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Jun 12, 2011 10:39 AM

Anjappar Chettinad, Milpitas

Another quick trip to the bay area, another notable mention. Some very near and dear friends (and chowhounds) recommended Anjappar Chettinad, as we were in the mood for some hot and spicy chicken/fish South Indian. Wikipedia says Chettinad is a part of Tamil Nadu (state in Southern India) now we are getting very specific, not just a particular state, but a particular region within a state.

Anjappar Chettinad is in Milpitas, and using the search feature, I realized there is some love for it on this board already; and it is certainly well-deserving. There are some entrees that can be ordered either "dry" or "masala". Dry = No Gravy or Curry and Masala = Gravy or Curry.

We tried four entrees (two curries, one "dry" and a rice entree). Both curries were hot and spicy, yet very distinct. One used tomato (Egg Masala), the other coconut (Pepper Chicken). One was heavy on curry leaves, the others not so much.

Standout entree of the day was: Mutton Sukka Varuval. One word, kickass. The Egg Masala was also surprisingly good (tomato-based curry). The Pepper Chicken was also very good (strong curry leaf flavor and HOT black peppercorns). We ordered the "Masala" version, so there was curry, which was finger-licking deliciousness. The roti was good, but not great. The rice entree was the Natta Kozhu Biryani: basically a "country" chicken biryani. In India, they make the distinction between poultry raised in farms ("broiler") versus the free-range ("desi"). For obvious reasons, they taste different back there...I for one, couldn't make out the difference here. It was good, but not outstanding.

I believe some have mentioned this, but I think, food is not made to order, because within less than five minutes of ordering, we were served. But getting good Chettinad food is so rare, I am willing to compromise a little bit.

I must add, this is for the serious heat and spice seeker. The food is not just HOT it is also SPICY. So not for the faint-hearted. Trust me, most people of Indian origin wouldn't be able to handle this kind of heat. When I visit next, I want to try to kozhambu's, some of the vegetarian stuff, and the parottas. The portions are somewhat measly, which is a let down, but all is fair in the name of good chow.

Also note, Anjappar is an international chain with locations in North America and Asia. LFHound to Anjappar: What is the point of having Indian Chinese and Tandoori Chicken on the menu? I mean really, who cares? Secondly, why are appams missing?

Anjappar Chettinad Indian Restaurant
458 Barber Lane
Milpitas CA 95035
(408)-435 5500

458 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035

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  1. This sounds amazing. I'd missed all prior mentions of this place, so thank you for writing this up. Going to the top of my "when I'm in the South Bay" list.

    1. OMG, I actually emailed them a couple years back and asked them to open a bay area branch after eating in a couple of their other branches! The mutton sukka is indeed a kickass dish, at least the versions I have had in their Singapore and Bangalore branches. Funnily the Singapore branch was way superior to the one in Bangalore that I had been to. I seem to remember that they had a good prawn fry or masala type dish as well.
      (Does a happy dance and plans a trip to the south bay)

      4 Replies
      1. re: jhinky

        This is indeed fascinating news, I have never eaten Chettinad food, but have heard Indian friends rave about it. Thanks for the update.

        1. re: jhinky

          You are welcome. I think I have said this before but the South Bay area is to Indian food, what the San Gabriel Valley is to Chinese food. The immigrant populations are diverse enough to support regional specialties that are hard to find in other provinces of the the country of origin. For example, Anjappar has branched out of Tamil Nadu to several other nations but not to any other state within India.

          @daveena: good to hear from you. This place is a blast. Though avoid going there at Indian meal times (lunch: anytime after 1 pm and dinner: after 8:30 pm). When we entered there were probably 5 tables occupied (out of 25-30) at 12:30, by the time we left at around 1:45 pm it was packed to the gills. My dining companions said it was the same story everyday.

          @jhinky: I wanted to try the prawn sukka varuval too, but we had ordered the mutton, and felt it would be the same spice mix, so ordered the egg masala (yummmm!). I got the same entrees to-go, and got them with me to LA, and I think I will be done by tonight. I need to send them an email, and ask them to open one up in LA.

          @osho: Don't miss this! There's a lot of other stuff that needs to be reported on, so I am looking forward to your reports :)

          458 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035

          1. re: losfelizhound

            Well Well.

            I had very high hopes from Anjappar. Mentions of ‘mutton’ do send me into a tizzy at times. Well made Indian mutton dishes are truly brilliant. Not so at Anjappar, though.

            First course was a soup – which turned out to be a ‘rasam’ with whole slit Thai chiles floating around in the liquid with a chunk of goat meat on the bone. I actually liked the meat – a bit gamey but toothsome.

            We ordered a series of fried starters – Chicken Lollypops, Fish ‘65’ and Fried Smelt. They all came coated with a similar looking batter – replete with a ghastly red food colouring. The fish was perfectly acceptable and so was the chicken. The smelt had the exact same coating as the Fish ‘65’ (I think it was catfish).

            Onward to the entrees.

            Mutton Varuval – we ordered the ‘dry’ version of this dish, which was possibly a mistake. The seasoning was brilliant and it had some unique spice notes for sure, but the meat was simply overcooked and rubbery. What a disappointment!

            Mutton Brain Masala – IMO, this was the only saving grace of the meal. The Goat brain was well cooked and creamy and the gravy it was served with was delicious. The heat level to me, was off the charts – I was in absolute agony and loved every second of it.

            Prawn Fry – We literally got 10 small shrimp, reminded me of potted shrimp made with clarified butter, from my childhood days.

            And the size of these entrees - Truly miniscule. For $9 per entree, I expect a decent amount of food. The plates measured about 4 cms. in Diameter.

            Porottas were good and so were the chapattis. Those I could get at literally any half decent Indian place.

            All in all, a wasted trip for me foodwise. It was nice to meet other ‘hounds, as always.

            Also, we had lots of communication issues with the waiters, to say the least.

            458 Barber Ln, Milpitas, CA 95035

            1. re: osho

              Agreed, a disaster. Even if I lived next door to it, it's such bad value for money that I would have little use for it. I'll add that even the parottas and chapattis were ridiculously overpriced--$6 and $5 resp. for an order of two. They came with a tiny thing of gravy, which was delicious but didn't justify the price. I asked if it were possible to pay less for just the bread, and waiter acted helpless.

              But if you are going for one of the myriad other options in the Milpitas Square mall, a stop for a (small, pricey) brain masala and a nice fresh lime soda wouldn't be unreasonable. (Though you'd need to order some bread or something for the brain, and we're talking nearly $20 with tax and tip for a third of a meal. We paid $18/person, and were nowhere near sated. That includes an extra drink they charged us for which they wouldn't refund; in the end all they were willing to do was to furnish the superfluous drink.)

        2. finally made it down here on friday. this place is the real deal. i don't get the complaints about service/portions/prices; it didn't seem that different from your typical indian restaurant, except the flavors were far better. if only they would open an SF branch.....

          2 Replies
          1. re: vulber

            They are actually very friendly to me and mine and usually remember what we typically order. Granted we are weekly or so regulars and usually the only non- Desi folks there.
            When they are really packed it can be a little slow getting your order taken or getting the check but not more so than most other restaurants at this price point.

            1. re: chefj

              exactly; there were a few items they forgot that we had to remind them about, and we had to ask twice for the check, but that's usually my experience at most indian restaurants

          2. Took another trip to Anjappar Milpitas last night, it was great as before.


            at 8:30 arrival time, there was a 20 minute wait for a party of 2. There were 6 2's in front of us, and a fairly mobbed front door, because there was a party of 17 with a bunch of rambunctious toddlers. The place was a screaming mayhem, really, but most of the fellow inmates were 20-somethings out for a "girls night out' or 'guy's night out' - often 3 or 5 of them together, as well as couples such as myself. You had to squeeze in a bit to get on the list. Indians in India are a little touchy about this, it's best to be just the right level of assertive without actually cutting in line - they believe the unassertive deserve what they don't get, but one shouldn't cut.

            I saw precisely two non-indians, and I think they were standing in line for take-out. One was a grizzled older white gentleman, we exchanged knowing glances, and one was a younger chinese guy.

            Overview: I love this place because they don't know how to dumb down their service or dishes. This is indian for indians, and even though it's not the tip-tip-top of indian food (a chain even), it's pretty good, and easily accessible. If you're in the mood for a chaotic madhouse (or have some kids), this is a good pick.


            Paneer 65. With my recent decent into cheesemaking (our internet-enabled cheesecave is online but not yet login protected so I can't share the address), we're fascinated by all things cheese, and instead of the usual chicken 65 we tried paneer. Man, that's good stuff. They serve the hard-fried popcorn version, but fresh out of the vat it's fragrant, and cheese works better with the subtler hard-fry version. Squeeze the lime on top while it's still warm.

            Chikku Milkshake, special. I didn't know what a Chikku was, it's a fruit. It's also called a sapodilla. I had originally thought they had mis-wrote "chicken" on the specials board, so was interested in this chicken milkshake idea, but it's a fruit, and they were pumping them out like crazy. It was the only way to eat the rest of the meal - we got another to cut the heat half way through. Best thing ever, great mix of sweet and tart, the restaurant must have gotten a case or two at just the right ripeness.

            Mutton Sukka Varuval. I think that's what we had. The portion was nearly infantesimal, just a small little dab like you would put in the palm of your hand, with the meat nearly (but not) minced - maybe about a 7mm cube. This was spicy, but not vindaloo hot. It was more like "spice paste with meat". The whole range of dark indian spices, a bit of anise then cardamom, etc etc. You couldn't really pick out individual tastes, just the global deliciousness. The spice level was at the "hey, this isn't spicy, ... wait for it ... ok, it's coming on but it's not as spicy as that chicken ... oh, less burn but WOW what an array of tastes. And... now I've got some kind of spice leaf in my teeth."

            Country chicken with gravy. I liked the sauce in this even better than the Sukka Varuval. The chicken had bones, but the gravy was bolder and lighter than the mutton dish. This was a table-poundingly good dish.

            As mentioned, the portions seemed small at first glance. However, we couldn't finish our meal (left one chicken chunk and some bread on the table). The paneer 65 was fairly large, and the curries were so action-packed that a few spoons of each was nearly enough. Dense, satisfying tastes. We also had to order another milkshake simply to eat enough of the curry to not leave hungry (there was a large water pitcher on the table, that did nearly nothing to cut the clingy vibrant spices). And, this morning, I can feel the spice still in my system - my skin feels slightly vibrant.

            We're always looking for lighter meals in the evenings, and spices have no calories, right ?

            As reported, the bread there is not great, but the food is so concentrated you have to have SOMETHING to eat with it. I ordered butter nan but we got plain, and the rotti had some holes in it. Not perfect. We didn't bother with rice.

            Out the door: $25/pp, no alcohol. Not sure if they have alcohol, wasn't obvious on people's tables, and, when in rome!

            We loved our server. We did a pretty crisp job of ordering, and he was there with his mobile device taking the order (they have something that looks like an old palm pilot or windows mobile device with stylus), then he read the order back super-rapid-fire with elan and verve, and flipped his digital device closed with a flashy SNAP. He did take a couple of nods to get the check, but just raising eyebrows in his direction ( like a desi film ) and he'd give a "shoot, I was about to do that, sorry" eyebrow back. He never, ever asked if things were "ok", he knew we knew we were supposed to raise our hand if something was wrong. When we wanted more food, a quick hand signal and he was there, like a beneficiant hovering force.

            I caught the next table laughing at how I was scooping the gravy up with my naan. I don't know if they were amused by a white guy with good technique, or a white guy with bad technique. Either way, glad to be part of the show, gals.

            Seating was not comfortable. We were 2 in a large booth, like a denny's booth, so we had the choice of sitting side by side facing a wall, or across from each other far away. But they were pressed by this group of 17 coming in, so I'm glad we didn't have to wait too long.

            One final word: one does wonder about the menu here. Why the tandoori meats. Why not more curries. Why the long list of dosas that no one was ordering. It's kind of a small menu, in some ways.

            As we were leaving (maybe 9:50) there was still a mob at the door, but there were tables coming available.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbulkow

              "One final word: one does wonder about the menu here. Why the tandoori meats. Why not more curries. Why the long list of dosas that no one was ordering. It's kind of a small menu, in some ways."

              i've never seen any other indian restaurant with a mutton dosa, and it is indeed excellent here

            2. Holy cow, this place is great. Some of the best Indian food I've ever had.

              Got there around 2 on a Sunday, only had to wait a few minutes for a two-top, no other parties of two ahead of us. Every other person in the place was Indian so no worries about the food being Americanized. Each dish had its own different mix of spices, the hot dishes were seriously hot.

              Aattu nenjelumbu soup: goat consommé, exquisite, if it weren't for the spices this could have been from a fancy French place.

              Onion pakoda, better than they used to make at Pasand. Had to ask for the green sauce. Asked several times for coconut sauce and did not get it, maybe they don't have it?

              Gobi 65, perfectly fried, delicate.

              Mutton sukka varuval, excellent though I prefer Mumbai Chowk's mutton sukka masala.

              Mutton dum biriyani, excellent.

              Poondu kuzhambu, had no idea what to expect, turned out to be garlic braised in a spicy tomato sauce served cold. Very good.

              Chicken lolipops, everybody else had them so we ordered, OK but would order some other chicken dish next time.

              Plain naan (not on the menu, just ordered it anyway), very good.

              Would have gotten idiyappam but they were out or no longer making them.

              Portions were smaller than at your average Indian dive but far from tiny. We had leftover biriyani, chicken, cauliflower, and garlic to take home. Prices seemed very reasonable for the quality.

              We went because we were headed down that way anyway, but (unlike what I thought about Tirupathi Bhimas) this is worth the drive from Berkeley.