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Wading through South Bay's great Indian restaurants

Thank god.

Wading through South Bay's great Indian restaurants

Are you comparing Bangalore to Chinese food in China or Indian in the south bay? Bangalore will lose in the former comparison, but it's totally irrelevant to the second. Anyhow:

Your account of food in Bangalore is risible. It's hard for me to comprehend how you can make such broad statements about a city of 9 million in which you spent three days, or to conceive how you think it's plausible that a city with a population greater than the entire bay area could possibly have fewer good Indian restaurants. You went to the wrong part of town to eat (though there are a couple decent restaurants on Church Street, which is near MG Road); in particular, I don't know what you mean by "downtown". It's a big city, and if you were going to name a single most central/busiest neighborhood, it would indisputably be Majestic, followed by Sivaji Nagar. There's not even a place in Bangalore called "Battery". Every reasonably-sized locality in India has an MG Road; are you sure you were actually in Bangalore? It's ok by me if you come to BLR and don't bother to figure out the lay of the land or investigate eating options with people who might give you good answers; but if you don't do so and then pronounce it the "lamest of the indian metropolises", that's pretty sad. The traffic congestion is there and it sucks, but has very little to do with your statements about restaurants.

El Camino, and the south bay more generally, has a few "south Indian places", which are almost all generic places with idli and dosas. In Bangalore, you can find a place like that--called a darshini--on every block. It's the equivalent of a burger joint, or a vada pav place in Bombay. Fine, usually not very exciting, and not at all distinctive.

What you managed to miss entirely in Bangalore is all the regional cuisines from the south. (Including the dishes that are special to Bangalore and environs.) Bangalore has by far the best food of any South Indian city, because it's located centrally and has historical populations and large numbers of migrants from the neighboring regions. Offhand, I can think of twenty genres of south Indian food that are present in significant numbers in Bangalore--mainly different regions and communities in Karnataka and Kerala, and a few from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. None of these are represented in the Bay Area besides Tamil Brahmin food, Chettinad food (at an awful branch of Anjappar in Milpitas. You imply that more Chettinad has opened since I left the bay area, which is great news.), and Keralan food (at the Spice Huts, which are fine but have a very limited menu. The bay area doesn't even really have very much South Asian Muslim food beyond the ubiquitous Pakistani Punjabi places. (And those, generic south Indian places, and chaat are really the only good, widespread kinds of Indian food available in the Bay Area. There are something like 10 places that aren't one of them, perhaps not that many.) Not far from where I live there's a two-block stretch with seven Keralan restaurants; I've been to four, and they all serve (quite different) food from different regions or communities. That's more than the south Indian restaurants in all the south bay.

The north Indian food in Bangalore isn't as good as the north indian food in north india, which isn't shocking. But there are excellent Gujarati, Bihari, and Bengali restaurants, for instance, none of which exist in the Bay Area, and the diversity and general standard is way better than the bay area. (I'm a year out of date, but the Gujarati place changed hands and the only Bengali places to open didn't last long. I'll buy you a litti choka myself when the first Bihari restaurant opens in the south bay.)

So anyhow, if someday in the bay area you can get even one of raagi roti, a davanagere benne masala dosa, phaal, Bhatkally fish fry, Malabar biriyani, or even a respectable Hyderabadi biriyani, only then consider even raising the question.

The ramzaan spread to which PSB refers consists of one block which has perhaps twice as many Indian dishes as all the restaurants in California combined, and they were indeed amazing. I've been going 2-3 times/week.

Bangalore, staying in Whitefields

This may reach you too late, but just in case: for modest Keralan, I'm fond of several of the cluster of 7 (!) Keralan places near the gate of MS Ramiah hospital in Mathikere. The best is Shine Fast Food (Christian, all nonveg), but it's a one woman show, and she can be a little unpredictable. Dinner only. My favorite of the remainder is Calicut, though Biriyani Paradise and Thalassery have their partisans.

On Church street, there's Coconut Grove, a very nice slightly fancier (maybe 2-300 Rs / person) Keralan place on the north side of the street. Don't confuse it with the bar downstairs.

I don't know anything around Whitefield, though.

Bangalore, staying in Whitefields

MTR has declined. You can do way better.

Dongpo Rou at Shanghai Bund [San Francisco]

oops, thanks.

Dongpo Rou at Shanghai Bund [San Francisco]

There are many reviews on here justly praising Shanghai Bund, including the dongpo rou/red cooked pork(/grandmother's meat? that's how I heard one of its names translated in Shanghai.) But I'm not sure whether they're praising the same dish that I'm writing about, and even if so, one of its greatest virtues has been omitted. So:

They serve dongpo rou. It's a slow-cooked delicious thick square of pork belly served in a little jar. Maybe 3'' x 3'' x 1.5 ''. It's super-fatty and delicious, and stands up well to the ones I've had in Shanghai itself. And it's four bucks! It's small enough that one person can have it alone without feeling silly and bloated afterwards. (Though two or three could easily have a few bites each.)

This is the only place I have seen it around here in this form (I've had and enjoyed the dong po pork shoulder and such at Little Sichuan and China Village and something similar at the Shanghai Place in Milpitas Square). I'd be glad to know if other places also serve this.

There is also $28 dongpo pork dish on the menu at Bund which I haven't ordered. I presume it's a different cut of meat, rather than an 8'' x 8'' square of pork belly. The $3.99 one I first saw on a photo outside, but that's now gone. I couldn't find it on the menu yesterday, but when I asked the waiter for it, I asked for the small one, and got the right thing.

Good Sources of Great Stone Fruit, Especially SF/Peninsula?

This was a most excellent recommendation, ikb--thanks! I've now been twice, and the quality is quite impressive.

It's called G&G Produce, and is located at 5015 Geary. Open only Wednesdays through Fridays. The first time I was there, he was setting up shop about 3, and said he'd be around until about 7:30. (Most of his business is supplying restaurants and such.) He is indeed extremely helpful. The stock is small, but high-quality. (The proprietor, Gordie, said that he used to stock more things, but people would ask him which of several varieties of something was best today, and buy only that one; so now he just buys what he likes best.)

Cambodian Noodles House, East Oakland - NEW, anyone try it yet?

I went with a friend for lunch today. We had the "Phnom Penh noodle soup" and a deep-fried tilapia "special" (handwritten on the menus). The soup was fine; if it had been billed as pho at a Vietnamese place, I might not have known the difference (which may be a statement about my lack of discernment. It was maybe a little more sour, and had more in the way of kidneys, fish balls and other spherical spongy meaty substances than slices of meat). The tilapia was quite good, and cooked in vinegar (but not too strong a vinegar flavor). Most entrees on the smallish menu, including these two, were $7 or $8.

It's a decent place, and I had a much better impression than the commenters above seem to have had. But not extraordinary; I'd go back to Black and Silver next time I'm in that hood.

The hours are 11 until 8 or 9 (I forget) everyday.

My Dumpling Opens in Milpitas Square

agreed. (except i didn't try the root beer.) i liked the crab, but it wasn't amazing, and disliked the other two. (crab was ultra-bland, though betsy and urmi liked the 'squash and shrimp' (or loofah?) dumplings iirc, and while i didn't, i generally dislike the texture of the vegetable involved.

Anjappar Chettinad, Milpitas

Agreed, a disaster. Even if I lived next door to it, it's such bad value for money that I would have little use for it. I'll add that even the parottas and chapattis were ridiculously overpriced--$6 and $5 resp. for an order of two. They came with a tiny thing of gravy, which was delicious but didn't justify the price. I asked if it were possible to pay less for just the bread, and waiter acted helpless.

But if you are going for one of the myriad other options in the Milpitas Square mall, a stop for a (small, pricey) brain masala and a nice fresh lime soda wouldn't be unreasonable. (Though you'd need to order some bread or something for the brain, and we're talking nearly $20 with tax and tip for a third of a meal. We paid $18/person, and were nowhere near sated. That includes an extra drink they charged us for which they wouldn't refund; in the end all they were willing to do was to furnish the superfluous drink.)

Dong Bei Mama Chowdown

that's the place. it's been two years since i was at 101NE, so maybe i shouldn't have been so quick to say the one at DBM is its equal. but definitely very good.

Dessert and Shakes at D&A Cafe

The night owls from the Dong Bei Mama chowdown Thursday went for dessert afterwards at the D&A Cafe on Clement. Their fresh watermelon juice (a bargain at $1.55) and the mango pudding with condensed milk ($1.75) were excellent as usual. psb and Curtis ordered shakes (strawberry and lychee), which I'd never had, and they were both delicious and clearly used fresh fruit. IIRC, partha tried to order two more things that they didn't have, so maybe one can rely on only getting fresh fruit. I also got a "guiling (sp?) pudding" (also $1.75; currently it and the mango have photo ads on the wall), which is some sort of grass jelly. I thought the flavor was faint but liked it, and Melanie thought the flavor was strong but liked it. Red bean ice is also nice ($2.75, but something like $1.25 during one of their three daily hapy hours).

In particular, desserts seem to be more reliable than the savory items. There are some great savory things (if nobody's plugged them here lately, their fried pig intestines is one of my favorite dishes anywhere, and ridiculously cheap during happy hour), but also duds that make me feel queasy and (as at any HK style cafe) dishes that seem to be such poor ideas that I've never considered them. (At least they're all cheap enough to explore.) But all the desserts seem to be good. (I don't know if I've tried any of the tapioca drinks besides the lychee one Curtis ordered.)

Dong Bei Mama
4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

Dong Bei Mama Chowdown

I thought I posted yesterday, so apologies if I have a nearly-identical thing floating around here somewhere.

ChewChew is right on. I wasn't wild about the liver or sour cabbage either, but my girlfriend (who couldn't come but critiqued the leftovers) loved both.

While I wouldn't go far out of the way for anything I had there, I think I'll get another beef roll next time I pass through the Richmond, and considering the competing options, I consider that high praise. I had one about as good in San Gabriel a while ago which made me feel sick for a day, but it was good enough that I didn't mind too much.

Good Sources of Great Stone Fruit, Especially SF/Peninsula?

They don't have the super-premium stone fruit I think you seek, but it's surprisingly good and quite cheap and thus worth a plug: the produce market on Clement and 23rd next to the 4-Star Theater. Their stuff is not as good as the perfect peaches I that I get in the (Berkeley/Oakland) farmers' markets at their peak, but the peaches, plums, and nectarines there are consistently quite good (unlike, say, Berkeley Bowl; the employees will direct you to the good ones, but left to my own devices I get plenty of hard, tasteless duds), and cheap ($.99 for yellow peaches and nectarines and $1.29 for white peaches and nectarines and plums last Thursday).

I once bought a container expressly to transport their fruit home in my backpack.

Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

Cheese Board pie?

Has anyone tried pie that cheeseboard pizza has been serving for the last few months? They charge $6.50 for a small individual pie (bigger than a small slice, but I've definitely had slices in that range, and never paid $6.50 for them, not at Tartine, not anywhere.) I gave in and tried strawberry-rhubarb once and was totally underwhelmed. But it was pretty early for strawberries, and it is the cheeseboard, so I figured I'd ask around before I give up on the pies forever. Have any of the other pies been better? Amazing? Worth $6.50?

Heads up--Darda Fremont

It's been open for a few weeks. Indeed the same as Milpitas Darda. I went once and had a nice cumin lamb and sesame-onion bread. There are a lot of interesting-sounding things on the menu, but I can't tell from the translations which are specialties and which are generic Chinese-American food for suckers. I asked, and got nothing useful. My dining companion asked in Mandarin, and the waitress suggested the hot and sour soup. So, unless you overcome some cultural barriers or know the dishes well, you're on your own. I think there's worthwhile things here, so I'll be curious to hear if anyone finds anything good.

FYI, we had a similar experience in the Darda in Milpitas Square; aforementioned companion asked which were the specialties and/or Islamic-Chinese dishes, and they would only suggest cumin lamb. (Which was the one thing I could figure out on my own, though it's at least a better suggestion than hot and sour soup for someone who didn't know about cumin lamb!) The result being that we ate elsewhere...

Sugar cane juice and expanded schedule at New India Bazar (formerly Dana Bazar) Fremont

It's a mechanized press. The fellow shoving in the cane isn't as dehati as the fellow in the video, alas.

Kokila's Kitchen in Cupertino closed

Claim on yelp is that it's been reincarnated in San Jose (1427 Branham Lane), but under new ownership. The reviews there are dismal, but it's not clear to me if the people there have been ordering the right things. (Though to be fair, in the old incarnation, the token Punjabi curry of the day was often the best thing, which is not faint praise given that the rest was very good.) Has anyone been by?

Heads up--Darda Fremont

The crummy-looking Chinese buffet next to Chatpata Corner on Ardenwood in Newark seems to have gone under, and a new place is being readied--"Darda Fremont". I assume connected with the Milpitas one?

As of a week or two ago, still under construction.

Sugar cane juice and expanded schedule at New India Bazar (formerly Dana Bazar) Fremont

A few months ago, the grocery store Dana Bazar on Mowry and Blacow in Fremont became New India Bazar, which owns a bunch of grocery stores locally. But chaat counter is still operated by the same people as before and to my knowledge remains, along with its sister Chatpata Corner (a dedicated restaurant ran by the same folks in Newark with a slightly expanded menu; channa bhatura, paranthas, and a daily thali), the only place to get good pani puri in the Bay Area. The other chaat is also great, and as good as anything I know locally. (Where they overlap, they're much better than Vik's, e.g.)

Two things have changed since DB became NIB:

1. The chaat counter is now open Tuesday through Sunday (it used to be closed Tu-W).

2. The grocery store sells fresh sugar cane juice. It's $2.99, made to order (there's a machine near the front of the store; it's not connected to the chaat counter folks), and they have ginger, lime, and black salt for it.

I had the sugar cane juice tonight for the first time (on two previous trips I couldn't get it; possibly because I usually come in near closing time). It was pretty good, but it was much less sweet than I expected from previous experience in India and Indian and Vietnamese places in southern California. I don't know how much variation there is in the cane, so I'll try it again and hope it's better. But as it is, not bad.

Dana Bazar
5113 Mowry Ave, Fremont, CA 94538

best corn tortillas in the Mission?

though they're enticing, i've never liked those ubiquitous handmade tortillas at the corner markets.

(at least) one of those markets had bunches of jars of homemade pickled vegetables from somewhere or other; caribbean, perhaps? about $4/tub. at the time, i did not wish to carry pickled vegetables in containers of dubious durability in my backpack while bicycling, but i was curious. anyone know them?

Chowdown Report: Chinese New Year Banquet at Yum’s Bistro

The general standard was quite good, and it was an attractive spread, and well-paced. Everything was good, and a few got me really excited. Namely: the lobster/kabocha(=pumpkin) was delicious; the pumpkin had a perfect texture--slightly crispy outside, soft inside--and was very tasty--and I found myself scraping the batter off the lobster claws after eating the meat. (I think I enjoyed the batter more than the meat itself.) I quite liked the steamed bass--simple and tasty, with soy sauce (and ginger and maybe a few other things?). The stuffed chicken was crispy and moist and the rice inside was delicious; I'd make a point of ordering it in advance if returning.

While those are the ones I'd go out of my way to get, many of the others had memorable aspects--the garlic cloves in the moss dish (a spectacular round layered mound) and the bits of orange peel in the dessert.

Chowdown Report: Chinese New Year Banquet at Yum’s Bistro

Nope. (Or if so, I missed it!) I should always ask whether something comes with incredible dip sauce, just in case.

Bay Area jian bing? And: Everyday Beijing's jian bing.

That thread from last year is actually what brought EB to my attention :), but the other two are new to me. Thanks!

What should i order at mission chinese food? [San Francisco]

Definitely inconsistent; the first time I had the pork belly, it was delicious and by far the best thing I ordered; the second time (a month or two ago), it was bad enough (coupled with disastrous dumplings) that I haven't been back. After the pork belly the time it was good, my favorite was cumin lamb.

What should i order at mission chinese food? [San Francisco]

I understood that the two menus corresponded to the two sets of chefs. Did you order off the MCF menu and get food you thought came from the Lung Shan side?

Lung Shan Restaurant
2234 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Bay Area jian bing? And: Everyday Beijing's jian bing.

Does anyone know any place in the Bay Area that serves jian bing (possibly aka jian bing guozi or dan bing) besides Everyday Beijing in San Mateo? This question results from learning that it was served at Cafe Go Go from a three-year-old post from Gary Soup, and then discovering--happily, before showing up!--that it closed a few months ago.

In my despair, I went to Everyday Beijing for lunch today. Their "jian bing guozi" is good, but not the breakfast I still crave from a summer in Shanghai. The best in Shanghai had a wonderful flaky crust; at EB, the crepe is soft. Last time I had assumed that they weren't fresh, but on my second go I suspect that it's due to a difference in composition--whereas the crispy ones had an egg cracked on a partly hardened crepe, whereas the ones I had today were probably mixed in to the batter at an early stage, resulting in a soft eggy crepe. (And I don't see why anyone would want their crepes soft and eggy rather than thin and crispy.) The pickled vegetables were nearly overwhelming--they were actually too spicy for my Cantonese dining companion. The crepe etc. here surround a yo tiao/cruller/Chinese donut; again, pretty good, but I much prefer the variant I encountered in Shanghai that substituted a sheet of crispy tofu instead. The combined crunch of the crepe/crispy tofu was one of the most satisfying things about that dish; this is a bit soggy in comparison.

N.B. I have little idea whether EB's dish is a perfectly authentic version of some other part of China's jian bing guozi which I don't happen to like as much as the jian bing with which I'm familiar (a Shanghainese friend thought the 'guozi' might have something to do with a Tianjin variant of jian bing). Also,while I'd love to eat the jian bing of my dreams in northern California, I'd be thrilled to find something resembling with EB's JBG in SF or the East Bay; any tips on anything vaguely similar would be most welcome. Thanks!

Everyday Beijing
637 South B Street, San Mateo, CA

Cheeseboard Today: grilled peaches

The pizza at Cheeseboard today is grilled peaches with mozzarella and blue cheese with arugula. I've never seen peaches on a pizza there before. It was SENSATIONAL. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Sodas at Saul's: celery! cardamom! meyer lemon!

Pardon, Partha, I hadn't noticed your follow-up until now.

I get masala sodas at stands and usually they're as cold enough for me. I also had a really satisfying premade soda (a local brand from a soda shop opposite the Sharda cinema in Bandra. The shop had nothing else besides these sodas and I've never seen them elsewhere.)

But what are these packets of which you speak? I haven't gotten around to figuring out how to make them myself.

Sodas at Saul's: celery! cardamom! meyer lemon!

I've now had them all as well (except the new strawberry), and as good as they each are, while drinking them it's hard not to wish I were drinking the celery instead. I think if celery didn't exist, I'd have thought that I was waiting my whole life for the cardamom. Now, I don't think I can drink any soda besides their celery and masala Thums Up.