Parivar is an Indian grocery on upper Central Ave that has a café at the back of the store. For years I’ve been hearing good things about the food. Yesterday I finally stopped in for lunch. Truth be told, I had stopped in once before about a year ago, but the place (and the employees) seemed drab and depressing and I left without trying anything. I’m glad I went back. It still felt drab, but when directly spoken to the employees perked up and were perfectly pleasant.
The café area has five or six tables. You order at the counter and they bring you your food and a check. To pay you take the check to the grocery register on the way out.
The food is southern Indian rather than the northern Indian found in most of the Indian places in the area. It is all vegetarian. The menu is relatively large for a back-of-the-grocery café and most items have reasonably good descriptions. Many of the items are displayed inside a glass case. I have a little familiarity with southern Indian food but many of the items in the case were a mystery. Asking one of the ladies behind the counter to identify items resulted in a flurry of smiling-but-embarrassed shrugs and calling-over of other ladies who also shrugged. English seemed to be the barrier. They then called over a man whose English was a little better. After my first few questions he understood my quandry and went through the items stating what was in them and pointing out their corresponding entry on the menu.
I decided the best way to judge the food was to order something that I’ve had, and liked, elsewhere. I ordered the Samosa Chat ($4.99), which is a pair of cut up samosas with chickpeas masala, onion, tamarind and mint sauce. It was freshly made and delicious. The portion was more than enough for lunch.
Coincidentally, another customer who came in just after me was also a first-timer. She benefited from all of the explanations I received, and as part of her order asked if she could purchase just one pakora to try. The man said, sorry no, the minimum pakora purchase is ¼ pound. She and I agreed to split the ¼ pound so we could each try them. It turned out to be a good move. They were excellent -- flavorful, not the least bit greasy, and some sort of chopped green chilis had been mixed in with the batter. Yum. A nice surprise.
I plan to return with a few more people so that we can order an assortment of dishes to try.