With mixed reviews on Chowhound, I decided to try the one item that gets raves
from local people Ive talked to, some Chowhounds and from other reviews on the web.
That is the Tandoori Chicken sandwich ($6.24 really .24) described on the take out menu as fresh baked Naan stuffed with juicy and tender tandoori chicken tikka with a special house green dressing.
This is really one fine chicken sandwich and you dont need to know zilch about Indian food to appreciate it (Im in the zilch knowledge category).
Hearing reports of naan that sat too long, on my first visit I went at high noon when the restaurant would be busiest. I intended to take the sandwich home, but then the Samosa Chaat caught my eye and while waiting for that, my chicken sandwich arrived. I intended to try a bite while waiting right I devoured it on site. I thought of my cat eating something she really likes. Interrupt her and she growls. I would have had a similar response if someone tried to stop me mid sandwich.
Having ordered this sandwich, uh, a number of times, I recommend eating it immediately. It is still very good after the drive home, but nothing matches the experience of eating it immediately.
First of all, this is a big sandwich. So if you dont have a huge appetite, it would serve two daintier eaters.
The naan is hot, puffy and charred from the tandoori. When it cools, it looses the puffiness. It is wrapped around a generous stuffing of tender thin slices of tandoori chicken. The exterior of the chicken is tinged red. Not having knowledge of Indian food, I am guessing that is the tikka part. The chicken is warm too. In contrast there is crispy cool lettuce leaves. What a nice contrast of textures. The problem with taking the sandwich home is that the hot ingredients make the lettuce not as crispy.
There is a green dressing which someone described as a mint chutney, but I finally decided that it is probably not mint. It gives the sandwich a nice, but not intense, spiciness.
For the most part, the other items Ive tried have been pretty good too. On the take out menu, in addition to mentioning that the sandwich was a 2001 winner in Diablo Magazines Best of the Bay list, there was a reference to a recommendation by Bruce Aidells. He not only liked the sandwich but also the paneek paneer. Well, if it was good enough for the well respected sausage maker, I thought Id give it a try.
The Palak Paneer is described on the menu as fancy leaf spinach cooked to perfection in a specially blended curry found only at TCUSA (their abbreviation) and topped off with homemade cheese.
Ive only had this at Mefil in SF and Naan and Curry. Neither impressed me. However it is my opinion that the TCUSA version is a delightful and delicious way to get your spinach. Popeye would approve.
It was buttery, rich and pleasantly spicy with cubes of the cheese which reminded me a little of tofu. It reheated well for breakfast the next morning. I guess if you have enough butter, uh ghee, it really picks up a dish. Ill order this again.
The Keer (rice pudding) was in a soupy sauce with lovely crunchy spices. Nicely flavored, the only problem was the rice was a bit too crunchy too. Not sure if this is how keer is supposed to be. Probably wont order again.
Loved the naan, so I tried the chicken naan supreme which has minced pieces of the red tiki chicken. Not the best use of that tender chicken. Ok, but I wouldnt order again.
I suppose the samosa chaat which had a fried samosa stuffed with mashed chickpeas (?) and served with a side of a red saucy container with chickpeas, onions, peppers and spices was fine, but it didnt ring any bells for me. Wont order it again.
The menu and window say they deliver, but they long ago discontinued that due to lack of help. The El Sobrante location is in the funkiest building that looks like a 60s chain hamburger stand. There are some indoor booths and an outdoor picnic table. Theres also an outdoor counter with a few stools.
About a year and a half ago, they opened the Concord location which seems to be decorated very nicely.
In El Sobrante, people are working class and any discussion of food includes the mention of price. Places I wouldnt blink once about in terms of price, are shunned by many as being too expensive. A $6.24 chicken sandwich is pretty pricy. Yet not one person mentioned the price although they offered warnings on other restaurants. My opinion is that TCUSA is a little pricy for a small Indian restaurant. However the quality is excellent and the price seems justified. Lots of people called in to pick up tandoori chicken (murgh). Havent tried it but check the online menu for a description. Hours, phone and location are on the website as well.
Has anyone tried the Concord location?
Heres the link to the website with menu and pictures of the Concord location (a definite upscale decor-wise from El Sobrante). Love the picture with the steam rising from the fire.