Another v good South Indian in Milpitas - Red Chillis
167 S Main St
Milpitas, CA 95035
This place is fairly close to where 237 and 880 intersect. It's in a brightly decorated building right on a corner, plenty of space. The plates and fairly upscale, the rug has seen better days. If I was to guess, the place used to be an IHOP.
Keralan cuisine. GF hadn't ever heard of Kerala. I'm not sure I've eaten it before. It's a mixture of the chettinad places and Goa. Lots of coconut, and appams. I love appams. They have a dedicated appam station the way north indian places have a naan station.
There might have been a non-indian person there besides us. There was a big table of a family in saris and such. Would be fine for kids, has a family alcove (maybe seating 12 to 15) as well as a small stage for weddings and parties. About half way through dinner they put on some kind of DVD (couldn't see the screen) and kept the volume tolerable.
The menu has a lot to explore, and a lot we had no idea what it was. Like what is a Poricha Kozhy, at the top of the chicken page, offered without commentary. Wikipedia says it's Kerala Fried Chicken, which must have been what was in our Malabar Biryani --- if so, it's great.
We saw one dish we recognized, Nethili Fry, and have had at Anjapar Chettinad. The version here had a bit more breading, was a bit crispier, and the fish was a little smaller. Loved the delicatly fried green peppers and spice leaves. Even better, it's on the normal menu and not a special.
Malabar Fish Curry - this was warned as spicy, and it was SPICY. It's hard to describe, though. It had a clear spice punch, not soupy, and didn't cling to the tongue. Although it hit a solid Brian 8 and was reaching for 9, the punch receded into a clear tomato-ish broth taste very quickly. The fish itself was a little peculiar and a bit of an afterthought - a few cubes of what looked like swordfish. I think this was the "normal strength" of the dish, because the balance was excellent, and I'm glad the manager warned me but took my YES seriously.
Green Peas Masala - This was quite good. Green peas are in season and these had never seen a can or freezer. There were a few cashews for odd taste, and a thick coconut gravy. Very solid and added well to the dishes.
Special Biryani - this was my favorite of all biryanis I've had, like, ever, except for a Goat Biryani at Tabla Tastes (now defunct) in Foster City. There was just a lot of tastes in the rice - coconut, raisins, nuts, spice leaves, and several bits of this great Kerala Fried Chicken. Was also served with riata and chutney, which I just spooned on the top, not really knowing what to do. Nice oil level, too.
Appams - very nice. Have that slight sour tinge they're supposed to have, decent combo of crisp outside and chewy bottom.
No liquor license. We had water. It was constantly refilled.
The manager guy was approachable, and had I been in a different mood I would have rapped with him about the place, and the dishes. I could see into the kitchen, and there were two younger guys and one older guy tasting and helping them out. One of the tables was a sizable family, and they were getting special treatment.
Yelp claims there is a lunch buffet. This isn't the place I would go for a buffet - he broad variety of unusual dishes is the star.
$30/pp with tax and no alcohol perhaps seemed a little high but we left stuffed and with left-overs.
To someone who Really Knows Keralan, I don't know if this would be a great place. I suspect it would be - everything felt well executed. As a noob, it was a very good place, and made a great change from all the Usual Suspects - to me, the kind of place that typifies what's best about South Bay food.