Fourteen of us met last night at India Chaat & Sweets (824 University Avenue- Berkeley 510 704-1200) for another dinner in the now infamous Curry Dive series although I would hardly describe this place as a "dive" More like a very pleasant muraled bi-level restaurant with quiet spaces.
The restaurant, like most in Berekeley/Northern California focus on Moghlai food (rich aromatic sauces, liberal use of butter, fit for royalty like us) with a nod to the south, including Masala Dosas (noted on the menu to be served until 4pm) It also features a large selection of Chaat (snacky streeet-type food)
We started with a sampling of most of the Chaats including:
Flat puris with diced onion, potatoes and chick peas topped with tamrind, mint, yogurt and garnished with cilantro
Puffed puris with diced potatoes and chick peas and spicey mint water on the side
Crispy rice salad with diced onions, potatoes topped with tamrind and mint sauce garnished with cilentro
Crispy flat puris topped with potatoes, onions, mint & tamrind sauce
Dahi Batata Puri
Puffed puris stuffed with potatoes and garbanzos covered with yogurt and tamrind
Alloo Tiki Cholle
Crispy fried potato patties with garbanzo beans, diced-onions, tamrind & mint sauce
Large puffed puri made of flour, served with garbanzo curry, diced onions & mango pickle
When reading the menu, I expect these to be a similar in taste and appearance but found that not to be the case and I was glad for the variety- standouts for me were the Alloo Tiki Cholle for the taste and crispness of the potatoes contrasting with the sharp onions and mild yogurt sauce. I enjoyed the Pani Puri for the sport of constructing (you tap a hole into the purie and fill with the potatoes and chick peas- drizzle in the mint water and pop the whole thing in your mouth) I also thought the Dahi batata Puri was visually beautiful and a wonderful contrast of flavors. I was disappointed in the Bhel Puri for the not crispy nor especially fresh tasting puffed rice (more like noodles) The chaat were all ordered spicy and I found them to have more heat than other chaat I have had- I enjoyed the mouth tingling with the cool yogurt, sour tamarind and spices.
After the Chaat we orderd:
Malai Kofta :Minced vegetables, cheese balls cooked in creamy sauce
Bhindi Masal:Fresh okra tossed with onions and tomatoes
Sag Chanawala: Fresh spinach cooked with garbanozo beans
Saffron Chicken: Spiced Chicken blended with saffron (chefs special)
Lamb Rogonjosh: Boneless lamb cooked with cashews and served in spicy sauce (chefs special)
Goat Vindloo: Goat meat cooked in hot spicy sauce with potatoes.
From the tandoori oven we ordered Seekh Kabab: minced lamb rolls cooked in clay oven with herbs and spices
Also; a Biryani (I think)
The saffron chicken was a standout; very rich and aromatic with a very pronounced saffron scent and flavor. The seekh kabab was dry (other versions I've had have also been dry) Melanie thought that it may not have been lamb as it lacked any sort of lamb flavor or gaminess. The sauces for the lamb and goat were complex rich and creamy, but I thought very similar- I would have expected the vindloo to have more heat.
We sampled a couple breads; Nan and Chapati. Both were fine but I missed the hot blistery surface that I like and expect with Nan.
Kheer: Rice pudding
Rasmalai: Soft Cheese dumplings mixed in a sweet milk sauce
The milk sauce for the rasmalai was lovely with a pleasant cardomen flavor but the cheese was a bit cottony.
We also tried a few of the assorted sweets that were sold by the register up front. I liked the square cheese-y one and the visual appearance of the silver plated sweet ("watch those fillings!") I think we were a bit surprised that a restaurant that has "sweets" in the name did not excell at sweets although I expect these benefit greatly from freshness and become un-fresh rather rapidly.
We sampled several bottles of wine- I will hand that significant part of the meal off to those more experienced and articulate in wine-speak. Very enjoyable but I missed my Kingfisher.
What a great group; a mix of new hounds, esteemed visiting hounds, seasoned hounds, husband hounds and ex husband hounds. I really enjoyed the evening and hope to attend another curry dive and see everyone again soon. I look forward to everyones comments; please chime in.