Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Indian roadside fare at Vik’s Chaat Corner

In any country, the cuisine eaten by locals at roadside shacks, food carts, and sidewalk stalls is as authentic as it gets. There’s a place in Berkeley that has taken the Indian to new heights, not because of the décor, clientele, or location, but simply for the food. It’s called Vik’s Chaat Corner on 4th and Channing.

Vik’s sits in an indistinct brick warehouse, in which the front of house is a small Indian grocer and the back is a cavernous open dining area. Food is ordered from a counter on one side of the space. On the opposite site, a half a dozen “stalls” prepare the food items and call out orders as they are ready.
We took our good friend A&G, who were visiting from London. It was an eye opening experience for them especially since the line was 25 deep to order (wrapped around several tables); the menu was listed on a chalkboard behind a large display cabinet of Indian sweets; there were stainless steel table tops, and you had to buss your on tables. The epitome of Indian chaos that somehow works!
We decided to order family style so A&G could sample several different items. Of course everything on the menu sounded amazing, but here’s what we tasted.
Masala Dosa - a crispy savory South Indian crepe (dosa) filled with potato, peas, onion, and tomato dry curry (masala). It is served with sambar and coconut chutney. Vik’s dosa came out piping hot and stays crispy for quite some time. The masala packed heat but was not overpowered with spice. Even without the masala, the dosa tastes amazing when dipped in the warm sambar. Other restaurants tend to douse their dosa in either butter or oil. Vik’s dosa is not oily, which allow for the true flavors to come through. It’s on par with Udipi Palace in Silicon Valley.
Dahi Batata Puri – Puffed puri filled with yogurt, tamarind chutney, potatoes, sev, cilantro, onion, and red chili powder. This type of food can be found on virtually every street corner in Mumbai. Vik’s dahi batata puri is served cold; each puri is a bit-size amount bursting with a peculiar mix of savory and sweet. Since this dish is overflowing with yogurt, it’s a great compliment to some of the spicier dishes. It should be eaten first because the puris will become soggy quickly. Sheila and I try to replicate this meal at home quite often; it’s the sincerest form of flattery.
Aloo Tikki – Pan fried potato patties drizzled with cooked garbanzo beans (chole), tamarind chutney, mint chutney, onions, cilantro, and chili powder. The patties and chole were piping hot; the chutneys and accompaniments were served cold. It’s a heavy dish though which after three/four bites started fill me up. In addition, the spice factor hit me heard quite hard and if it weren’t for the left over yogurt from the dahi batata puri, I would have drank several water glasses.

Veg Kathi Roll – Vik’s uses minced paneer instead of cubes, which allows for more cohesive flavor throughout. Along with paneer, the roti roll was also filled with cooked green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and chili sauce. Having eaten several types of kathi rolls while in India recently; I have to say that Vik’s roll is good, but not memorable. I actually prefer the ones from Kasa in the Mission. Check back with me after the India trip wears out and I might change my mind!
Mango Lassi – Made fresh everyday, Vik’s lassi is the perfect southing agent to quell Indian spices. Aside from the natural sweetness of the mango, no other sugars are added. Served in only one size, it’s difficult to make it last the entire meal.
A&G thoroughly enjoyed Vik’s Chaat Corner; reminded them of when we all went to Tulsi in Wembley (London). Sheila and I have been going there for over 8 years and three times in the past few months. It’s the food that draws us and the other cult followers. Don’t judge this book by its cover. Head to the bring warehouse near the railroad tracks for the best India street food in the Bay Area!

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