Monday, January 31, 2005

Chaat Cafe - 3rd Street - San Francisco

Fast - Fresh - Casual
Chaat Cafe, 320 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, 415 979 9946
Visit their website here

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Chaat Cafe is a bright, colourful, cheap, modern eaterie close to the Moscone Centre in San Francisco. I started eating chaat in London in the late 80s back when I was a vegetarian. I've tried Indian Chaat & Sweets in Berkeley. It was ok, but not as great as I remembered the little string on Indian Vegetarian places close to the British Capital's Euston Station used to be. I was hoping Chaat Cafe might be able replicate some of the dishes I knew and loved from those days of my youth.

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Papri Chaat Home made chips, lentil dumpling, garbanzo beans, potatoes, yoghurt, chutneys and spices $3.50
This was my favourite. It's such a contrasty dish. Cold creamy yoghurt, very hot spices, sweet fruity chutneys, savoury beans, soft lentil dumpling and crunchy puri chips. In my opinion, it's delicious. It's quite a mysterious, sloppy dish, you can't really see what you are eating, you just have to trust the taste combination. Fred tried a mouthful. The polite way to describe his reaction would be to say it wasn't to his taste, primarily because it mixes sweetness with spice in a dish he expected to be savoury. If you feel the same way, or you don't like a lot of dairy, this dish isn't for you.

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Bhel Puri Rice puffs, noodles, potatoes, green chili, onions, cilantro, tossed with tamarind and mint chutney $3.50
Bhel puri has long been a favourite of mine. This version really disappointed. The ratio of rice and noodles to potato was way too high, throwing the balance off kilter. I could only find three small potato cubes throughout the whole dish. I liked the high level of spice, but the menial amount of the fresh ingredients (noticeably the herbs and onions plus the chutneys) that could have really perked up this tall pile of crunchiness, were too few and far between.

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Spicy Seekh Kabob Wrap ground lamb seasoned with green chili, ginger and spices, wrapped in a naan with grilled onions and mint chutney $5.49
This was Fred's choice. He rarely orders anything other than this lamb 'sausage' when he is in an Indian restaurant. The kabob itself was excellent. I am generally not too keen on them but really liked this version which was spicy and well scented with a delightful mix of intriguing flavours. It was extremely hot, though, so bear that in mind if you prefer milder food.

A feature of the Chaat Cafe franchise is that they make 'wraps' but use naan as the wrapper. These were the worst naans either of us have ever tasted. (Fred's was part of his dish and I had an extra one on the side for $1.50.) They were tasteless, chewy and squidgy. Absolutely no crispiness was detected whatsoever. It was if they had been premade and heated in a microwave. I can't tell you how disappointing this was. If they were able to make real, piping hot, fresh, crispy-edged, blistered naan, this would be a place I might return to. As it is, I think we'll stick with the cheaper, Tenderloin, curry joints like Naan & Curry where you can get an enormous, crispy, perfect naan, twice the size for just a dollar.

Total for two, including one questionable glass of merlot and tax, a reasonable: $20.59
Chaat Cafe - 3rd Street - San Francisco


  • At 31/1/05 10:10, Blogger Fatemeh Khatibloo-McClure said…

    Sam -

    A few friends and I did a "champagne" pairing with Indian food a few years ago. It was ridiculously good.

    If you make it to Amphora on Sat., we should pick a bottle and take it to the 'loin and do a tasting of our own!

  • At 29/5/07 13:59, Blogger Travel Betty said…

    I should have listened to you. Just went here for lunch. Blah! Booooooring! I didn't realize it was even possible to create flavorless Indian food. Alas.


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