Two weeks ago we headed to the Mountain View branch of Peacock Indian Restaurant encouraged by several favorable mentions by “mdg”. Peacock became a target because the appetizer menu offers several selections of fried chicken in the desired price range for the July Dish of the Month. My intended plan of attack was to order all five preps and I’d borrowed a friend’s teenage boy to help us eat them. However at ordering time, our waiter protested, saying it was too much food for us, adding that the preparations were too similar. Even after I pointed to our hungry-looking teenager, he stood his ground insisting that two appetizers would be more than enough. We compromised at three, eliminating the chilli chicken and chicken Manchurian in this round.
Here’s what we tried:
Chicken 65, $7.99 – Awhile back, my brother and I were on a tear ordering this Desi-Chinese dish as often as we could. This was fun opportunity to circle back to revisit a former and still somewhat obscure object of desire. Dyed bright orange-red, these chunks of halal chicken were notably moist and tender, as well as less oily than other versions we’ve tried. Applying Chinese technique, the chicken’s marinated, lightly battered, deep-fried, and then dry-fried with the Indian spiced sauce and fresh curry leaves. Pleasant but somewhat muted in seasoning and not very complex.
Chicken Masakkalli (sic), $7.99 – A new one for me, I had never heard of this. Before our meal, I searched for a description of this dish in the old country and found nothing. Asking our waiter about its origins, he smiled and said it was a specialty of the Peacock group of restaurants, named after the song, Masakali, popularized in a 2009 Bollywood film. The cubes of chicken were prepped in the same way as the Chicken 65, but spiced differently, tossed with a seasoned salt blended with what Peacock calls Masakkalli masala plus curry leaves, fresh ginger, chopped cilantro, and more. Very enticing aromatics, the flavor impact was deeply savory and complex yet in a way that enhanced the natural flavor of the chicken rather than masking it. My favorite dish of the night.
Chicken lollipop, $7.99 – Skinless drummettes with the flesh scraped and pushed to the end of the bone, dusted and fried developed a thin crunchy exterior crust and juicy meat. The lollipops were well-seasoned to be tasty on their own, but get even better with a dunk in the tart, spicy and delicately sweet dipping sauce.
Palak paneer, $8.99 – Soft and buttery cubes of fresh cheese combined with very fresh tasting and lightly spiced spinach puree whipped to maximum fluffiness. A rich, dairy-laden version that tasted like butter and drenched in more butter yet again. Quite liked this in combination with the excellent garlic naan, $2.50, which itself was brushed with ghee.
Upma pesarattu, $7.99 – This green-tinged moong dal pancake stayed crispy to the very last bite. The soft dense texture of the mildly piquant filling of semolina studded with nuts made for great textural and flavor contrast.
Jaggayyapeta dosa, Peacock special, $5.99 – Layered with a special spice mixture, this dosa was oddly soft and seemed just a bit too thick. A more pronounced sour fermented taste and intriguing seasonings but the lack of crispness was a turn-off.
The tomato chutney packed a kick and the coconut one was a touch too earthy for my taste. That said, these were still above average. The standout of the dosa accompaniments was the many-nuanced sambar. Not as thickish on the palate, the lighter body was studded with cubes of well-cooked carrot and opo squash. Not a drop was left behind.
Gulab jamun, $3.99 - At meal’s end we considered ordering one more of the fried chicken options, but instead decided on something sweet. Finding none of the cakes on display visually appealing, we settled on gulab jamun. Served warm, the syrup bathing the spongey balls was pretty restrained in sweetness and rosewater.
After this successful first visit, I’m sure to return. I’ll note that William liked this meal so much, he was back two days later with some friends before catching the fireworks at Shoreline. He ordered the chicken masakkalli and chicken lollipops again. He also tried another Desi Chinese dish, chicken Manchurian, and described it as a superior sweet and sour chicken balanced with spicy heat and just a glaze instead of the goopy sauce of Chinese-American presentations.
July 2012 Dish of the Month