I’m not big on Indian food (I just feel it’s mostly curries and dried-out tandoori), but I’m always open to try it occasionally to see if someone can change my mind.
My friend Vera eats Indian food often, and she’s a big fan (like many others) of Vik’s Chaat and Market in Berkeley. The longtime Indian fast-casual restaurant moved to its current larger location a few years ago, and consistently packs it in as people try its chaat, which is road side snacks back in India.
Market + Chaat House
The restaurant, which is more like a fast-casual cafe, is behind a small Indian grocery store. If you feel inspired to make Indian food at home, you can always drop by the market on your way out and pick up needed ingredients.
I couldn’t really wrap my head around the organization of the chaat house, while Vera, a regular, thought the layout was ingenious. You order your food at the checkout, but you don’t get a number. Instead, you wait till they call your name. The problem (at least to me) is that the food doesn’t come out all at once. It comes out when it’s ready, and you go up to a particular line depending on what kind of dish you ordered.
But when they call your name, you really don’t know which dish you ordered is the one that’s ready. So you have to always ask the person behind the microphone what exactly you’re picking up. Since we ordered a few dishes, I was up and down at our table several times. It’s a real workout.
We tried a few traditional Indian street snacks, including Vera’s favorite – the dahi batata puri ($4.50). these shell-like pastries are filled with yogurt and mint and generously drizzled with more yogurt and tamarind chutney. How this can be eaten in the streets of India, I don’t understand. They just look like a mess, but I agree that this is the most unusual and tasty Indian street bite.
We also tried a big puffy air ball known as the cholle bhature ($6), which is like a big UFO slowly deflating, and regional favorite dosas (we had the masala dosas filled with potatoes, $6.50). At their core, these are basically a starch that’s served with dipping sauce. Again, not the most easy street food (apparently in India these are served on leaves that serves as the plate).
The Last Bite
The food definitely had fresh flavors, and were all hot since they were coming straight from the kitchen. We also ordered the special lamb dinner ($8.50), which had these incredibly tender lamb chunks in a curry sauce. I can see why these affordable dishes are popular in Berkeley, especially with the college crowd, but it didn’t make me a lover of Indian food. I appreciated some of the comfort foods like the potato dosa, but I don’t know if you get much diversity in the meal despite the extensive menu.
Vik’s Chaat & Market, 2390 4th St., Berkeley, Calif. PH: 510.644.4432. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (till 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). No reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.vikschaatcorner.com
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