A couple newcomers to SiliValley, Udupi Palace and Dasaprakash, offered a chance to explore South Indian vegetarian cuisine over dinner. In addition, the more established Deedees, known for fast and inexpensive snacks provided a quick and tasty lunch.
Starting with the simplest and cheapest first, Deedees is located in an Indian grocery store in a strip mall that also houses an affiliated sweet shop featuring Indian ice creams (didnt try). The draw here is the lunch buffet with more than a dozen items that change daily. Seating is at communal tables ala school cafeteria. The daily lunch menu is posted on its website and priced at $6.99. I had the chance to try chole garbanzo beans, channa masala, aloo mutter tomatoes, dadhu vadi, dudhi aloo squash, gujarati kadhi buttermilk soup, palak paneer spinach, vegetable pulav, puris, samosas, papad, salad, black eye peas, pickles, chutneys (coriander, tamarind and mango), and for dessert kheer and raj bhog. Chai or Madras coffee is included, plus two hot and freshly made roti appear while youre waiting to pay. There were few more items on the buffet that I didnt sample. I also ordered a mango lassi, available in a small size for $1.29. This was thick and intense with lots of fruit pulp.
I was impressed by the range of flavors and how freshly prepared the food tasted. Unlike other Indian buffets that offer up piles of overcooked and indistinguishable goo, here a relatively small quantity of each dish is put out on the steam table and is replenished frequently from the kitchen. This freshness makes a big difference especially for the fried items papadum and samosas which were excellent. The samosas had an extra thin and crackly wrapper and were deliciously spiced. I also really liked the stewed squash and the two desserts, and would have been happy with the fried things, roti and these alone for the money. The other items were more standard fare but still enjoyable in total.
I was in and out in 30 minutes and on to my meeting with plenty of time to spare.
Deedees Indian Fast Food
2551 W. Middlefield Rd.
Udupi Palace has been reported favorably by several chowhounds. This chain has become so popular locally, there are now two branches in Sunnyvale. I tried the newer one for an early dinner on a Sunday night in December and there was a line out the door by the time I was finished at 7pm.
The décor is contemporary and spare. The small tables are closely packed in and the room buzzes with the lively chatter of the many families eating here. The pace of service is brisk and efficient for fast turn-over of tables.
Since it was my first visit, I went with the South Indian Thali, $8.95, and a mango lassi, $2.75. The thali had good variety with nice contrast in flavor and spicing. The spice level here was hotter than either Dasaprakash or Deedees. The poori was deflated and not freshly baked. The lassi was very good and the food felt like competent home cooking to me. The serving size for the thali was generous; the cups were filled to nearly the top. More than I could finish, the remains went home with me and I noticed that most other tables were packing up leftovers too.
976 E. El Camino Real
Dasaprakash moved here from the southland and hit my radar screen through wailings from LosAngelenos (link below) wondering what happened to their favorite South Indian restaurant. This loyalty was well deserved as this is a unique find worthy of a special trip.
Even though my visit was in November, I can still feel my delight at stepping in from the strip mall parking lot that it shares with KFC and Armadillo Willys into the soothing environment. While not plush, the décor features soft earth tones of turmeric, chile brick red, bay leaf and active neutrals accented with burnished copper and verdigris features. This was a welcome change of pace from the gilded and often overly gaudy interiors of other Indian restaurants. The beautiful embroidered silk saris and colorful festival masks on the walls bring you home to India. The down-lighting is well designed to be both flattering and calming. The seats are comfortable and the tables are full-size with enough elbow room and privacy from your neighbors for leisurely dining. On a Sunday night the dining room was nearly full yet sedate enough for conversation.
As attractive as the ambience may be, even more care has gone into the product of the kitchen. The two of us shared an appetizer order of Masala Vadai, deep-fried hockey pucks of spicy Bengal dhal with onion and green chilis, $4.50, accompanied by three distinct and fresh-tasting chutneys of coconut, onion, and tamarind. As first-timers, our waiter suggested the South Indian Thali, $11 and America Combo: Samosa, Masala Dosai, Vegetable Pulau and Kurma, $11 to have a good assortment of different specialties. I also had a sweet lassi, $2.75. The 11 tastes of the thali were intense, sophisticated, and showed a lot of individuality. I especially liked the sesame-scented mango pickles. The pooris were small, delicate and ultrathin puffs. The masala dosai redefined the dish for me in deliciousness, texture and form.
The service was welcoming and competent, and the owner, Madhu Das stopped by to chat and check on our table. My one criticism would be that the wine list was overpriced for the mundane offerings and out of line with the moderate menu pricing. In every other way, the restaurant has introduced a new standard for South Indian cuisine to the Bay Area.
Cuisine of South India
2636 Homestead Rd.