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Dec 21, 2010 05:56 PM

Best Indian in the Triangle - Vimala's Curry Blossom Cafe

We were in Chapel Hill last weekend and went to Vimala's Curry Blossom Cafe on West Franklin Street. Vimala's occupies the old space where Sandwich use to be, so it quaint dining room. We live in Raleigh and have been to a lot of Indian restaurants over the years, so we were really looking forward to eating at Vimala's. Boy, we were not disappointed. Vimala's has skyrocketed to our #1 Indian restaurant in the triangle. We started off with the soup of the day, which was a tamarind and lime in a vegetable base with rice. The soup broth by itself might be overwhelming for some with its bright tamarind overtones, but when eaten with the rice, it was heaven on a cold winter's night. The pakoras were also great. We ordered three entrees: vegetable thali with brown rice, beef curry thali and the Kafta curry. The thalis were very good and served with a season bhaji (cabbage based on this occasion), raita, a spicy chutney, dal, chapati and pappadum. That said, we were blown away by the Kafta curry. The mixed vegetable balls in a savory curry cream sauce was unbelievable. So fresh, but very tasty. No Indian beer, but a very good selection of bottled microbrewery beers. If you are looking for a change from the routine heavy, cooked for hours curry, head to Vimala's. You will not be disappointed. Great reason to make a trip to Chapel Hill from Raleigh.

Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe
431 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

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  1. Vimala's is definitely on my ToEat list but it's just a long way off from me...

    Out of curiosity, what are your fave Indian places here in Raleigh? I've been sticking to Royal Indian, Kadhai and Taj Mahal. Saffron/Azitra are fine but pricey on a regular basis...

    Taj Mahal
    4520 Capital Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27604

    6 Replies
    1. re: RonboNC

      Up to a couple of month's ago, I would have said Royal India, but that quality of the food has gone down recently to the point that Saffron and Azitra are back on the list of favorites.

      Azitra Restaurant
      8411 Brier Creek Pkwy Ste 101, Raleigh, NC 27617

      1. re: foodieinraleigh

        Cool, thanks foodie! Glad to see I haven't missed anything in the area yet...

        1. re: RonboNC


          Vimala's is actually worth the drive from Raleigh. It may seem far to go for Indian food, but this is really wonderful Indian food. When I first went there, the food redefined "Indian food" for me. I was struck by the lack of cream in the sauces. To give you a level set, we were fans of Saffron in Cary before we moved to Chapel Hill this summer. Also, there are a number of authentic-looking Indian places in Cary that I've been meaning to try near SuperWok.

          I'm glad Vimala's doesn't serve Indian beer, because Indian beer is generally pretty awful. Don't get me started on Tsing Tao.

          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

            Thanks for the vote of confidence, Tom! Vimala seemed a bit higher end and focused on local ingredients which would be cool. I was told by an Indian friend that a lot of Indian food in the States is Americanized, i.e. heavy on the cream and butter. So yeah, might be worth the trip for Vimala's style of cooking.

            Out in Cary/Little India on Chatham you've got Suchi, Shree Udupi, Biryani House and Cool Breezes. The couple I've tried are OK, hole-in-the-wall type places. But will definitely put Vimala on the ToEat list. I just find when I get out to Chapel Hill I end up wanting to do Allen & Sons or the Kitchen!

            Biryani House
            744 E Chatham St Ste B, Cary, NC 27511

            Cool Breeze
            740 E Chatham St Ste E, Cary, NC 27511

            1. re: RonboNC

              Vimala is not higher end. It is very reasonably priced. Most of the entrees on the dinner menu run $8-$14. It is quite small and you may need to wait for a table if you have a party of more than 2 people.

              1. re: RonboNC

                Put The Pig on your ToEat list as well.

      2. Has the original poster been to any of the following and if so, how does he/she rate Vimala's against these?

        Udipi (in Cary), Tower (Morrisville), Spice and Curry (Durham).

        I've not been to Vimala's but have heard positive things about the food.

        Udipi Cafe
        3300 Peachtree Industrial Blvd Ste J, Duluth, GA 30096

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chow Penguin

          Udipi is great for vegetarian buffet. We live close to Falls Lake, so we do not get to Cary unless we are in the area and then it is usually for lunch. We have not been to Tower or Spice and Curry.

          Udipi Cafe
          3300 Peachtree Industrial Blvd Ste J, Duluth, GA 30096

        2. Four of us had lunch today at Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe, and we were all impressed, some more than others.

          I hadn't been to sandwhich, so I was new to the location. It's tucked back into the Courtyard behind Penang, and is rather small. Business was brisk by the time we left, and other diners were eager to have our table.

          I had the marsala dosa and was delighted. The dosa was as good as any I've had--crispy and flavorful. The marsala was very tasty and medium spicy.

          The chicken curry plate received a "pretty good" from the chef of the group, whose skepticism was high owing to the largely vegetarian lunch menu. (Dinner offers a much wider selection for vegetarian and carnivore alike.)

          The chole bhatura plate got a very strong review. The bread was said to be the perfect counterpoint to the chick pea curry. Again moderately spicy.

          The other entree was a vegetable curry plate, which was rated "good" but not "very good," owing to something that might have been a potato that seemed a little undercooked, and the fact that the red curry was simply to spicy for the person's palate. The green, however, was fine. I tasted the red, and it rates medium on my Scoville, where habanero is hot.

          You order at the counter and food is delivered to the table by the people preparing it. When my dosa arrived first, I was told that normally doesn't happen. The other three dishes arrived at the same time. One of people cooking stopped by to see if everything was okay. All the staff were very friendly.

          Once finished, we bussed our own table. Vimala's is casual, by I don't mind that a bit. Overall, a very satisfying experience, and we'll be back. Better than Saffron? I couldn't say, as I haven't sampled enough of either restaurant's menu, but Vimala's is certainly a contender.

          Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe
          431 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

          8 Replies
          1. re: dschoonmaker

            It's "masala" which is the Hindi (and other Indian languages) word for spices. Just didn't want readers to get confused with "marsala," the wine.

            The best dosa and sambar I have had in the Triangle is at Tower in Morrisville. I recommend the paper masala dosa, which is extra thin and crispy.

            1. re: bbqme

              I'd kill for a dosa;-) Just back from dinner at Vimila's. Last time Bbqme & my dad & I went. And it was okay. Tonight we had chicken curry thali and pork vindaloo thali. They were both complex and hot! The thalis came with dal (weakest part of the meal, quite bland) basmati rice, raita, coriander chutney & pickle, roti & a papadam. We both totally enjoyed it. But the place is tiny and a crush. Vimala came over to us & brought my father a bun stuffed with chicken, a new item and delicious. I'm only sorry that I didn't have the special iddli with sambar. Bbqme you've got to go!

              1. re: Rory

                Rory - I was at Vimala's last evening too! We had the beef thali and thought it was all wonderful, even the dal.

                1. re: Rory

                  Very happy to hear this! Living in Chapel Hill and given Vimala's story, I am pulling for her to succeed but was underwhelmed with the first experience. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, perhaps the criticism we made in the other thread got back to them and it was taken in the constructive criticism spirit in which it was meant. I will definitely visit soon. Heck, are they open on Sundays?

                  1. re: bbqme

                    sorry looks like no Sundays or Mondays. here is the website:

                    wintersummer: sorry I missed you:) I wonder if the chole is tastier now, and want to try the kofta, iddli...decisions decisions;-)

                    1. re: bbqme

                      If you're up for meeting for lunch sometime (after March 6) and don't mind a 4 year old along, Lulu and I would be thrilled to meet you there (and anyone else). My email is in my profile - I'm on vacation and can only check email every few days, so don't be disturbed by lack of answer if you write.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Absolutely! But my memory is bad when it comes to this stuff so don't be shy about reminding me about this after March 6th. Lulu is no problem, I have three boys of my own, , 13, 11, and 7.

                        1. re: bbqme

                          It's a deal. will remind. Lulu is (normally) fairly easy to deal with at meals, and likes showing off her taste buds. We'll look forward to it.

              2. The wife and I had dinner at Vimala's last night before a show at the Cat's Cradle. The restaurant was packed! Understandably so because the food was great. I had the Samosa Chole Chaat and the lady had the Thali. Really, really good things are happening here.

                1. In the moods for dosas the sainted wife and I made the trek over to Vimala's. The dosa itself was very good, slightly tangy from properly fermented batter perfectly cooked so that it's softness in the middle and crispy on the edges-- and it was huge like a proper dosa. The coconut-cilantro chutney was spot on. Rather than putting the potato filling inside they put it in a dish on the side. I found it too mushy and bland. However, the sambar was fantastic, better than any other Indian joint in the Triangle. It was thick, spicy, and with rich veg flavor, but not overly sour like some places. One complaint: the chutney, potato, and sambar are rather small portions; however, they gladly gave me more of the chutney when I asked. Besides, it's only $7 a plate and given the high quality of local produce used I give them a pass.

                  For dessert we had the rasmalai. The milky sauce was very nice, redolent of cardamom and pistachios. The milk curd balls were a bit bland and grainy, like made with ricotta cheese. The authentic way of making it is to make paneer, knead it a lot, shape into balls, and then cook in a pressure cooker in sugar syrup (yes, the same steps as roshgollas). I imagine this is too time consuming-- and if not done correctly the balls can fall apart when pressure cooked. But again, for $3 for a portion that was large enough for two to share I'm not complaining.

                  I can't think of too many places in Chapel Hill where two people can have a finer lunch for $20. The idly looked good too. I'll have to try that next time.