Thursday, September 30, 2010

In the Bowl Bistro @ Seattle

Finally, I get to review my one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Seattle. In the Bowl has the widest variety of Thai food at prices not really reasonable, but proportionate to the portions. How often do you bump into a Thai restaurant that is all vegetarian? I feel relieved because I can order anything without asking the hundred usual questions like "Does that have fish sauce? Oyster sauce? It is all veg, right? I mean there is no sea food or no meat of any kind in it? How about shrimp paste?" Phew!!

This is a tiny hole in the wall, with the tables on one side,

and the kitchen on the other.

 Some things to expect when you go there:

  1. There is just one cook (and a helper) and one waitress who run the show.  It  takes atleast 20 mins for the food to reach your table. When the restaurant is packed, it can take longer.
  2. There are only 7-8 tables, but we usually go for lunch at noon and are seated right away.
  3. The open kitchen is right next to where you sit, so it can get really hot in there. They do have a couple of fans, but it hardly serves the purpose.
  4. You get to pick the type of noodle (Udon, mung bean, rice etc) and the type of rice (brown, white or wild rice medley). You also get to pick faux chicken, beef etc or tofu.
  5. When you order an entree, for $3 more, you can get 3 or 4 pieces of any of their appetizers. Although, when we ordered the entree and an appetizer, the appetizer never came and we finally just cancelled the appetizer.
  6. When you order fried rice or the stir-fry entrees, you get a complimentary dessert. But keep in mind that the dessert can be anything. We got a couple of pieces of Orange!!
  7. Service can be a little lousy at times, but you hardly notice it once you start digging into the food.
  8. The family believes in Hindu Gods and you will get to listen to a lot of Hindu religious music being played in the restaurant. It's kind of a different environment. Very peaceful and soothing.
  9. The food is great and the variety is awesome! Definitely worth trying out their specials!

Here are few pictures of what we ate: Yellow Fried Rice -Stir fried rice with yellow curry paste, carrot, onion, snow pea, broccoli, pineapple then top with coconut milk. We asked for soy chicken and white rice. It was excellent!

and Garlic Mania Noodle - Stir fried homemade garlic and herbs sauce topped over steamed noodle with sesame oil, sesame seed and served with steamed mixed veggies. We asked for mung bean noodle. Absolutely delicious!

If you haven't been to this restaurant, I highly recommend checking it out. You will be stunned by the variety!
In the Bowl on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Baan Thai @ Chennai

We heard that Thai restaurants in India are one of a kind. With tons of vegetarian options, you will never find anything like it here (US), we were told. Curious cats that we are, we decided to check out the fairly new Baan Thai, expecting to plunge into some Indo-Thai fair. We realized once again that great expectations don't always lead to great food.
Baan Thai is located on Khadar Nawaz Khan road in Nungambakkam. The road is very popular but the restaurant was hard to find.It is tied up with Kobe Sizzlers. Valet parking saved us the rut of finding parking on a weekday afternoon.
The restaurant is very classy. Nice interiors. Food, pricey, ofcourse. In India, Thai food is meant for occasions, isn't it? So, may be you can foot the enormous bill occasionally. The service was great. Especially after I told the waiter that I will be reviewing the food. I swear, I didn't tell that to get his attention. He was curious to know why I was more interested in taking pictures of the food than eating it. But even otherwise, he was quite attentive. Always ready to serve the dish and catering to our needs of hot sauce and plum sauce.

There were lots of veggie options. We ordered a couple of mocktails to start with - Blue Lagoon and a Virgin Mojito.

We settled on Tod Mun They - Tender fried vegetable patties with mildly spiced thai herbs. Amazing! I have never had anything like that before. Delicious!

Yod Kow Pod Pad Hed - not as complicated as the name sounds - Mushrooms and Baby corn tossed lightly in black pepper sauce. Very simple. Now, this dish did not have anything Thai-ish in it. Shouldn't I be getting the flavors of kaffir lime leaves or watercress or lemon grass or basil or the like? For a moment it felt like I was sitting in Wang's Kitchen, eating their Indo- Chinese food. Disappointing. I told the same to the waiter, when he appeared concerned about my disapproving frown.They do have chefs from Thailand in their kitchen. What could have gone wrong, I wonder.

Next came the Pha Bamee Tow Hu - Fried yellow noodles with vegetables and beancurd.

The same Wang's Kitchen-ish feel. Sigh. I would suggest ordering dishes that have "Thai" in the name. You know, like Thai green curry or Thai fried rice and try your luck. May be you will then get to taste real Thai! I would call it an Asian restaurant, rather than a Thai restaurant.It can do much better in bringing out the Thai flavors.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant @ Chennai

The first thing we do the day we land in Chennai is - head to Sangeetha for breakfast. It is a ritual we have religiously followed. We can't wait to relish piping hot pongal, vada, sambar, chutney and poori, while sitting at a table on the sidewalk. They now have branches in the UK and other countries.

It is a vegetarian fast food restaurant, more popular for breakfast. It is one of the few restaurants that has maintained the ancientness. Stainless steel jugs, plates (covered with plantain leaves), tumblers and cups, uniformed waiters, the same old tables and chairs and the same fabulous food! Nothing has changed.

Just a five minute drive from home, we reached there at 7: 00 am, and sat at a table on the sidewalk. The waiter came by.

A: "Menu irukka?" (Do you have a menu?)
Waiter: "Sambar vada, pongal vada, masala dosa, ghee roast, uttapam, rava dosa, onion rava,.............."
Me: "Poori irukka?" (Do you have poori?)
Waiter (noding): "Irukku."( Yes. It's there.)
Me (to A): "I'll have a poori."
A (to Waiter): "Oru Poori, Oru pongal vada." (One poori, one pongal vada)
Waiter: "Approm?" (What else?)
A: "Avalodhan" (That's it for now.)

Steaming hot Poori and Pongal arrived within 10 minutes. The Poori came with two smallish sized bowls of  different tasting Potato gravy - Potatoes cooked with onions and green chillies with turmeric and other spices. Excellent!

And, the Pongal was smothered in a generous portion of ghee :) It came with Sambar and chutneys (usually unlimited, but was sufficient for the amount of pongal and vada it came with) - Tomato garlic chutney, cilantro chutney and coconut chutney. All very fresh and as tasty as homemade.The Vada was very crispy and inviting.

We reminded ourselves of the calories that will be consumed later in the day and in the days to come, and forced ourselves to leave the restaurant before being seized by an insatiable urge to order something else off the menu. An excellent place for south Indian breakfast!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cream Centre @ Chennai

During a recent trip to India, I got to sample some of the fine cuisines from around the world under one roof. Yes, from Soups, Salads and Sandwiches to Lebanese Falafels to Mexican Enchilladas and Nachos to Italian Pastas and Pizza to Indian Thalis, Parathas and Chaat! And, all vegetarian at that! Located in R.A.Puram, Cream Centre is one of those new age restaurants that is popular among people of all ages and races. Some of the dishes are even made in Jain style upon request. A run down house in the center of the city is refurbished and remodeled and converted into a trendy restaurant. Is that the trend these days? Must be....and I totally love it!

The insides were earthy and uncomplicated.Very funky.

We visited Cream Centre twice in a span of two weeks. It is usually packed even on week days. The service is a little sloppy sometimes, but the food more than makes up for it.The first time we went, there was an Italian Connection Festival going on.We got the Malfatti Napoli - Golden fried cottage cheese, american corn & spinach dumplings baked with a combination of mozzarella & aged gouda cheese on a garlic-pepper cherry tomato sauce and finished with fried basil.

It was served with spiced garlic bread.

Despite the three different cheeses, the dish was very light. The tomato basil sauce with a hint of garlic was awesome! This is something I have never had before.I have been to tons of Italian restaurants, but have never seen anything like this. A truly innovative creation. I later learnt that Malfatti is Italian for hand rolled dumplings and Napoli is Italian for Naples. They have tons of other pastas and thin crust pizza that's definitely worth trying. Molto deliziosa!

Next came the Sizzling Paneer Chili - Paneer and bell pepper sizzling in soy sauce with rice on the side.

It was more Chinese than Indian. The flavor of soy sauce dominated all the other flavors. The paneer for some reason tasted and looked like tofu. Just to make sure we got the right order, we checked with the head waiter, and he swung his head from right to left and enlightened us on "Chennai Paneer" and "Mumbai Paneer" ! Hilarious, I know. I wouldn't recommend this dish. It wasn't as delicious as I expected it to be. There are a lot more out there, so save your appetite for the rest! The second visit to CC will be covered in a different post. Watch this space!
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