I paid maybe my tenth visit to Udupi last night. On the way out I stopped to read the framed review of the restaurant in the News and Observer. The review was innocuously positive, but the reviewer, Greg Cox, gave Udupi only three out of four stars. I was amazed and discouraged. More than ever, I believe three things:
1) Udupi is the best restaurant in the Triangle.
2) Udupi is the only world-class restraurant in the Triangle, by which I mean that it would more than hold its own in New York or London.
3) Udupi is the only restaurant in the Triangle in which everything is good every time.
My wife and I lived in England for five years, and we ate in dozens of Indian restaurants, including a Michelin-one-starred restaurant in London (costing us about $150 or $200). I feel pretty certain that Udupi serves the best Indian food I've ever eaten.
Two things impressed me last night. Ordering among the few dishes we have not yet tried, we selected a dosai filled with "cream of wheat." This dish did not sound especially promising, but I was amazed by how fragrant and pillowy the cream of wheat was -- like grits that had died and been outfitted with angel's wings. It seems to me that a restaurant that can turn cream of wheat into something delectable deserves more than three stars on our local scale.
I was also very impressed by tea with which we closed the meal. I've had this tea several times before, but it occured to me forcefully on this occasion that I was drinking the most interesting cup of tea I had ever tried. Rich, thick, bitter, full of almost oenological counterpoints.
We talked with the chef, who told us that Udupi has a sister restaurant in India that serves identical cuisine. Apparently the chefs rotate between the two restaurants. The chef was a young guy -- perhaps 30. He said he had been in training for the head-chef position for twelve years.