key Southern Indian, then by all means try Madura! It's easy to get to from 280. Their rice dishes are generally stronger than their wheat dishes. They have an "executive lunch" which has a wonderful assortment of their rice specialties. I substitute their totally amazing lemon rice for their good-but-not-my-favorite curd rice. There are several rice dishes here that I haven't seen other places. The special meals are fine as well if you want something more varied.

              Michael