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quick East Bay Chow Run: Vik's and Fenton's , long...

janet of reno | May 16, 200503:40 AM

We decided to make a quick visit to the SF area today to meet up one last time with our Australian friends who are touring the west coast. The trip was inspired in part by a burning desire to go to Vik's: I had been discussing Vik's with several chow buddies, and had lamented it wasn't mentioned more in the chow guide. This warranted a message from the Big Dog himself that perhaps the place had been undermentioned recently; that the guides listed places discussed recently so that they could be as relevant as possible....Well, he's right of course, so here is my report: I hadn't been to Vik's since they opened up the new space, and I was a little nervous, but no need: Same old Vik's. Same fomica tables you have to bus yourself; same wait; same dirty restrooms; same slow water fountain and paper cups. Who cares: (almost) everything was delicious!! My friends declared it the best Indian food they had ever eaten! We were starving, and as usual over-ordered. We ate the following chaat (small plates/snack food, for the unitiated): bhel puri (puffed riced and fried chickpea noodles with a tamarind or date sauce (aka heaven on a plate), pav bhaji (vegetable stew with bread) , idli sambar (steamed rice cakes with lentil soup), vegetable dhosa (more on that later), dhokla (steamed garbanzo bean cake), and bhatura cholle (a garbanzo bean stew accomopanied by a HUGE puri...a fried puffy bread. Most were double orders!! The ONLY disappointment was the dhokla: the cakes were too thick and not nearly light and fluffy enough. My husband thinks either the flour wasn't allowed to ferment enough (it should have a sour taste, which it didn't, and the fluffiness should come from air escaping as it ferments...) or that perhaps it was made from a mix. Disappointing, as previously we have had good dhokla from Vik's, and this is hubbie's favorite. The new to us dish was the vegetable dhosa, a garbanzo bean crepe (again, sour dough) filled with a vegetable mixture instead of the usual potatoe pea. The counterman told us it was a new menu item, and recommended it. So do we: a nice mixture of cauliflower, cabbage, onions, carrots, and even a mushroom or two made up the filling. Delicious, and lighter than potatoes. Well, after all that food we waddled out, spent a little time in the store next door, and ran a rental car-related errand with our friends. We were out by the coliseum just as the A's game let out, so decided to take the alternate route up to the Warren Freeway to avoid traffic. One thing led to another, and soon we found ourselves on Piedmont Ave. Since my friend had been craving an ice cream sundae most of the week, it was normal enough to stop at Fenton's....even though we were still full! I had not been there since the reopening; I think they did a good job with the remodel. Soon we were enjoying our black and tans (some things really DON'T change, do they??) and plotting further chow-related adventures for our friends. The B and Ts were as good as I remember from my high school days. Maybe the ice cream isn't the best, but the overall package is the real deal. Needless to say, we ate no dinner tonight.

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