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Mr Taster is leaving Los Angeles!

Mr. Taster, Congratulations on your new job and move to Portland. I've followed your comments over the years, and you'll be missed. I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, so I did end up making a wishlist, that unfortunately, I could never accomplish.

My wishlist (dated, and revised based on a few trips back)":

- Mariscos Chente or wherever Sergio Penulas works
- Chichen Itza
- Moles La Tia/Guelaguetza
- El Parian
- Langer's
- Chengdu Taste (back then my pick was Chung King)
- Yunchuan Garden
- Seafood Harbor
- Park's
- Beverly Soon Tofu
- Soot Bull Jeep (if its still any good)
- Cole's
- Surati Farsan Mart

... so many more, and I will always miss them :)

Bombay to Goa (Maharashtrian/Goan coastal cuisine) | Sunnyvale

Yay! Finally.

Bombay to Goa is a specialty restaurant with culinary offerings from the coast of Maharashtra (e.g. Malwan)and the state of Goa. We tried some of the classics - fried fish, shrimp sukka (dry), Goan special shrimp curry with okra, fish curry and bhakri (similar to chapati, but thicker and made with sorghum. They were all finger-licking good. Make it awesome.

Particularly noteworthy were: shrimp sukka and a very authentic version of the fish curry - sprinkled with "trifal", the Indian version of the numbing Sichuan peppercorns. The fried fish was also excellent: note, I didn't particularly care about the fact that the fish was probably frozen , what mattered more was the masala used to marinate it. And that was fresh, authentic, and yes - hot and spicy. The fish offerings are a Bombay/Goa staple: bangda, surmai, pompfret etc. Also had the Goan version of sol kadhi; a cold soup for a hot summer day. Result: very refreshing.

Couple of things to note: Reservations are highly encouraged. Service is slow (they're apologetic, if that helps), and for lunch they have a prix fixe ("thali") option (apparently, the service is slow for that as well). In summary, a lot of patience is necessary, but the food was well worth the wait. Prices are OK - $9-12 entrees, portion sizes are OK. They also offer Bombay street side specials e.g., Vada Pav - but I could care less. This is a very interesting addition to the Bay Area Indian food landscape: we have far too many IndoPak/Punjabi/"South Indian" joints offering more or less the same type of food (Gosh how many more Hyderabadi Biryani places do we need?) and in the same type of environment (low quality service and ambiance in the name of "authenticity").

Gajalee in SF offers a few Malwani/Goan dishes...I am yet to try it, so will pass judgement only when I do (don't judge a book by it cover, or a restaurant merely by its menu).

Bombay to Goa
151 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 245-9999

Musing in Fremont

I haven't tried the pizza, but maybe will do that soon and report back.

Musing in Fremont

Not sure how I forgot to report this one:

- Mirchi Cafe: Unusual stateside, but fairly commonplace in the subcontinent are joints that serve regional versions of burgers, shakes and fries. Mirchi Cafe is in that genre offering Halal versions of burgers (beef/chicken), fried chicken et al. For obvious reasons, most of the menu is spiced up, but not heavily. I enjoyed the Punjabi Chicken Burger, Chicken Pepper Steak (aka Pakistani version of a Philly Cheese Steak) and the Mirchi Fried Chicken on several visits in the past couple of years.

It's a small joint that fill up fairly quickly, so calling up ahead is advised.

Musing in Fremont


@Moto: Certainly. Haven't had a chance to make the trek to Daly City but plan to do so.

@bbulkow: I did try Mumbai Chowk in late 2012; went with the Bombay menu and it wasn't remarkable. Much has changed with the new expanded menu. Will report back when I do.

@daveena: I haven't found anything that I liked in Fremont (California Craft Beer is good, but didn't have food, not sure if that has changed recently).

I will certainly try The Bistro. Hayward ain't too far. I do plan to try Saravana, but I think do try Madras Cafe in the South Bay!

Musing in Fremont

23 months and 25 additional pounds later it is time for an update. Fremont has arrived. There is a Whole Foods Market and a Boudin SF to boot. Yet, it continues to be a city dominated by Indian and Chinese culinary options. In spite of the fact that now we have The Counter, Blaze and Pielogy. Yes, while both Blaze and Pieology are not a Mozza, they are still a mile and a moon better than Moutain Mike's and the other "pizza" options in Fremont.

Where has my opinion changed (for the better):
- Chaat Bhavan: I get it. Finally. Rich, yet home-style Punjabi food. I still don't enjoy the chaat as much, but there are many other things that I do. Namely - parathas, puris, vegetables - malai paneer, okra and many others. Sprouts Bhel continues to be a winner.
- Chaat Paradise: Basically west-Indians (Gujuratis) run this joint. Again their USP is to offer home-style food, which is not as rich as Chaat Bhavan yet, delicious. I do think their chaat is better than most others, but doesn't hold a candle to the winner in my eyes - Chatpatta Corner.
- Shalimar: I am doing a 180 here, when I say that I really enjoy the Chicken Leg Quarter at Shalimaar. It is probably my favorite for the Chicken Leg Quarter among all IndoPak joints. The curries continue to be great (in the IndoPak tradition).
- Arka: Wasn't reviewed during my last post, "High-end" Indian with beers on tap. The quality and freshness of the food was evident. Curries had subdued flavors and were not swimming in oil (like most IndoPak joints). One visit, during which the owner was pushing for a return to try their buffet (why?!). The organic tandoori chicken was succulent and flavorful (in spite of the added color), the shrimp salaan was the highlight and the Chicken 65 which is usually greasy, wasn't. Will return for sure - though its expensive compared to the rest of the pack.
- Anand Bhavan: For South Indian, I prefer this over Sarvanna. My preference maybe motivated by the fact that they have Gongura Soup a hot, sour and spicy concoction that arguably is the best cure for a cold. Only if you can survive it. The dosas and the rest of the south Indian fare are not a killer, but maybe I prefer it as I find it less mediocre over the more mediocre Sarvana (see below).

My 2 cents on the general south Indian fare in the Bay Area - most of it is from Andhra Pradesh, very few joints are from Tamil Nadu (e.g. Madras Cafe in South Bay) or Karnataka or let alone Kerala. Ask anyone from these states and they would pick their cuisine as "South Indian", but in reality, let's face it we are all eating Andhra cuisine for better or worse. I do desire that someone like Adiga's from Bangalore opens shop here. It will open palettes to an entire new spectrum of dosas and sambar. Full disclosure: I am not from Karnataka.

Where has my opinion changed (for the worse):
- Lovely Sweets & Snacks: Two consecutive disappointing sessions of samosa chaat - including one where they offered an extra serving to make up for what I think was their knowledge of the poor quality. On my "do not enter" list.
- Saravana Bhavan: They hadn't opened shop in Fremont when I wrote the previous post, but 2-3 trips later, I continue to have mixed feelings; nothings wows me here...but maybe the fault is mine. I expect greatness in a temple of mediocrity. And mediocrity may not be so bad after all. Nevermind.
- Wang's Kitchen: It's so boring that even someone who grew up with it, can't have it more than once in 2-3 years. Meh.

Business as usual:
- Tandoori and Curry: Has become my favorite joint for IndoPak. I think the Lamb Biryani is the best I have had in the Bay Area (on a recent trip to Bombay I lamented the poor quality of Biryani to my hosts. Much to their annoyance, I reported, "Fremont does better", what I meant TnC does better; this is not to say that you can't find better Biryani in Bombay, because you can). Continue to stay away from the buffet. But Chandni Ghosht, Bhuna Lamb, Achaari Chicken and the seekh kababs make for a delightful meal.
- Chatpatta Corner: Awesome, underrated and off-the-radar. Real-deal pani puri, real-deal Delhi-style chaat. Anyone who has had better in the Bay Area needs to post a response, because I do strongly believe it is hard to beat Chatpatta.
- Bismillah: If not for their random closing times (usually anytime after 9PM, though they claim they close at 10), the cash only policy, they are still one of my favorites. Not so big anymore on their biryani.
- Pakwaan: Try the "Tala Gosht"; translates to "Fried Meat", it is a lamb curry, that is greasy goodness at its finest. Pakwaan may also get my vote for the worst biryani among the IndoPak joints (close second is Shalimar).

What else have I tried in Fremont lately:
- Sala Thai (1 and 2): Respectable Thai food, but nothing outstanding.
- Banh Thai: I prefer Banh over Sala. More interesting menu as far as I can recall than Sala
- Gangnam Tofu House: Respectable Soon Tofu and banchan. Their seafood pancake is actually quite impressive
- Pepper Bros: Closest to real Sichuan/Yunnan that you can find in the FUN cities. Spicy Town is a fraud when it comes to the Scoville index.
- Little Fat Sheep: In Newark, a location of the international hot pot chain. I do think the quality of the meats and veggies was superior to most other hot pot joints that I have been to in the Southland.
- Food Talk Cafe: Taiwanese/Cantonese (not sure) - great Congee and some Cantonese favorites like fried chicken wings. Interesting and warrants a few more visits.
- Golden Bay Chinese: Couple of visits, oscillated between good to average, never returned. Claims to be Cantonese but has a lot of Sichuan style dishes (memory is hazy; located in same lot as Shalimar.
- Asian Pearl: Vastly mediocre dimsum. Nothing memorable. Go to Mayflower for a less mediocre version. Go to LA if you want the real deal.
- #Can'tRememberName: Dimsum joint on Paseo Padre and Walnut. In the same lot as The Counter. Interesting dimsum (only for lunch?). Will return.
- #Cant'RememberName2: Hotpot joint next to Food Talk Cafe. Customize your hotpot, and do what the fuck you want with it. Five different broths yet, nothing that was awesome. Good concept, average execution.
- Basil Leaf: For all your Pho-desires. Servicable version if you don't desire to drive anywhere.
- Com Tham Namh: I prefer this over Basil Leaf, but there's a glut of new Viet places in the vicinity that one needs to try to get a sense of who is the real deal. Or maybe just head to San Jose or Milpitas.
- Mayflower Seafood: Good, but not great. Koi Palace is next, so we'll see how that compares to the live seafood joints in the Southland
- Coco Chicken: Korean Fried Chicken. Unremarkable. One visit and that was it.
- De Afghanan: Been to both - the restaurant and the takeout joint. Terrific kakabs. The takeout joint is one of the best cheap eats in Fremont and deserves the accolades it gets!

To all you wannabe restaurateurs: we could easily do with all of the following. It's a captive audience and the market research really isn't rocket science. My Fremont wishlist:
- Real diner (e.g. Griddle Cafe)
- Real deli (e.g. Langer's)
- Real Mexican (e.g. La Parilla; yeah, even La Parilla would be OK)
- Real gastropub (e.g. too many to name)
- Real Sichuan (e.g. Chengdu Taste)
- Real K-BBQ (e.g. Soot Bull Jeep)

Musing in Fremont

Maybe a more apt title is "Gormandizing in Fremont", but musing is easier on the ears.

In the last three-four months I have figured out Fremont is a one-trick pony. A Kentucky derby level one-trick pony, but still in essence a one-trick pony. The cuisine of choice here is pan-Indian; mostly northern, some southern, and some in between. Let's begin with a discussion of the northern. What is commonly packaged as "Indo Pak" cuisine, is in essence more Pakistani than Indian. In my opinion its actually a good thing. It's a euphemism, the genesis of which is rooted in any business's DNA: profitability. The intent here, is to ensure the Indians visit as frequently as the Pakistanis.

There are at least five restaurants in this category, four with Pakistani roots, and one of Indian origin. The four are: Pakwan, Shalimar, Chutney's and Bismillah and the Indian is Tandoori-and-Curry. Having tried all five at least once, I do have a favorite: Bismillah. This under the radar, cash only, divey joint serves awesome kebabs and curry. Notable are the chicken seekh, the chicken boti, the chicken kofta curry, the lamb bhuna and the fantastic lamb biryani. Bismillah is all about no compromises and honest food - greasy, artery clogging curries and spicy grilled meats. The kofta curry is hot, the kofta (meatball) is spicy - the combined effect is lip-smacking goodness. The biryani as I understand is "pakka" style, i.e. the meat is cooked separately and then mixed with rice that is cooked separately, differing from the "kachcha" style or "dum biryani" that is popular in southern India, particularly Hyderabad. The naan is typical Pathani - north west frontier type, than the typical naan offered in Indian restaurants. From what I have heard and read, its chefs are former Pakwan alums, who opened this place. More power to them.

My second favorite is actually Tandoori-and-curry. One caveat about TnC is don't waste your time and money with the Sunday brunch - its nothing great. But do go at other times and order the Chandni Gosht or the Chicken Handi - again great curries made with unflinching honesty. The chicken and lamb biryani is also excellent. A common theme you will observe is that "unflinching honesty" usually translates into grease. Welcome to real muslim food from India.

A few words about the others: Pakwan is good, probably a toss-up for the second place. The curries at Shalimar are good, but the kebabs don't stand out. Chutney's has a more cleaner dining room, but basically is overly greasy and nothing really stands out, except the mango lassi.

There are also quite a few restaurants of Indian origin - Masala Grill, Biryani Bowl, India Grill (haven't tried) and a bunch of others. Masala Grill is good, but in Fremont good, is not good enough. The Tangri (leg) Kabab was disappointing, the Rogan Josh was OK (agreed, I am trying a Kashmiri specialty in a Hyderabadi restaurant), the Desi Chinese (Hakka Noodles) were insipid (like most Indian Chinese). It's really not as bad as I make it sound to be, but its not the first place I would go to especially if TnC and Bismillah were open.

If you are in Fremont, you must also try Peacock Indian Cuisine. I have tried the buffet three times, and its solid food. The Andhra sambar and vegetables (bagara baingan?) are usually very good. The Hyderabadi Biryani is a big draw - and is perhaps the best rendition I have had in a while. I am yet to make it for dinner which is served a la carte. Peacock is a safe bet. The bad for Hyderabadi food in my opinion is Biryani Bowl. I mean for fuck's sake if you call yourself "Biryani Bowl" and your eponymous dish doesn't stand out - especially in a place like Fremont, you've got problems. Paratha Point suffers from the same malady - mediocre parathas.

Since we are more or less in the South, let's discuss some south Indian joints. I have tried three - Amma's (Chettinad - below average, hit Anjappar in Milpitas). Woodlands - good solid (Udupi/Kannada-style south Indian) - good sambar/rasam/vadas; dosa was OK. Ganesh Bhavan - good sambar, great chutneys, better dosas (better than Woodlands) If I am correct its Andhra-style south Indian. Point to note, all three are in Newark. I am yet to try the Sarvanna Bhavan (someday...)

The remaining big potato is chaat. Some nominees from the "been there" list: Chaat Paradise, Chaat Bhavan, Chaat Cafe, Chaat Paradise (Mountain View, but they opened a branch in Fremont) Lovely Sweets and Snack and Chatpatta Corner.

I find Chaat Bhavan ovrerrated; I don't get it, I simply don't get it. My gold standard for testing a chaat restuarant is paani puri and on a good day, I think Chaat Bhavan's pani is good, but not Fremont good. However, Chaat Bhavan offers a rather diverse set of items - and a lot of them are quite good (e.g. methi puri, sprouts bhel - I like it because its a different take on Bhel, yes I know its technically chaat, some parathas)

For Fremont good, I maintain that if you want to eat awesome chaat especially Paani Puri head to Chatpatta Corner in Ardenwood.

The others: Chaat Paradise (OK, don't get what the deal is), Chaat Cafe (beer + chaat + "non-veg", e.g. chicken tandoori wrap) is good food, but doesn't stand out.

Now for the surprise. I think Indian food largely is holistic: the sum of the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. A good example is Lovely Sweets and Snacks. This divey, definitely not the most hygienic restaurant possibly serves some of the best Samosa Chaat and Dal Kachori Chaat I have ever had. In the Bay Area, I am sure you will find better Chole, better Samosas or better Chutneys, but LSS has the secret formula and it bloody works. I haven't tried anything else there, but the increasing girth is testament to dozens of Samosa Chaat (BTW, FWIW, one of the worst Samosa Chaats I have had was at Chaat Bhavan).

What else.....

I tried Wang's Kitchen (Indian Chinese); had the classics "Manchurian"/ Hot and Sour and all that good stuff. This is strictly for those who grew up thinking Chinese food is supposed to taste like this. I did, but I also spent seven gorgeous years wandering through the alleys of San Gabriel Valley, so in all honesty, I don't care much about it. I enjoy it once a year, but otherwise its basically more of the same "Schezwan" or "Manchurian" sauce.

I miss Los Angeles; Yunchuan Garden, Mariscos Chente (or wherever Sergio's cooking), Park's BBQ, Porto's....the list is endless, but thats not the point. I am here, and its about now.

I like Darda's Seafood near Ardenwood (next to Chatpatta Corner). Andy's Tofu House on Thornton serves pretty good Soon Tofu (Yay!). Some other notes - if you love beer, Fremont is quite mediocre - no Beer Revolution, let alone Toronado/O'Briens/Father's Office. There are three craft beer stores/"pubs". California Craft Beer - probably the most respectable. Mission Spirits and Cork-and-Cap (or some combination) also have a decent selection - nothing out of the ordinary, but yes, at least you won't end up with Coors Light.

Cheers. And welcome to Fremont.

p.s. I am sure many will disagree with me, and rightfully so. It's your opinion, you are entitled to it. So am I. :)

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

ROFL...since "no one on this board was there", lets assume (a) you were in retail and (b) they had high tolerance to pain...:)

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

I think the "sounds weird" argument is a judgment call. What's more important is the response to a weird request, and under ideal and almost every condition is to decline it politely. That was a clearly an option that was not exercised.

I wrote to BTAH and they responded in a matter of hours and offered an apology (accepted) and wanted to send me a free tshirt (politely declined). The only explanation they could offer for the behavior was that she was having a bad day.

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

As I said, there was a really nice guy, who was engaging and knowledgeable...I like to isolate and identify my problems with a particular place before I decide on return visits. Moreover, everyone deserves a second chance. :)

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

I didn't want to get into any over generalizations. Though in that kind of heat and humidity, tempers can flare more quickly!

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

Haha...that's a funny argument. Having said that, I hope you are not into any business requiring interaction with customers :)

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

I think the "sounds weird" argument is a judgment call; one can argue either way. The more important point here is the response to a weird request: politely declining it is a reasonable option that can and should be exercised. Rebuking a customer is

BTW, I wrote to Blind Tiger, and they responded very quickly with an apology (accepted) and an offer for a free tshirt (declined). The only explanation for the the bartender's behavior was the she was certainly having a bad day.

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

The Bizarre(?) Bartender of Blind Tiger Ale House, Manhattan

Late last week I made a quick trip to Manhattan. Given the schedule there was an opportunity for one meal with friends. As I was waiting for my friends and given the heat and humidity and the proximity to Blind Tiger Ale House, a quick trip to BTAH seemed like a good idea.

As I entered, there were 2 bartenders, and 3 when I left. 2 were females, 1 was male. I ordered 3 beers each served by a different bartender. There were about 4 customers when I entered and about 6-8 customers when I left. I had a great conversation with the male bartender who was quite engaging (I mentioned to him how BTAH was popular on the West coast and that I was surprised to see so little Allagash given its proximity. He said the listings were very dynamic, and I am sure they are!). All three bartenders offered samples and I had 4 samples and ordered 3 beers. My first exchange was with a female bartender and I asked her for the check as she had opened the tab for me. This is what followed:

Me: "Can I have the check please?"
BT: "Sure."
BT brings me the check.
Me: "How much are the BTAH t-shirts for?"
BT: "$22"
Me: "Ohhh..." (shrugged a little indicating it was a little expensive) "Hey, but you guys can get free publicity in Los Angeles (where I live)" (smiling as I said that).
That's when I noticed a discrepancy in the check. They had billed me for 2 beers instead of 3.
Me: "Hey, you haven't charged me for a beer. I had 3, there are only 2 on the check". Again smiling at her I said "So maybe you can give me a new check and a discount on the tshirt"
BT went over to the other side of the bar, as I was bewildered at what had just happened!

I paid for the two beers ($17 and left a $3 tip, lower by my standards, but reasonable given the exchange) and left after having waited to make sure she wasn't returning with a different check.

Funny way to do business?

Revenue so far: $17
Additional revenue: $8 - $30 (depending on the price of the tshirt). All you have to do is give me a new check and possibly smile and say "sorry, its $22".

I am sure $8-30 doesn't make a dent in BTAH's annual revenues, but what a bizarre way to respond to a paying customer, who has recognized an error that is to your advantage and is willing to pay for it (and possibly more!) Mind you there were operating at 10-20% of their capacity and there were 3 bartenders, so there really wasn't a lot of pressure on them.

As I thought about the situation later, I realized was haggling for the tshirt price was a bad idea?
A. I wasn't asking it for free
B. Poor form or not, I am a paying customer and I am being as nice and funny about it. Just say no, you don't have to SHOUT back at me!

Will I ever return to BTAH? In all honesty, its a great establishment serving hard to find beers and being a channel for smaller craft brewers. And I must say 2/3rd of the employees did a fine job! Though, I have decided to send an email to BTAH because maybe this is a repeat offender.

Jul 10, 2011
losfelizhound in Not About Food

Anjappar Chettinad, Milpitas

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

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

Maharashtrian Fast Food at India Chaat Cuisine, Sunnyvale

On a recent and short trip to the Bay area, I was told about some Maharashtrian delights appearing on the menu at India Chaat Cuisine (ICC). Having griped about the unavailability of this cuisine in the Bay area (or the US in general) I had to make the trip. From what I have seen, ICC wants to be the "pan-Indian Chaat" restaurant in the Bay area, because they have North, South and West quite well-represented, and in addition they also have Indo-Chinese. I tried the Maharashtrian stuff, so have no idea the quality of other cuisines.

Long story short: Bombay or Mumbai is the capital of the state of the Maharashtra. "Maharashtrian" food is quite varied, but all over the state there are some common staples: Pohe, Zunka Bhakar, Sabudana Vada, Vada Pav, Misal. ICC offers most of these items, and then some (I wish I had taken a picture of the menu, but too little, too late). This is some of the stuff I sampled:

Vada Pav: This is classic Bombay street food. The Vada is made up of boiled potatoes sauteed with some basic spices and curry leaves and then rolled into balls, dipped in a chickpea(?) batter, and deep-fried. Pav is simply bread (similar to a burger bun, but smaller and different in taste and texture). The condiments are usually a red chutney made from dessicated coconut, red chillies and some other ingredients. While individually the items were average (except the red chutney which was DA BOMB), overall the Vada Pav was quite good. I don't want to get into comparisons in terms of authenticity or taste or flavor, simply because its rare to get it here.

Puneri Misal: This was a letdown. Not only did it lack heat, it was almost sweet. Misal is a hot soupy curry made with sprouted beans (or other pulses) and some "farsan" or snacks thrown into the mix. Usually Pav is the accompaniment.

Sabudana Vada: Tapioca mixed with potatoes, corriander powder, cumin powder made into disc like shape and deep fried. This is literally "fast food", i.e. Maharashtrians eat this when they fast. I know the obvious logical fallacy with what I just said, but basically the argument goes that when Maharashtrians fast, they don't eat what they do on a regular day. For example, everything is cooked in ghee and not oil. They don't eat rice (a staple) and substitute it with something else. The sabudana mix at ICC was fresh, and even though it was fried, it wasn't greasy and the accompanying chutney was really good!

Sabudana Khichadi: Similar ingredients as above, but it is not made into a disc or fried. Again, this was also really good.

Thalipeeth: Another classic Maharashtrian staple. Different flours are used to make the dough: wheat, millet, chickpea and are mixed with spices, chillies, cilantro and has naan like thickness. It is then cooked on a cast iron pan. This was also very good (though, I would have preferred more heat), it had the right texture and flavor.

There are quite a few items that I need to try, but in case you have, please report! Overall, for those enthusiastic about trying some of these food stuffs, this is a good find and deserves mention on Chow.

Also tried Peacock's Chicken and Lamb Biryani. Great stuff! It's been a while, so I am not making any comparisons to Annapoorna or Kebab Corner, so please update me on the Biryani scene if you can. Thanks!

India Chaat Cuisine
1082 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

A & J Hot Point Opens Up In Rosemead

Thanks, Chadavkl. To add: they offer five broths, "regular", hot & spicy, korean-kimchi, japanese-curry and mongolian-herb. We ordered the mongolian-herb and the hot & spicy, both were good, the latter more spicy than hot. While the hot & spicy was delicious, because of the whole spices, it became somewhat cumbersome to separate the whole spices from the meat and the vegetables and to avoid chewing them. The lamb was of better quality than I have had at Mon Land or Little Sheep, and the vegetables were fresh.

I must say, the service was excellent (it kind of helps, if the restaurant is not crowded; there was only one table other than ours that was being served). We got the 10% new customer discount and also a "frequent flier" card (50% off, on the 10th visit). I would definitely return, but it would have helped their cause, had they opened in December or January when things were relatively colder. Now with spring looming around, and summer not too far its not exactly hot pot season as ipse dixit mentioned. Nevertheless good bang for the buck!

EDIT: Like Midori, if you don't finish what you ordered you pay the a la carte price for the unconsumed items. I am not sure how they implement it because it is clearly not as straightforward as unconsumed sushi.

Little Sheep
227 W Valley Blvd # 3, San Gabriel, CA

Pollo A La Brasa, Western & 8th

The expansion will be completed by February. They do have a small sit-down area even in their current setup (4-6, 4-top tables).

This is a case of personal preference - to say one is better than the other, tell us nothing about either one of them. Moreover, PALB and Dino's use different cooking techniques (iirc, slow-roasted vs. flame-grilled), spices, and condiments. If I said, I preferred the Tandoori Chicken from an Indian place over Dino's (or PALB) it doesn't sound like a fair comparison.

Mariscos Chente Lennox

EK: They take credit cards - I am sure about Visa/MC, not sure about Amex.

Moderately Priced Ethnic Restaurant for Graduation late lunch/dinner? (in from out of town)

For Lebanese you could head to Phoneicia, or Carousel in Glendale. My personal favorite is Phonenicia, but Carousel has a wider array of mezzes to choose from.

Carousel Restaurant
304 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

343 N Central Ave, Glendale, CA 91203

Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente

I certainly hope this is a small bump. With Sergio's talent, they will need a bigger space, sooner than later.

BTW, on that note, they don't serve the fish/shrimp tacos/soups at the Inglewood location. It is the "original" Mar Vista menu, minus the pescado zarandeado.

Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente

Thanks for the heads up SGLA. We went to the Inglewood location on 04/17 for a late lunch. Sergio was there, and needless to say the food was as spectacular as we were used to in the Mar Vista location.

However, the pescado zarandeado was not available, because the grill is still in the Mar Vista location, and I was told, they should be able to move it and start offering pz by the start of summer. Secondly, the Inglewood location is small (3-4 tables for 4 persons/table, and 3-4 bar stools). So when the word spreads around of Sergio's transfer, get ready for long waiting times :(

Jitlada - first time visit

"Effective" and "genuine" are different constructs. Remembering your preferences is a necessary (and perhaps even sufficient) condition for being "effective", but certainly it is not sufficient for being considered "genuine". My point is, effectiveness is easier to ascribe than genuineness. Lastly, the existence (or absence) of one, says very little about the other.

I am glad to hear your experience about Jitla Da was different from mine. As you mentioned, in Thai and some Chinese restaurants, the order of serving food is not the same as one expects (e.g., soup > entree) and that's alright, as long as all ordered items are served before the diners call it a day.

Jitlada - first time visit

I think there is a difference between nonchalance, and ineffectiveness. At a number of Asian eateries that I go to, I expect the service to be nonchalant (it usually is) but at the same time it is effective, i.e., they get the job done.

My problem with Jitla Da is that it is not just nonchalant, but also ineffective, i.e. they don't get the job done. On our last visit, one of the entrees we ordered was served *after* we had finished our meal (and in spite of a couple of requests about its status). That said, the food is great, but sometimes one just get tired of the service, and has enough options to allocate limited resources.

That said, with a Hummer you are already expecting a low mpg, but if the actual mpg, is significantly lower than your already low expectations, then, I think it is valid to raise a stink.

Chowhound challenge - cheese manakish, anywhere in LA??

I think you may find what you are looking for at Zaatar Bakery & Factory in Burbank.

Zaatar Factory & Bakery
2909 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504

What is the best Indian restaurant in LA?

Beg to differ: Udupi is very mediocre (even by LA standards). In Artesia, I would head to Woodlands (or Tirupati Bhimas, if I want Andhra-style), in LA, I would head to Paru's (Tamil, not Udupi) on Sunset.

REVIEW w/ pics: Marvelous Mumbai Vegetarian Street Food at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se

Moomin, the problem with MKGS is their inability to showcase their strengths. The diverse menu is a true reflection of the Mumbai street food scene, though it is incomplete, and in some cases inaccurate. For example, they don't serve any meat, which is not the case with the Bombay street food scene, e.g., the Muslim neighborhoods of Bombay are well-known for their delectable kababs, phirni, etc., especially during Ramazan. I would say it is inaccurate, because traditional (e.g., curries) North Indian food is not really "street food" in Bombay (it is in Delhi, but certainly not in Bombay).

That said, I think MKGS offers dishes that nobody else on Pioneer Blvd., does, e.g., Sabudana Vada or Sabudana Khicahdi (not sure about this), or Masale Bhaath, or Puneri Misal. Most of these items are not "street food" in the strictest sense as they are usually served in fast-food type restaurants. But, as I said in my review, they are hard to find elsewhere in India, leave aside North America. How do they compare to what you get in Bombay? I would say close enough, obviously places in the Maharashtrian neighborhoods that have survived for decades have mastered the art of making Piyush or Sabudana Vada, but MKGS does a very respectable job.

So the "drivability index" for MKGS comes with a caveat: go for things that you can't find elsewhere.

p.s. I haven't had respectable Pav Bhaji anywhere in Southern/Northern California. The Northies have no clue how to make it, the Gujjus haven't perfected it by any means, though it is almost their staple Sunday evening diet in their neighborhoods of Bombay. It's not that hard, but somehow...

Anyone into Persian food?

Thanks for the insight. Just a quick question: Why is the menu at Raffi's similar to other Armenian joints in Glendale, and a subset of the Persian joints in Tehrangeles? For example, almost all Persian joints in Westwood serve polos, and stews, which are not available in Raffi's, or weren't until recently. Is that a result of their clientele being largely Armenian, or is it not part of the Persian-born Armenians diet?

Anyone into Persian food?

Raffi's is technically Armenian. However, they recently added a number of new Persian-style rice offerings (polos). In addition, if I remember correctly, they also serve Dizi now.