i am an la hound who visits the bay area every once in a while. no offense to anyone, but i stick to indian food when i am in the south bay. we get good indian food in los angeles, but the bay area is just phenomenal.
to cut a long story short, on my next-to-last visit, one of my friends offered mithai (indian sweets) from this store called rangoli. it was really good and warranted more attention. caveat: i haven't visited any other strictly indian sweet shop in the bay area (nor do I know of any). also, i am excluding all stores/restaurants who sell chaat (fast/street food) along with an assortment of basic indian sweets.
rangoli sweets is punjabi-owned, but their usp is their rendition of classic bengali sweets such as chamcham, malai sandwich, sandesh, gulab jamun sandwich and a whole lot of other sweets - almost impossible to find here. most of these sweets are made from a single ingredient - khoya (product obtained upon prolonged open heating of milk) with sugar, and a combination of dry fruits. this is to give you a general idea and quite frankly i don't know the intricacies of sweet making.
gosh each and everyone of the sweets i have tried so far is excellent. usually the problem with indian sweets at least in the us is they are too sweet, or are made from inferior ingredients, or the process lacks the detail of the old country. rangoli has certainly got the right formula - perfect sweetness accompanied with a freshness almost always lacking in most indian sweet stores. people, i kid you not, RUN to rangoli if you haven't. IT IS THAT GOOD. for the last seven days, it has been pure bliss, and soon i am going to run out of this other-worldly godliness.
lately, i have tried dasaprakash (good overall, but not great) and saravana bhavan (frankly overrated or mediocre). however, i love madras cafe (weird hours, closed in the afternoons). great sambars, rasam (though i think its tomato, and i prefer tamarind) chutneys, and i absolutely love their spicy kara dosa (crepe which is lined with a spicy chutney on the inside). the uttapams, idlis and vadas are also good. haven't tried udupi place (or palace?). also tried atithdi which is andhra pradesh-style food. super fiery chicken chili, chicken 65 and andhra-style chicken fy. this is good stuff folks, and i bet you are lucky you can try it here in the states. they also serve bad Indian beers (all indian beers, imho are BAD). i still have to try annapoorna for the same dishes (have to keep something for the next trip!).
i love the naan-n-curry at o'farrell in sf. their lamb chops are made by the devil himself with the intent to enslave mankind. the lamb karahi is another favorite of mine, along with gobi chicken. however, avoid their chicken tandoori/tikka - i find too dry. shalimar is good (leg quarters are great, curries are ok) - though I haven't tried the bheja fry (which I hear is their usp). kebabs-and-curry is an absolute monster hit imo. terrific kababs (again very good lamb chops and great chicken leg quarters), curries are great (chicken karahi - you may have guessed I am a karahi fan). i won't talk of the lamb biryani, because the biryani discussion is worthy of a paragraph. i am not a huge buffet fan per se, but turmeric is pretty solid, if not great, though I tend to think that buffets are not great in general.
lamb biryani: we tried two different renditions during our last trip:
1. annapoorna: by and far favorite. terrific rice, chunks of meat, spiced perfectly!
2. atitdhi: rice was flavorful, but very little meat, and spicing was nothing spectacular.
3. kebab-n-curry: close second to annapoorna. good stuff, but i think annapoorna takes the cake!
1. spice hut: our hosts love spice hut but it was way off. the rice was flavorful, the chicken dry and wasn't spiced adequately.
2. kebabs-n-curry: definitely way better than spice hut (sample size of one story).
what i haven't found in the bay area is good chaat. the chaat house on el camino (tried a couple of those) are mediocre. i haven't made the trip to vic's in berkeley as yet. i think chaat is the only arena where socal rocks thanks to surati farsan mart in artesia.
fwiw, i hope you guys find this summary useful!
1584 Halford Ave, Santa Clara CA, 95051.