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Restaurants & Bars 4

Sabina (downtown Oakland, Indian) - bleah

Marc Wallace | Apr 3, 200403:01 PM

It had been over five years since I swore off Sabina, so I figured it was time to give them one last chance. After all, I keep overhearing people (espeically at my dentist) saying how great their buffet is. So I tried it.

First, the good points. There's a fountain (protected by law, it's "historic") that gives soothing noises. They provide nice segmented metal plates for putting food on, so things can be contained. Err, and it's a few blocks from where I work. Uhm... and a pitcher of lukewarm water was on the table so we could refill our own glasses. That's it for good points.

My first amazement: the buffet had neither sambar nor dal curry. My impression had been that even if you just ordered a toothpick in an Indian restaurant, it came with sambar. Disappointment. They had bowls, but for what?

Going dish to dish: there was a cucumber and tomato "salad" with black flecks that we guessed might be pepper. While eating, I found they were heavily salted. Enough so that the fluids from inside the veggies started leaching out onto my plate! Good thing for the segmented plates. But this was a trend: everything was oversalted. I was chugging water all afternoon and into the evening.

The rice was okay, but a bit off. The naan was both burnt and soggy! Three vegeterian dishes: a bean curry (in which my coworker unhappily discovered a huge sharp object that he described as a nail, and looked like one), a potato and spinach dish that was tolerable, and a vegetable medley of some sort with lots of green peppers. Sorry for the lack of real names, but the labels were clearly written for gringos.

No curry (per se), no vindaloo. Chicken masala (*not* CTM (chicken tikka masala), just "chicken masala", which apparently means unseasoned unspicy chicken curryish stuff). Lamb masala, which was dry meat affixed to huge bones and lumps of gristle floating in grease. Oh, and chicken tandoori, which I didn't try but heard was "okay, I guess".

Papadum was a pleasant surprise, until I bit into one, and noticed a strange taste. There was some sort of seed baked in. Baked, I grant them, even though part of one of mine was unfried in that "it looks like the packaged ones from the store that I used to think were tolerable but are microwaved". Three chutneys, and "hot sauce", which was the runny, seedy stuff -- not a chutney. I didn't even bother to try the rice pudding.

Aside from being shown a table and given a check, no service. I was aghast that they didn't even ask if we wanted a drink, as most places really push drinks (basically free money in most cases). But since they were charging for "food" that really wasn't, I can see why they didn't bother.

$10 per, after tax and tip (I didn't want to leave one but had to get back and couldn't wait). Worse than the "14 item" place I tried in south Berkeley where both rice and tea counted as "items". I'm tempted to go so far as to say it doesn't even count as Indian food.

This place was dreadful. *Perhaps* it's okay if you order a dish. Perhaps. I'm not going to give them that chance. There are no other Indian options within two miles, but next time I'm craving a curry, I'd rather walk the two miles through driving rain than return here. (yes, even to the Raj place in Piedmont. Feh!

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