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Udupi Palace (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

1901 University Avenue
(At the corner of University and Martin Luther King)
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 843-6600

Udupi Palace Rating

Udupi Palace is a great South Indian Vegetarian Restaurant at the busy intersection of University and Martin Luther King, in Berkeley, across from the Trader Joe’s construction site, and also the Chaat Cafe. Billing itself as "A place for dosas…" how could I resist?

You walk in and immediately notice that it smells wonderful. We went on a Friday night, a little on the early side, and there was a pretty good crowd—some couples and a large family.

I was very pleased that I chose to get the Samosa: a pair of yummy tetrahedrons; light and flaky (i.e. fried) on the outside, with curried potato and peas on the inside. It’s a rare fried delicacy for me.

Udupi Palace Samosas

A pair of crispy Samosas

The real hard decision was the dosa menu. Dosas are rice and lentil flour crêpes stuffed with something delicious and soft, and rolled into a tube shape that overflows the plate. There were a dozen or so different kinds of dosas, and nearly as many uthappam which are rice and lentil pancakes. Combinations included potato, onions, peas, vegetables, even cheese, and different seasonings. All come thali style with a small bowls of spicy sambar (a lentil soup) and a coconut chutney that I really enjoyed.

But what’s really remarkable—and I’ve been saving this comment for the end because I wasn’t sure you’d believe me—is that the masala dosa that I ordered was as long as my arm, if not longer!

Udupi Palace Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa longer than my arm

Seriously, this thin, light, lentil-flour crêpe was as delicious as it was wide. I tore through it pretty quickly and was rather proud of myself to boot. Kathryn was amazed to see it go. She got a spinach masala dosa which was a nice twist on the theme. The crêpe was green and maybe even more delicious than mine, with a slightly bitter spinach kick.

Near the edges, where there’s no stuffing, the dosa dough is dry but fluffy, yet it’s sort of hard to cut with the dull knife I had. I don’t have any idea whether or not it was radically uncouth, but I picked it up and ate the last tasty bits with my hands, burrito style.

Now here’s the crazy part. For a samosa appetizer and two huge dosas, the bill came to about $16.75 with tax, before tip. Check it out!

2/27/2010 Update—I went back to Udupi Palace with a big group of work colleagues, and I got to see a lot more of the dishes. Just about everyone got a dosa. The Spring Dosa looked fantastic. The Paper Dosa, be forewarned, is gigantic but is not stuffed. There’s nothing inside. The dosa wrapper is dipped into the sambar and coconut side dishes. I think that I would find it unsatisfying.

Ajanta (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , ,

1888 Solano Avenue
(Between The Alameda and Fresno Ave)
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 526-4373


Ajanta is my all time favorite Indian Restaurant, and one of my favorite places to eat in Berkeley. It’s beautifully decorated, the service is warm and solicitous, and the food is seriously amazing, with plenty of vegetarian options.

Ajanta has a wonderful, ever-changing menu, with rotating regional dishes, and a other favorites that we always see. But if you’re expecting chana masala (garbanzo beans), baingan bartha (eggplant), and aloo saag (spinach and potatoes), like (almost) every other Indian restaurant in the USA, think again.

My absolute favorite dish is Bheh, Khumbi Aur Matar, a vegan dish from Sindh (western India, now Pakistan) with lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, and peas cooked with caramelized onions, ginger, garlic and spices including mango powder and coriander. Oh my.

You may also find entrées like Lobhia Aur Khumbi, a vegan Punjabi dish made with black eyed peas and organic shiitake mushrooms cooked in a sauce made with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices including coriander, turmeric, and paprika. Yum!

But whatever you order, do not miss the Tandoori Portobello Mushroom appetizer. It will forever change the way you think about mushrooms. It comes served with a spectacular mustard sauce.

If you’re vegan, let them know, so they can steer you clear of the dishes made with yogurt or butter (ghee). Whenever I have asked, they have always been completely accommodating.

Ajanta rates high on the date-worthy scale, and it’s a great place to bring anyone you want to impress. Even the wine list is broad and well considered. Given the quality of the food and the elegance of the place, the prices seem very reasonable to me.

Ajanta is across the street from the Oaks Theater.

Café Raj (Albany)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , ,

1158 Solano Avenue
Between Kains and Stannage
Albany, CA 94706
(415) 626-1628


This popular neighborhood destination near the bottom of Solano Avenue can sometimes be so busy that there’s a waitlist—even around 6 pm. However the line moves fast. A few years ago, they expanded into the space next door.

The menu has a special vegetarian section, featuring the well-known staples of Indian vegetarian food (as Ken and I see it). Bangan Barta (eggplant), Aloo Saag (spinach & potato), Saag Paneer (spinacy curry with cheese), and Chana Masala (garbanzo beans) top the list. They’re all are quite tasty, in particular the Chana Masala. How so many great things can come out of their tiny kitchen astounds me, but their food is consistently delicious, and light.

Café Raj is a friendly, family-owned place, and the people taking orders may even be the children: an extroverted and sweet group. It is reasonably priced and always delicious.

Khana Peena (Berkeley)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , ,

1889 Solano Ave
(between Fresno Ave & The Alameda)
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 528-2519


When Khana Peena moved in across the street from Ajanta a few years ago, I thought it was a bad business decision. Now here it is, 2010: Ajanta is still at the top of it’s game, and Khana Peena is making it work, with a totally different style of Indian food, reasonable prices, and a nice ambiance.

I actually think their food has gotten much better recently. There’s a big vegetarian selection, and they do all of our favorites really well. Chana Masala (spicy garbanzo beans) is great; Aloo Sag (creamy spinach with potatoes) is Kathryn’s favorite; and I really love their Bhindi Masala (okra is a spiced dry sauce). The different kinds of naan (bread) are wonderful.

This is another place I like to take out of town guests. When you have a bunch of people, ask for one of the booths in the back. You can sit on floor-pillows, at a long low table and have a great private dinner experience.

I should also mention that Khana Peena delivers!

About the Authors

Ken and Kathryn are the authors of VegJapan, a vegetarian TravelBlog in Japan.


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