Pani puri is one of the great pleasures of life. It’s the epitome of mouth drama. You pick up a little fried, hollow crispy bit of bread, crack a hole in the top, and drop in various fillings–stuff like potatoes and chickpeas in tamarind sauce. Then you fill the fried bread with pani water–a cool, minty, thin liquid. Put the whole thing in your mouth–quickly, please–and bite. And there ensues a crunchy, minty, cool explosion and subsequent flood of flavor.
Pani puri at Chat Patta is unlike other pani puri, says Melanie Wong. They’re made one at a time, to order. And they’re absolutely fresh, without any of the old, stale taste you get at your typical joint. The puri shells are so thin they’re transparent, yet they manage to retain all the pani water.
And there’s more. Chat Patta is, in general, Melanie’s favorite outpost for Indian snack foods. Their choley bhature ($5.50) is her favorite version, an outstanding tasting watery broth filled with choley–spiced garbanzo beans. The secret? They use more black cardamom and roast the pods longer than most. The broth has a dark, inky color, and a deeper, more complex taste than any other choley bhature she’s had. Mix chaat ($4) offers a little of everything.–meaty garbanzos, super-fresh sev, onions, and cilantro. Pav bhaji ($5.50) are fantastic. There is great life in their uneven textures and blended vegetable flavors.
Samosas are a buck apiece, and are outstanding. The crust has an interesting pebbly, crumbly texture–so much better than the usual leaden, tough-crusted blobs. They’re served dangerously hot, right out of the fryer.
Desserts? Falooda ($3.50) is made with pistachio ice cream, basil seeds, sweet syrup, and noodles. Their version rocks. Gulab jamun ($1.50) are fried to order and come out blazing hot, topped with a very light syrup of uncommon delicacy. The gulabs are well browned and amazingly tender, with just a bit of chewiness. These are now her favorite gulab jamun in town, edging out former favorite Ajanta.
Fruity mango lassi is frothy and wonderful. Mango shake with ice cream is less good.
The ladies behind the counter are sweet, loving, and they will occasionally take a look at you and inform you that what you really need to sooth your tired soul is aloo puri. And they will be right.
The Chat Patta branch inside the Dana Bazar is standing room only. Order your pani puri one at a time from the counter and gobble them while standing between stacks of dried foods. At the Ardenwood location, you actually get to sit down. And they’ve got longer hours. But the two locations are identically priced and identically spiced.
Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
34751 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
Chat Patta Corner [East Bay]
in Dana Bazar
5113 Mowry Ave., Fremont
Ajanta Restaurant [East Bay]
1888 Solano Ave., Berkeley
Board Links: Chat Patta Corner and Dana Bazar, Fremont–Fresh Pani Puri