Chaat Paradise had been popping up in my searches for good chaat around the mountain view and sunnyvale axis, and who am I to resist when lots of chowhounds recommend something.
So off we went, W. and I, last Saturday afternoon to CP, our mouths watering and with only a light breakfast in our stomachs. As promised by several reviewers, the plates and cutlery are ornate, the windows are large, and the menu is long. We ordered Samosas, Pani Poori and Dahi Chaat to begin with.
Alas, anticipation was more enjoyable than the eating. Pani Poori (1) was the standard medley of little bites: little round wafers, boiled potatoes, raw red onions, green mung beans, and chutneys. But before we got to any of those we were shocked by the measly amount of pani we were given - a scant 1/4 cup. Half the fun with pani poori is submerging the pooris in pani, filling them up to the brim, bringing them to your mouth with great concentration, sometimes losing one on the way, and enjoying the ensuing bliss. Not only was the pani too meager, it did not have the spice kick it should have had.
The green cilantro chutney and the red sweet chutney that accompanied pani poori were quite good.
The dahi chaat gave us a feeling of deja vu. It had exactly the same components as pani poori, just assembled together instead of deconstructed. Ideally, the crunchy wafers in this chaat should be flatter and heftier than the fragile pooris. At least, the chaat should have been accessorized with a different set of spices than pani poori.
We now come to the samosas. In my ideal samosa the pastry should be crisp, crackly, and multi layered, and the samosa filling should provide a textural contrast by being soft, like, say, potatoes and peas. The pastry shell, mind you, is the star attraction; a good filling can combine with an excellent shell to scale sublime heights of taste, but bad pastry cannot improve the world's best filling. The filling in CP's samosas was a good potato and pea curry, with notes of fresh ginger and garlic. But the pastry let us down. It was crisp on the outside, but neither was it crackly and nor was it multi layered. I have the sneaking suspicion that it was fried twice, the first time to cook it, and second time to heat it up for us.
Chutneys with samosas were the same as those with pani poori and dahi chaat. Why can't Indian restaurants who can put several dozen different dishes on the menu, make more than two chutneys. Sigh!
(1) Pani Poori: Pani literally means water in Hindi. In the context of pani poori, pani means very spicy water, typically flavored with mint, coriander, cumin, lime, and a little sugar, among other things. Poori means a little round puffy wafer. When eating pani poori the steps are: poke a hole in the wafer, fill it with one or more of the accompaniments, dunk it in pani, and enjoy.
165 El Camino Real (@ Grant Rd.)
Open daily, 11:30am to 9:30pm