I have become a catalyst for catastrophe.
Last night I ate at Chaat Cafe on 3rd/Folsom, my first visit to any of their locations. Our waitress had served us a few items, then returned with a tray of extra plates, water glasses, and an order of samosas. She set the edge of the tray on the end of our table, braced the other side with her hip, and was about to start offloading onto our table when it happened.
Thankfully, while they suffered a sickening cacophony, the restaurant's other occupants were safely protected from water, ceramic shards, chick peas, chutneys, and samosa because the tremendous explosion of said items was neatly contained by the ephemeral cube bounded by tabletop, floor, and four sets of legs: waitress, table, Erika, and Nick.
The waitress apologized profusely, genuinely, immediately and for the remainder of our stay. We got up and moved to the next table, where we continued our meal after cleaning our shoes. Service from there on out was good, we were even given a free dessert for our troubles.
Our waitress explained that earlier the same day, another server had a similar accident. She laughed at him. Lesson: karmic retribution sometimes takes innocent bystanders.
Upon returning home I realized the damage done to my pants was irreversible. At first I purposed to call the restaurant and ask for compensation, but then I realized that I, and indeed the world, would be better off with one less pair of khakis.
And thus ended my latest adventure with service meltdowns.
With the food I was not generally impressed. Five of the six puffs in our pani puri were far too large for a single bite, forcing us to awkwardly (and quite unsuccessfully, I might add) try to eat them in two bites without causing a mess. Erika found the spicy water far too salty, while I thought the salt compensated for the lack of that seasoning in the potatoes and beans. Spice level was very low. I've never had this dish anywhere before, but I've got to believe it can be better.
The samosas (Part II: Safely Delivered), were better, with tasty peas and potato and crispy, not-too-thick skins. The tamarind sauce was a bit thin, but otherwise fine with nice sweetness. The small side of cholay that came with the samosas was my favorite part of the meal: creamy beans in a simple yet tasty curry, with a good amount of spicy heat (not enough, really, but more than anything else).
The saag chicken curry was greasy--small little orange puddles dotted the mountain of pureed, dark green spinach. The chicken, however, was delicious--tender, juicy, flavorful thigh meat.
Regular naan was acceptable--warm, it's surface devoid of any fats, though it did not appear absolutely fresh. Against my better judgment--I do not believe in stuffed or flavored naans, instead I have faith in unadulterated bread that can soak up the other flavors at the table--I ordered garlic naan. It was covered in garlic, fat, and chopped curly parsley. The fat was a nice touch, but the garlic hot. My faith, reaffirmed.
We were gifted a dessert of gulab jamun, fried milk powder balls in rose syrup. This version was out-of-the-refrigerator-cold and -firm, but the syrup was wonderfully fragrant and sweet. But it was nothing like the fresh, hot, amazing gulab jamun at Ajanta on Solano.
The thick mango lassi tasted like those artificially flavored Push-Up Pops I ate as a kid. Two sips were consumed--one mine, one Erika's--and no more. They are currently awaiting approval of their liquor license.
Total bill after tax and tip, about $25.
Of all that we ordered, I would only recommend the samosas. Other posts on Chaat Cafe suggest that the tandoori wraps are a good bet.