General Discussion

Chaat Cafe - SF Bay Area + other locations

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Chaat Cafe - SF Bay Area + other locations

Alice Patis | Oct 20, 2005 05:35 PM

I'm putting this on the General Board since this local chain has one location in Texas, one nearer to Sacramento, and 7 in the Bay Area.

I noticed this branch of Chaat Cafe opening in the Blossom Hill/ Santa Teresa Albertsons plaza about 9 months ago, but never tried it because from the look of the place & menu, and from reports of other Chaat Cafes it seemed like watered down Indian food. When I saw a post asking about it, I thought I'd finally try it today.

I haven't been to any other Chaat Cafes, but I think this one is similar to others. Nice interior reeked of upper scale fast food, blending in well in this suburban mecca of chain restaurants. The menu is online at their website below. There are no Southern Indian dishes (confirmed by the person at the cashier). The cashier and cooks were all Indian or south asian (I don't know why that surprised me; somehow I was expecting a Barbie-like youth at the cashier and non-Asian cooks in the kitchen).

Wanting just the basics, I went with the Aloo Gobi Lunch Plate (around $6), which was the veg special for today (the other special was Lamb Saag). It comes with lentil dal, two halves of naan, salad and rice. I ordered this to go, since I didn't have time to linger.

While they worked on my order, I stepped outside to check out a new-looking place a few steps away called Pick-Up Stix which looks like an urban chic Chinese kind of place. I stepped inside just long enough to grab a glossy paper menu and look around. Now THAT place had a Barbie-like youth at the cashier and non-Asian cooks in the kitchen. I opened the menu and it was like I had stepped into a Yan Can Cook universe. Ick, I thought, fleeing the place.

Back at Chaat Cafe, my order was soon ready (pretty fast). When I got to my car, I tore into the scalding hot naan. Nice doughy hints, and just barely crisp (light tan) bottoms. MMmmm. These are about medium in thickness. Also tasted the dal, which was steaming hot. Atleast 2 kinds of lentils, texture was more brothy than puree-like, good but not complex flavor, points for the fresh cilantro in the broth. Spicier than expected, a nice plus.

Back at the office, the aloo gobi had cooled but was still warm. I was happy it was more gobi than aloo and the big florets of cauliflower were tender but not at all mushy. The serving was small (same size as the side of cucumber salad). The onion mixture that pulls togehter the aloo gobi was really nice, as if some of it had melted into a puree. Spicing was not bland but not anything wow. Yes there was a grease slick as expected. The salad was a simple vinegar dressed cucumber & tomato (actually exactly one minced bit of tomato). Cukes were evenly chopped & peeled, but some pieces were bitter. Rice was very dry and very loose.

Overall, it was better than expected and compared to the watered down Asian food prevalent in this area, it's more authentic than it appears. I might return to try other things for cheap fast non-typical fastfood. Any thoughts on what to get on my next visit(s)?

Link: http://www.chaatcafes.com/

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