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Monday, March 22, 2010

Indian Restaurant in Dallas

In India, food is considered as divine and is represented by Goddess Annapoorani. And any offering given at a temple is considered to have the blessing of the presiding deity. There are even some temples whose food is said to cure some eye diseases and problems of the stomach. I never thought I would find a place in Texas(!!) that still follows this tradition of simple home cooking, that comes with the blessings of a deity. When I was in Dallas last week, I was looking for a Indian place to try and I found Kalachandjis, a vegetarian restaurant.

Kalachandji's Palace, Restaurant and Temple is a place where you can get food for the mind and for the stomach. Kalachandji's is Dallas's longest serving Vegetarian Restaurant, often voted as the # 1 choice for Vegetarians by Magazines. Started in the year 1982, for nearly 27 years Kalachandijis has been serving vegetarian, home made food, cooked according to ayurvedic traditions.

The name itself is quite unique for a Indian restaurant as most Indian restaurants have a similar name wherever you go,like a dosa corner or Dakshin. The name Kalachandiji is the name of the presiding deity of the Palace. Kala means black and Chand means moon, hence the name translates to that of the beautiful moon face of Lord Krishna. How the 500 year old deity came to Texas is another interesting fact. It is believed that during the foreign invasion of India, the statute of Lord Krishna was hidden to avoid stealing and after many years , Swami Prabhupada found the statue as a door stopper in a shop in Jaipur. Once obtaining the statue of Kalachandji, efforts were taken to construct a temple in Dallas and the Palace was created for his residence.

The restaurant is divided into the Palace-Temple, a magnificent Garden with fountains, Tulsivanam, the Restaurant and a shop for Indian goods. Once entering into the Palace, automatically one can sense the peace, the cool wind due to the garden and the sizzling sound of running waters. Ofcourse, there is the aroma of food that invites you into the restaurant.

We had a chance to meet the Chef and Palace Coordinator Manjulai Devi and she showed us around the palace and gave us a brief history of the place. The food for nearly 400 people a day is cooked by Chef Manjulai Devi and Chef Sweta and it is made according to ayurvedic traditions. It is believed that food can absorb the emotions of the person who cooks a meal and so every meal made at this restaurant is called as a Food Served with Love as the Chef's cook it with positive thoughts. Another interesting fact is that none of the dishes offered here has any Garlic, Onions, Canned or Frozen food.

The range of food offered here is Indian-Fusion with less spicy Indian food and either a Pasta, Bread or BBQ Tofu for the International food lovers.

And the menu is changed everyday, you can check the menu here. You wont find a Steaming pot of Biryani but the mouthwatering array of dishes for the day we visited were Dal Soup, Vadas, Pooris, Home made cinnamon bread and raisin bread,Poppadams, Brown rice, Spanish Tomato Rice(with olives), Enchiladas, Curry with Paneer, Steamed spinach and steamed vegetables with Tahini Sauce along with a salad bar.

The dal soup is so flavorful that you won't notice that it is missing onions and garlic. Once the tongue is all fiery from the soup, soothing effect of salad teases the palates.

The salad bar has mixed greens, steamed vegetables, cucumbers, olives, carrots and beets along with peppers. The best part is their home made salad dressing. The almond blend dressing is chunky- crowd favorite dressing and most of the guests were gulping it by the bowls instead of using it as a dressing. Other dressings like Green Goddess, Italian Basil or Lemon Tahini are also home made and as flavorful as the names suggest.

The best drink that goes with such a meal is- Tamarind Tea! I was surprised to hear the name at first and took a little sip just so, but the cold tea sure packs a punch. Made with turbinado sugar and tamarind, the tea is a real refresher. The taste is so addictive that for every plate refilled, you would want to refill the tea also. And even finishing off a couple of plates, there is no heavy feeling as there is no masala to make the tummy feel uncomfortable.

But we were not done yet, once we cleaned off our plates, we were served a classic pineapple coconut halvah(Farina with coconut,pineapples and nuts)and a sweet rice pudding.

Once the tummy was full, we decided to walk around the garden along with Chef Manjuali Devi. The garden-patio has a couple of seats near the fountains and were spread out through the garden. The chef shared that during the summer most people would come to the Palace with a nice book, have a filling meal and enjoy the rest of the evening reading the book in the Garden! Why not, with a couple of glasses of the tea to drink it sure would be a relaxing evening.

The last stop of our tour is the beginning of this post- Kalachandiji's temple. Surrounded by Tulsi plants, with Radha on his side, Kalachandji was actually celebrating Valantine's Day with his dear devotees. Heart shaped balloons and garlands decorated the place of worship.

Surrounding Kalachandiji were paintings that describe the life of krishna, starting from his birth to butter stealing days to rasa-leela. Each painting is supported by a beautifully hand crafted pillars made from India.

If you are interested in learning Indian cooking, what could be better than starting it at a Palace? The Palace Chef's offer cooking classes for beginners every Thursday for two hours and more information on the cooking classes, you can click here. The class is not just a demonstration class but the entire set of students is fed a full course meal that is cooked by the Chef for the class.

And the cost of Dinner Buffet? It is just around $10 per person. Want a relaxing meal on a tiring weekend? Checkout Kalachanjis for a unique dining experience.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gandhi in Las Vegas

Gandhi- Vegas
It was a sunny saturday in vegas when we decided to pack out bags, leave the casinos and hit the road to Grand Canyon. Sure enough, we wanted to have some fulfilling Indian food. We made the decision to eat in Gandhi Indian Cuisine and head out.

Name: Gandhi Indian Restaurant
Style of Cuisine: Indian
Time of Visit: September 2008
Location: Near Flamingo Casino, Vegas
Cost of Lunch/Couple: Under $50

I have been to Gandhi before with my friends when I was a Grad Student visiting Vegas. But it was a huge difference in taste and presentation. I didnt see any crowd except for a family of four, a family of three and me and my wife. We could see that Buffet was being advertised so we went straight to grab a plate.

One look at the table and I felt that the food didnt look appetizing. I decided to try roti, aloo gobi, iddli and sambar.
One bite into the idli and it felt cold, dry around the edges and slightly bitter. Coconut Chutney was also cold and slightly tasting like tamarind. Aloo gobi didnt have the flavor combinations working well. I ditched both dishes and grabbed another plate and dived into rice with channa masala and dhal. Still not upto the standard of a restaurant in a place like vegas. Within 10 minutes we were out of the place. The last time I checked it out was in 2002, so I can imagine the change in taste and serving. I dont know if the taste has improved so check again before visiting. If your visit had some good dishes served during lunch/dinner, let me know and I will add your review also.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shiv Sagar Indian Restaurant

We went to this place shiv sagar the first day we moved to Houston. We thought we were going to Anand Bhavan when we landed at Shiv Sagar. The speciality of this place is its thali.

Time of Visit: Often(from 2008)
Style of Cusine: Indian
Location: South west freeway, Houston
Cost of dinner/Couple : Less than $50

Shiv sagar does not have a buffet, but as I said, the place has a wonderful thali costing around $7 per person. Instead of us being served , we can go up to the counter and order either thali/chat. In a few minutes, the food comes through the counter and we just have to collect it and choose a place to enjoy the food. Its more of a canteen style but it tastes good.

Usually the thali consists of rice, vegetable curry, rasam, kadi, sambar, phoolka roti,two vegetarian gravies, poppadam and keer. The kadi tastes spicy and overall the thali tastes good. The chat items are also tasty be it bhel puri, golgappas, dahi poori or phav baji. They also serve dosa,upma and idlis. Be careful though if you order chili baji as this is the authentic spicy (spicy hot by desi standards) chili with a spicy filling inside the baji and a tangy sauce to go with it. They also serve a variety of drinks such as lassi and chai to go with the chat items.

Verdict: Clean tasting light yet filling food at a very affordable price.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dosa Temple

Dosa Temple-Boston
Dosa temple is another restaurant located near Shri Lakshmi Temple in Ashford, MA. I used to eat in Dakshin or Dosa temple if I visited Framingham.

Time of Visit: 2007
Style of Cuisine: Indian
Cost/Couple: Less than $50

A pal of mine told me about Dosa Temple which was previously Chennai Woodlands. The menu is mostly made of South Indian dishes. The Seating arrangement is around 30-40 people, but I felt the decor to be simple.

The menu is made of dishes like idli sambar, vadai sambar, variety of dosas, uttapams, bajjis, bise bela bath, yogurt rice, korma and chappatis.
To its name I would really say dosa temple serves good dosas and uttapams. If you happen to order Sambar Vadai, I'd say the size of the vadai is quite bigger than what we would usually make at home. The tangy sauce given for Chili Bajji is also good. I had kaima parota once which is like parathas cut into bite sized pieces quickly stirred into the korma and served as such.

I've been told that this place also has Buffet during weekday lunch times and special occasions, consisting of rice varieties, rotis, gravies and south indian dishes.

Overall I would say, its Simple South Indian Cooking.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pearl MGM

Just few months ago, I had a chance to go to Las Vegas. I have been there before during my student days but it was a huge change to see the strip again. Most important of all, there was the analysis of the restaurants I have been before and checking out new ones. One night, I had dinner in Pearl Chinese Restaurant at MGM grand.

Name: Pearl MGM
Time of Visit: September 2008
Location: MGM Grand
Style of Cuisine: Chinese
Dress code: Business Casual (I did see one or two Jeans with T shirts but Flip Flops- a complete NoNo)
Reservations: We managed to get a place by just walking in, but reservations are recommended.
Cost of Dinner/couple : Around $60
Overall Ambiance: Good

So, as we walked into the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the interior decoration. It was thoughtful to decorate with soft colors and matching lights along with a wonderful table setting with delicate arrangement of flowers.

If you happen to get a booth, I'd say you've got yourself a winner. The seats were designed to give the back a nice support and it was relaxing sitting there after all the walking and sightseeing. The menu had both veg and Non veg options, but us being veggies stuck to what we could eat.

We checked out the Mushroom soup which was light, yet filling. This is the first place I guess where I have had three waiters serve me each course, and explaining what the dish was. I would say the service was excellent in the way the food was presented and how we were greeted.

For the main course we had Singapore style rice vermicelli noodles and garden fried rice. Both dishes were presented in classic white dinner plates along with sauces in their own special cups. I felt the food was like an art and it blended well with the overall settings of the restaurant. The noodles was cooked well but not mushy or dry and was lightly spiced up. The rice was also cooked with a blend of sauces and the vegetables were crunchy, yet cooked thoroughly. The best part was that it was not served piping hot that you couldn't taste the ingredients and had to wait, but it was served at a proper temperature that we could enjoy.

Overall, I would say check it out if you are going to Vegas.

Addis Red Sea, Boston

Name: Addis Red Sea
Time of Visit: November 2007
Location: Tremont Street, Boston
Style of Cuisine: Ethiopian
Cost of Dinner/Couple: Above $50
Dress code: Formal /Casual

First suggestion: Remember is book a place in advance. There is always a long line of people waiting to get in so reserve a place. Second suggestion is drive to Tremont street at least 20 minutes early and try to find a parking spot. The street is always crowded so its better to arrive early and find a place than going around the block.

The restaurant reflects the Ethiopian decorations and even the table, chairs and place settings are made out of coir mats/bamboo chairs. The table is decorated with a colorful table cloth stitched with beads and painted with various designs.

The appetizer section features sambusa, which is similar to samosa but it is less spicy. There are also variety of salads and non vegetarian appetizers. The main dish is usually Ingera, a dosa like pancake which also serves as a plate. On top of Ingera, different condiments are served. We chose a combination of Butecha(chickpea paste with oil) ,Atakilt ( vegetables with herbs), Kinche(Cracked wheat) and Yesmir Wot(lentils).

The dishes are not spicy and it also not fried food. Most of the food is steamed with some herbs and it tastes good. The place also has a good selection of wine list. You can also take your friends to this place for a weekend/ get togethers.

Verdict: Check it out, its a different cuisine for a change and its tasty.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Woodlands, Orlando

Think about this situation. You are in Orlando for a nice vacation with the kids(or to revisit your childhood). You havent had anything inside the disney park and studios except pizza, noodles, salad and french fries. You yearn for the steaming bowl of rice and fluffy rotis. You miss the taste of authentic home cooking and you are wondering what to eat for tonite. Have you been in that situation before? Well, I was in Orlando, Florida and was driving around, trying to locate a Indian place with my GPS and the place that served me the authentic indian food was Woodlands.

Name of the place: Woodlands, Orlando(Opposite lakshmi plaza)
Time of visit: December 2007
Style of Cuisine : Indian
Cost of dinner/Couple : Less than $50

So, hand in hand my hubby and I walked into Woodlands and sank into a seat. We had been walking all day in the parks and being vegetarians, we havent had anything except fries and pizza. There comes the menu from Woodlands, filled with a complete menu of the typical indian dishes. We ordered rotis, dosas and rice and it tasted heavenly. I guess the place is vegetarian and the service was also good.

The next day as we were checking out places near by, we decided to have brunch at Woodlands again. We were informed that it would be a buffet. It was an amazing sight to see so many dishes in a weekday lunch. And trust me, the place didnt cut any corners. It was tasty , authentic, home cooked food, quality food and you could taste the cleanliness with which it has been prepared. Starting with Salads, Keer, Gopi Manchoorian, idlis, vadais, naan, gravies, poppadams, pickles, variety rices, yogurt rice and kesari, we were also served masala dosai. So literally speaking, for a buffet containing 20 dishes or more, with such an amazing taste, we paid less that $8/person.

Verdict: Dont miss this place. Totally worth the taste and a winner.