There are several Indian restaurants in Berkeley. However, few actually serve food that tastes authentically Indian. One authentic Indian restaurant is Vik’s Chaat, but its 4th Street location is out of the way.
If you are craving some good Indian food closer to campus, you should try Namaste Madras Indian Cuisine. Located on Shattuck Avenue, Namaste is a downtown Berkeley restaurant that serves fresh, delicious and authentic North and South Indian cuisine. They make standard North and South Indian dishes (ones you’d find in almost every Indian restaurant) well, and they are not very pricey.
Namaste is ornately decorated inside, with a beamed ceiling of cherry wood. It had plenty of seating and a somewhat formal atmosphere which is a bonus considering that you’re not paying as much as you regularly would for a nice restaraunt.
It isn’t just the decor that makes Namaste a must though. Namaste offers an array of special dishes that are from the Southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and the state of Madras, which is now known as Tamil Nadu. Their Southern Indian menu boasts items such as vadas, which are deep fried lentil dough patties, dosas, which are crepe-like dishes that can be stuffed and uttapams, which are essentially thick pancakes.
They also have an extensive North Indian menu. The Shai Paneer, which consists of cubed cottage cheese in tomato and cream sauce was by far the best and most authentic dish on the menu. Served hot with some accompanying rice, it was perfectly blended so that the flavors of the cream and the tomato sauce were in balance. It was filling, cost $10.95 and can be made in a mild, medium or spicy form to accommodate for your taste buds.
The menu also includes a range of different types of bread, which are hallmarks of a North Indian cuisine. It offers the traditional plain nan bread (also spelled “naan”) as well as more creative forms of the dish such as kima nan: nan stuffed with spiced ground lamb (which cost $4.00 for three to four pieces). These variations on nan do not always turn out that well, however, as the lamb did not mix well with the flavor of the bread, and definitely did not go well with the Shai Paneer.
Aside from nan, the bread menu also boasts classic rotis (also known as chapattis) and a traditional breakfast or lunch food from North India: Aloo Paratha, wheat bread stuffed with aloo (potatoes) and other vegetables like peas and carrots. The Paratha, which cost $3.95, was not as thick as you would typically find it in Northern India, but it did incorporate the vegetables into it well to make a satisfying and filling dish. If you’re not a fan of spice, then it is definitely a good dish to order since it’s probably one of the dishes on the menu that is the least spicy.
Namaste’s dessert menu is not as vast as its appetizer and main course menus, but it did serve two classic Indian desserts: Gulab Jamun, donut balls mixed in sugar syrup, and Rice Kheer, basically a sweeter form of the typical rice pudding. It is very hard to not produce a delicious Gulab Jamun, and so in that department Namaste definitely succeeds, but their Kheer was a bit too watery, and the flavor was somewhat diluted.
Despite the shortcomings in some dishes on the menu, Namaste is a good Indian restaurant to go to. It’s close to campus and exudes a somewhat formal dining atmosphere. If you know what to order and are willing to stick to the more conventional Indian dishes like plain nan and paneer, then you will enjoy it. However if you’re looking for an Indian culinary adventure that thrills your taste buds and presents you with a range of different flavors, then you should probably try somewhere else. The less standard dishes that Namaste served like the Kima Nan and the Rice Kheer did not live up to the authenticity of the other dishes and were a downside eating at Namaste.
Contact Spandana Singh at [email protected].