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Best Indian San Francisco

A friend and I are craving Indian tonight. Not fancy but good. I recently moved back to the Bay Area from LA and used to go to Indian Oven in the Lower Haight. I went to Cafe Chaat for lunch a few months back and thought it was decent food for a good value. Would love to hear from all the hounds. Please keep it to SF as we don't want to travel to South Bay :) thank you.

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  1. We have enjoyed all our visits to Aslam's Rasol on Valencia near 21st in the Mission.
    Check out the web site at: http://www.aslamsrasoi.com/
    The mixed tandoori seafood is amazing. Good beer on tap and a fine wine list.

    1. I would recommend Lahore Karahi Pakistani Indian Cuisine, located at 612 O'Farrell St.

      3 Replies
      1. re: od_sf

        LaHore Karahi has closed and the chef has left the area.

        1. re: Bruce in SLO

          it's still open, but under a new chef. the new chef has sneakily kept all the awards on the wall from the previous incarnation/

          that being said, pakwan is a pretty good value, albeit divey

          1. re: vulber

            Be careful at Pakwan (among others). I once found a big knot of hair in the water bottle. Was taking a VERY picky Scottish lady there and it was embarrassing.

      2. Since Lahore Karahi closed, I've been going to Gajalee on Valencia. Everything we have had there has been good to great ( the Lamb Hariyali is outstanding ) and they wont shy away from making it extra spicy!

        1. I understand that it may be a bit late, but I would definitely recommend Curry Village, in the Inner Sunset. Yes, a name that sounds like average food, but actually very good! I happen to be half Indian and have lived in SF my whole life, and this is my current favorite. The service is very nice, and the Bollywood music videos can be either a little distracting if you are with friends, or a fun way to pass time alone. There is an evening buffet I LOVE! $15. Includes drinks from the best chai in the city to mango lassi to soda. Includes desserts from kheer (Indian rice pudding, also the best in the city), to khulfi (halfway between ice cream and frozen yogurt). Includes appetizers from pappadum to samosas (the only thing not so great there). And of course, there are also excellent curries, a good biryani, and excellent naans. I guess it is way too late for a June 30th dinner, but a must-visit, off-the-beaten-track Indian place while you are in the city.

          2 Replies
          1. re: i.luvuh.my.fooduh

            Curry Village is the most "south bay like" of any Indian restaurant I've been to in the city.
            If that makes any sense to anyone else.

            1. re: kairo

              makes sense and means I'll try it if I'm in the City.

          2. thank you all. I definitely want to try Curry Village!

            2 Replies
            1. re: tbroadman

              Tried out the Sunday buffet at Curry Village this past week, and I was pretty disappointed.

              First, I had some doubts about the food safety, not sure if it's kept at the right temperature. We got there around 6, and most of the food in the trays seemed to be lukewarm / heated unevenly. I saw the owner turn up the heating elements soon after we arrived. I got the sense that the food had been sitting out there for quite some time, and gone through repeated reheatings. Things just didn't taste that fresh. The various curries were also generally quite oily.

              I did like the tandoori chicken, it was flavorful, but again, not really kept at the right temperature. They had some fried appetizers (samosas, pakora, etc.) that suffered from not being fresh - no crispiness at all, and tasting a little greasy.

              Some reviews on Yelp raved about the naan, but I really disagreed. It had, to me, an unappetizing aroma - margarine, perhaps? It tasted oddly sweet. I didn't eat more than one piece. Chicken Tikka Masala was also oddly sweet.

              Dessert-wise, the gulab jamun were leaden, tasting a bit stale. Chai was way too sweet for my tastes, almost felt like there's a little grittiness from the large quantity of sugar.

              I wanted to like this place. The owner was nice, kept refilling our chai, bringing out more naan, etc. But, overall the food was a disappointment - perhaps they're trying to do too many things and there isn't enough turnover.

              1. re: nsheth

                I can't agree more. I've seen the buffet looked ransacked, poorly maintained, and full of congealing food, or pools of grease. I've always figured it was just the aftermath of a big rush from the UC lunch crowd, but then that would have resulted in more turnover in the food, and less of it sitting out.

            2. I'm not an expert on Indian food--in fact it's one of my less favorite cuisines--but I really like the food at Saffron Grill:


              The navratan khorma (mixed veg in cashew cream) is really good, and I love their naan.

              The place is tiny--maybe seats 15 to 20--so keep that in mind when planning your visit.

              1. It's hard to imagine a better restaurant than Ajanta in Berkeley. If you can beat that, I'll travel across the bridge to check it out. Otherwise, why bother?

                11 Replies
                1. re: zippy2u

                  Ajanta is great in that it has very unusual menu items and tablecloths, but don't you find the tastes dull and muted, for indian food?

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    I think it depends on what you order. The other day for lunch I had a monthly special okra dish and a black chickpea side dish and both were about as good as any Indian food I've had in a restaurant. This Indian guy I work with doesn't like any of the other Indian places in the East Bay.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      any other suggestions about what you or your coworker likes at Ajanta?

                      i was going to check the place out.

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        Haven't been back since and probably neither has my former coworker, since that was his last day on the job and he lives and works on the Peninsula.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          A good approach to eating at Ajanta is to get the monthly specials. The dishes are always distinctive and not run of the mill curries. This months chicken special is exceptional. We go about once a month so we always get to try the current specials.

                          1. re: Ridge

                            thanks -- i stopped by last night and tried the lamb korma meal.

                            in general, i thought everything here was really excellent, so i'll definitely be back.

                            1. re: Ridge

                              A good approach to eating at Ajanta is to get the monthly specials. The dishes are always distinctive and not run of the mill curries.

                              I havent been to Ajanta in several years but I believe I on my last/latest trip there, upon hearing about one of these "specials" I asked dubiously "does that (combination) actually work?" ... and it turned out, it didnt really. I dont actually recall what it was, but it was the general consensus.

                              While the waiter didnt rave about it before we ordered, I think he/she did say afterwards "it wasnt going to come back".

                              So sometimes distinctive good maybe but other times distinctive bad, and let's hear it for the "classic" curries.

                              I think I'd go to Kabana over Ajanta these days unless maybe someone else was paying.

                              1. re: psb

                                I applaud Ajanta for taking risks and trying new dishes. The monthly specials don't always work but for my taste 75% of the time they do.

                                The dishes are regional and different. You get a sampling of authentic Indian regional cuisine. Sign me up! I appreciate being able to sample different combinations of seasonings every time I go there. I am willing to accept the occasional curry that does not work because more often they do and the different combinations are more interesting to me than just a standard chicken curry.

                                Never been to India but eating at Ajanta reminds me of eating in Asia. For example not everything i have eaten on the street in Bangkok is amazing but it's a rewarding adventure and most things are amazing.

                                1. re: Ridge

                                  I should clarify the failure was an "innovative special" ... maybe something funsiony ... and not a regional "classic" not generally on the menu.

                                  I glanced at the current Ajanta menu and one the one hand, there was some interesting looking items and more regional variety than I expected [I was surpised to see more southern thing than Iremembered]. On the other hand, it was also even more expensive than I had remembered (and I knew it was higher $$$ than average].

                                  I like street food too and sure sometime that's hit and miss due to say lower quality ingredients but that's generally super cheap.

                                  Anyway, my main issue wasnt the "the food sucks" but over the course of several visits my take away was "failed on price-performance" rather than "that was great!". So eventually it ... along with LaLame ... ended up on my veto list. Maybe it's time to reconsider, but I wish I could buy an option to be indemnified since I suspect I wont feel it's worth $35-$40.

                      2. re: zippy2u

                        I agree. Lachu's menu is always good. And he does not overload the dishes with heat which makes some feel the dishes are lacking. The curried goat I had a few months back was outstanding.

                        1. re: Andrew H

                          We went to Ajanta last might and it was excellent. We got the current chicken and lamb new dishes. Both were great but I thought the chicken was particularly outstanding. The curry had layers of flavor and was rich and satisfying and the chicken was very moist.

                      3. For anyone who's been to Rasika in Washington D.C. or Chai Pani in Asheville, NC, does the SF Bay Area have anything similar? SF friend who has recently been to both with me is craving that quality.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mikeh

                          It's my understanding that the chef at Amber Dhara is from Rasika:

                          I haven't been back since this announcement, but the food was not very good before the chef change.

                        2. This is late but hopefully it'll be useful to someone. I'm from the UK so I know my Indian food :)

                          I tried Kasa yesterday which was, in my opinion, overpriced (the thali - 11 bucks - came with just three curries!) but fairly tasty. The karahi paneer (cheese and peppers in a very light sauce, not sure how authentic it was as never seen anything like this before) was delicious, and the aloo jeera was cuminy and tasty though a bit dry. The crunchy salad which came with it was lovely. The chutneys were unremarkable. The samosa was boring with none of the crunch and excitement of the real thing and sadly the daal was crap - tasted like refritos from a taqueria, with no spice or salt at all! They also don't do salt lassi (sacrilege!!) I would eat there if craving Indian, I guess, but there are places on Valencia not that far away....

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dosasuperstar

                            what places do you like instead of Kasa? Are any as good as your favorites in the UK?

                          2. what does everyone think of amber india?

                            other than it is expensive?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              The best time to visit Amber India is during the buffet.

                              The a-la-carte selection at dinner is a bit too rich for my blood. I mean $25 for a biryani? No thanks. And it wasn't even good.

                              My favourites on the buffet: Butter chicken, chaat, tandoori chicken and black lentils (daal)

                              Avoid the mixed veggie dish - usually has a grand name like Nav-ratan korma.

                              Most places in the states have terrible tandoori chicken on the buffet - Amber is the only place I have come across where that's not the case.

                              1. re: osho

                                it is definitely less expensive during the buffet, but i think the food is better when you order a la carte.

                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                  the buffet is also more traditional indian, where the dinner is more fusion-y.

                                  they tend to replenish the buffet fairly often from my experience

                                  1. re: vulber

                                    good point -- hadn't noticed, but the dishes included on the buffet are the more traditional selections from their menu.

                                    in my experience, the buffet is definitely good, but some of the same dishes right out of the oven are even better -- some of my favorites in the city.

                                    black lentils, tandoori chicken, lamb curry, chicken curries, lamb on flatbread (bar menu), and some of the desserts i've had a couple times and would definitely get again.

                                    some of the vegetable starts are also pretty good, though it has been a while since i've had them.

                                    tried their crab a while back -- wasn't a big fan.

                            2. Ruchi on 3rd near Harrison is pretty good. Mix of south and north Indian dishes. Lunch is a good value.

                              Mehfil (2 locations, one in SOMA, one on Fillmore) is also worth a look, though they sometimes get a little crazy with the ghee.

                              If you want something fancier and a little more upscale you should check out Dosa (one on Valencia, one on Fillmore). Very good food and Indian influenced cocktails.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Josh

                                I have eaten at Dosa on Valencia a few times, and highly recommend it.