Finally made it to Annapoorna in San Mateo, a relatively new southern Indian vegetarian restaurant just south of 92 on El Camino. I'm a big fan of Udupi Palace down in Sunnyvale, and I'm now very happy to have an equally good southern Indian restaurant nearer to home.
Annapoorna is simply but nicely decorated, with the frangrance of incense hitting you as you enter, images of Hindu gods looking down from the wall and some nice Indian songs playing in the background. Much more inviting than the sterile chaos of Udupi. We arrived early on a Friday night, the first diners to arrive. By the time we left though, the tables were nearly full with a mostly Indian clientelle.
The menu is fairly representative of southern Indian vegetarian cuisine - with the usual suspects - dosas, uttapham, pakora, bajji, etc, and a daily thali. The thali special was written on a board on the wall and piqued our interest with two dishes I haven't seen before - beets kootu, and kathrikai karakulambu. I happen to love beets - so that made the decision easy - I've never seen beets served at an Indian restaurant, but I know they are in season locally so was happy to try. The kathrikai is a dish made mostly of a tiny form of eggplant, about an inch and a half long, with green skin. Also on the thali, vegetable pulav, sambar, rasam, pappad, rice, chapati, and a special dessert of coconut burphy. The beets were phenomenal, mixed in a very small amount of thick sauce (they called it a curry, but it wasn't what you might think of when hearing curry)., just enough to coat them. The eggplant was also excellent, thick, not oily at all, with a great kick to it. OH, I forgot, also served were wonderful homemade potato chips dusted with a spicy red chili powder - I could have eaten hundreds of them, especially good in tandem with the cool yogurt sauce provided. The coconut burphy was a real winner too - a bit strange at first bite, thick, a bit dry, very sweet - but it really got better and better with each bite.
My wife ordered a onion and pepper uttapham, which to my surprise was made with sliced jalapeno, or at least a very similar breed of pepper (not sure if that is local to India or not!). It was wonderful, especially with the cool, thick coconut sauce on the side.
Can't wait to go back and try other specials. Everything else we could see around us looked good, too. The service was very friendly and accomodating.