Mumbai Chowk - great Newark indian
A Chowk is a square or marketplace or center.
This unassuming place near the dumbarton bridge (a short drive from Menlo Park) has an excellent menu. There's a lot of unusual dishes - tandoori, indo-chinese, "mumbai roadside dishes", biryani, etc. It's near a mi pueblo. The room is a square unadorned room with mustard yellow walls.
Each of the dishes had an usual deft touch. Between the interesting menu, and solid showing across a range of dishes, and low prices, it's hard to remember another indian place I've enjoyed as much.
Cut Mirchi - I love a good cut mirchi, which is Jalapenos deep fried. Well done, they're almost not hot, with the light cooking sweetening and softening but not overmuch. Perfectly done.
Chicken Kolhapuri - I had no idea what Kolhapuri was, but it's a gravy based curry-ish thing. The quality of the chicken was solid, the gravy was unusual and tasty.
Chapati - very nice. I love when the whole wheat really comes through.
Bhel Puri - I added this on at the end, and it's a solid Bhel Puri, nice crispy bits, enough apple, solid all around.
Total was $22 out the door.
I did not see any alcohol on the menu.
Service was pleasant enough. At some point the chef actually came out and took a tour of the room.
I had a chance to try this with a larger group, and will have to downgrade from "great" to "very good and interesting".
As hhc said in his report, one of the best things about the place is the breadth of the menu. There are a broad variety of dishes that I haven't seen elsewhere, and specialties like Chettinad Chicken, as well as a section on Desi and Tandoori.
Kathi Roll - this is a peculiar entry, because it's a little street rap sold as an appetizer. It has a solid punch and it's a good dish, but splitting it up is hard. Restaurant should pre-slice it, I guess.
Cut Mirchi - I am very bullish on this dish, they had it at Tabla in Foster City before it closed. The jalapenos become mellow when cooked just right - like padron peppers. Perfectly cooked as before.
Bhel puri - better executed than last time. Balance was correct, lots of crunchy goodness, could have used a touch more chutney maybe, a solid rendition.
Bombil Fry - this is "duck fish", which I've never heard of, and is generally like a catfish fry. Almost no spice in the batter (unlike my favorite Nethili Fry). A great little finger food but somewhat dull in comparison to other dishes.
Then we ordered a round of mains. In general, the curry-ish dishes are small balti-style dishes. As long as you remember these are sold as $8 dishes and you've got a lot of them and you're still walking away for $15/pp with a generous tip, this is a good deal. The smaller dishes means you get more tastes, even though to the american eye it looks like a stingy main course.
Some mutton curry - probably the hit of the round. More of a paste than a curry, with an interesting spice texture that mixed with the gaminess of the mutton.
A hot chicken spice - this was the one dish that we were warned was spicy, and it was actually fairly hot but not killer (british scale is vindaloo-madras-phal, right? this was like vindaloo on that scale). A few chunks of chicken and a lot of gravy.
Some kind of veg curry - very soupy with peas. The group liked this more than me, some fenugreek, complex and buttery. With more rice (the rice came late) to soak up, this would have been better.
Bread - the garlic nan is encrusted. They don't fool around with the garlic. We got a couple of "multilayer parathas" which aren't as good as the regular kind. Generally solid bread.
What continues to excite about this place is the extraordinary breadth of the menu, the down home atmosphere (I don't think they know how to dumb down the spices), the low prices, the fast service. I'll be coming over whenever I can drag the GF. She overate (happens when the food is good and coming in small bite sized portions), thus will be surly about coming again.
Got a few things to go.
The sukah mutton masala was fantastic. Reminded me of rendang. I'll be getting this often.
Achari gobi cauliflower special was very good.
The cut mirchi had good flavor and texture but they were those weird hybrid jalapeños that are about as high on the Scoville scale as a bell pepper.
Great find. Just a couple of blocks off the freeway.
Sukah mutton masala was as good as the first time.
Misal pav was a chalkboard special, never heard of it before, a kind of vegetarian soup made from lentil sprouts. They wrapped the crunchy stuff in aluminum and wrote "add to misal pav." The rolls seemed irrelevant.
Malvani chicken wasn't as interesting as the description on the menu, or maybe it just paled after the misal pav.
Palak paneer and chana masala were both very good and seasoned a bit differently than what I've had elsewhere.
I ordered chettinad chicken but they said they're not making it any more.
re: Robert Lauriston
The word pav originates from the Portuguese word pão. Before the Portuguese arrived in India, there was no bread as we know it today over there.
Second, the pav that is available in the US bears no resemblance to its cousin - it is made without using eggs - not very good, IMO.
The pav in India would be crusty and would let you soak up all the delicious oil floating around in the Misal. Here's a pic of Misal I made at home, a while back. And the real deal 'pav' in India.
We stumbled across Mumbai Chowk a few days ago and really enjoyed it. Prices are great for well-prepared food that doesn't seem dumbed down.
Veg Somosas: My dining companion ordered these. Fine, though nothing special.
Sev Batata Puri: Loved these. Perfect little bites of sweet and savory, smooth and crunchy.
Sukha chicken masala: One of the dishes recommended by the waitress, as we were struggling to make decisions about the vast menu. Really delicious. Chunks of chicken thigh meat cooked with almost a paste like "sauce" (not very saucy) made up of tomatoes, lots of caramelized onions, and various spices. Loved this, especially the onions.
Veg kolhapuri: This was a bit unexpected. We'd ask for a vegetable recommendation, and something that had more sauce than our other selections. This was indeed a creamy dish but the vegetables weren't much in evidence. Some carrots and peas (possibly of the previously frozen variety) and a small floret of cauliflower. BUT, that sauce was delicious! I can't remember the spice notes now, but this was a hit on the flavor meter.
Garlic naan and onion kulcha. Both were excellent in texture and taste.
We ordered everything moderately spicy and next time I'd order it more spicy. We'll definitely be back.