Jim said, ". . . Breads of India in Berkeley is stylish, but anybody who knows Indian food--as professional critics should--knows it's fake, and anybody who knows ANY kind of food knows it's lame, and that it prospers solely on basis of style and trendiness)."
Jim, I love Breads of India and have been there 6 times. There are very few restaurants except the ones that've been around for decades that I can say that about.
I'm still trying to figure out what they served/did to you that provoked this kind of response. Stylish and trendy??? Yes, it's clean and bright but bare-bones decor at best. Maybe you're of the school that the quality of Indian or Chinese restaurants is inversely proportional to the cleanliness (my father was a believer). The restaurant is in a decidedly UN-trendy neighborhood, in fact, one where I'll not venture unaccompanied after dark. The place doesn't have a liquor license for wine/beer nor do they allow BYO --- I mention this because having an esoteric wine list or cool cocktails seems to be defining trendy Asian restaurants around here. Prices are really low, so you're not charged a "style" premium for the food.
My first time at Breads of India was for lunch after raves from my sister. She'd been there several times by this point and had the beginnings of a collection of the daily menus which she faxed to me. This was a few years ago soon after the first of several favorable press reviews. Since then, she and Larry have eaten there many, many times and become well-acquainted with the owners. My favorite meals have been with them, not that we're treated in a special way, but because we'll order all five entrees/breads on the day's menu to share.
The breads are really incredible. Now I barely touch the naan I'm served almost anywhere else. There's a reason for the restaurant's name, this is where they shine. The two times I've had chicken tandoori (various seasonings), it was the weakest offering of the meal, and once the vegetarian entrée didn't offer much excitement. Besides the breads, what I love about the food is the brightness and freshness of flavor. None of those gray, stale-tasting veggies, greasy puddles or oily aftertaste. And, every dish tastes different with its own range of spices and seasonings, not just variations on the same theme, which makes it very fun to share around the table.
If you have a problem with the detailed descriptions of each dish on the menu, you don't have to read it. With only 5 entrees that change daily, they've got a whole 8 1/2 x 11 sheet to fill up. I like to know what's in the food I'm putting in my mouth. This is a Californian quirk --- we value local, organic ingredients out here. I suspect this is even more important in Berkeley. I support giving credit to the people who grow/raise quality products because it builds appreciation for honest food and hopefully creates a sustainable market.