Chaats & Currys, Sunnyvale, CA

Very good quality food for such an affordable price tag. I am almost convinced they are selling themselves short. For less than $12 you get a very fulfilling dinner that comes with soup, salad, vegetable, rice/nan together with your choice of entree. There are free chutney, various condiments and sauce to go with your food as well.

The tandoori chicken was a bit drier than I would like but the lamb korma curry was a pure labor of love. I had a very enjoyable meal that really hit the spot. Ambiance is basic but the restaurant is clean and bright. It was rather fun to watch some Bollywood movies there too. Can’t wait to return and try more items on their menu.

Final Verdict

Food: 4/5. Quality food made with labor of love.

Service: 4/5. Very friendly and helpful.

Ambiance: 3/5. Not much of an ambiance but the restaurant is neat and bright.

Price to Value: 4/5. Can’t get any better at this price.

Siam Orchid Organic Fine Dining, Palo Alto, CA

The finest thing in this restaurant was perhaps the trendy looking bathroom with nicely folded cotton hand towels.

Everything else was unfortunately miles away from a true ‘fine dining’ experience. The one and only server working in the restaurant even had to double as a bartender at times. As you can imagine, service was (understandably but not excusably) far from attentive.

Food wasn’t very exciting at all. The high price tag might be somewhat justified by the use of organic ingredients, but there are no excuse for dull cooking. The chicken in the Massaman Gai has the signature slow cooked texture but was not infused with the flavors of the curry. The sauce was thin and runny with minimal amount of oil. Health conscious diners might found that comforting. Some spices seemed to be missing. Perhaps because they really only use organic ingredients?

I found the portion to be reasonable. An entree with a side order of rice should be a good enough light meal for one.

If you are the type that shop only organic produce and try to eat as much ‘clean’ food as possible, Siam Orchid is probably one of the very few choices you have for dining out. If eating organic is not your top priority, you (and your wallet) would probably be happier at other restaurants.

Final Verdict

Food: 3/5. Uses organic ingredients but very mellow in taste.

Service: 2/5. Seriously short staffed.

Ambiance: 3/5. Small restaurant but nicely decorated and very clean.

Price to Value: 1/5. Priced as a fine diner but food resembles ordinary homestyle cooking.

Champa Garden, Oakland, CA

Lao Cuisine. How rare. I don’t think I know of another Laotian restaurant in bay area. My exposure to Lao dishes is extremely limited to the occasional offerings from Thai or Cambodian restaurants.

What an unusual location for a restaurant. It didn’t seem like there were any other restaurants (or businesses) within 5 blocks radius. Champa Garden certainly stood out in the neighborhood.

Apparently this little gem is no secret among locals. Came here for a fairly early weekend dinner and the dining room was almost fully filled. If we had arrived just a a few more minutes later, there might be a short wait.

Food was decent. Given how extensive the menu is, it is not surprising to find some dishes far superior than others. Let me tell you what I really liked.

Pair of Quails - Under no circumstances should you not order this. The quails was fried to a perfect crispness such that the bones were very brittle while the meat was still not dry. You can pretty much eat the entire thing.

Other decent dishes that were decent but less memorable:

Duck Curry with Eggplant - They were not very generous with the duck meat but the curry was well spiced. A tad on the sweet side but went well with rice.

Larp - Get the Laos style. I think it is a bit too salty and not sour enough. Next time I might just ask for extra lime on the side.

One thing that I would really avoid:

Mango Paradise - While the curry was well flavored and the mango was lovely and sweet, the shrimps were of the quality comparable to those from a grocery store freezer shelve.

I was quite mad at myself for not ordering any sticky rice. How could I not remember that is Laos specialty? Overheard the patrons next to us raving how good the stick rice was, I know I missed out. Oh well… there is always a next time.

Garlic Naan Chicken Tikka Masala Goat Curry

Naan n Masala, Milpitas, CA

Craving authentic Indian curry? This is where you can find tasty, inexpensive no nonsense Indian food.

Their garlic naan was awesome. Every piece was perfectly crisp and flavorful. I found myself not wanting to drench it in sauce so I could savor it completely. Chicken Tikka Masala wasn’t bad at all. Even though the meat was slightly dry, the rich buttery gravy made up for it. I technically ‘drank’ almost the entire plate. Goat curry was well spiced. It is a good choice if you want something slightly less creamy.

Butter chicken and tandoori chicken are the next on my to-try list.

Naan N Masala is located in the back of a really quiet strip mall in Milpitas. That only means easier parking and less wait time. People working there are really friendly and helpful. Doesn’t matter if you are a first timer or a regular, you will be welcomed like family.

Muracci’s 2 Japanese Curry & Grill, Los Altos, CA

I was not too impressed by the original Muracci’s in the city. I found it over-hyped and not worth the long wait. Muracci’s 2 in Los Gatos was another story. While I wouldn’t say the curry here is far superior but  the comfortable dining area and extended menu certainly gave it bonus points.

I really wanted to try their Curry Doria since it is only available at this sit down location. Unfortunately it was late in the evening and the waitress kindly informed me  it takes 45 minutes to prepare is likely I won’t be able to finish my meal before they close. Feeling dissatisfied, I grumbled and mumbled, but eventually gave in and switch to something simpler.

Salmon Fry Curry - Excellent. The salmon cutlet is as good as their pork or chicken version. Crispy and moist. Curry sauce has a good complex flavor. I regret not adding a fried egg on top.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry Hot Noodle Soup - Not as memorable as their curry rice. The broth is a weaker version of their curry sauce. The chicken meat has this overcooked tough texture that I was not too fond of.

Their complimentary salad was absolutely delightful. You have a choice of miso or wasabi dressing.

The restaurant is not that big so there is always a line outside. Fortunately table turnaround is quite quick. The wait is unlikely to be too long.