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The South Indian Invasion


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In last couple of years number of new South Indian restaurants has opened in New Jersey. I also saw couple of old restaurants which earlier use to serve North Indian food have converted to South Indian menu. There is a new South Indian restaurant under construction in theTheatre complex near our place which claims it will be the first genuine south Indian place in town.

While talking to some old timers who have been in USA for more than 25 years, they have also noticed the same thing.

One interesting thing about this phenomenon is that many of these are vegetarian restaurants. Couple of weeks ago, we were in one of this South Indian restaurant and an American walked in asking for Chicken Tikka and the owner told him they only serve vegetarian, he looked at the menu and said but I thought you were an Indian restaurant.

Is this a trend in rest of the USA?

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DC has many South Indian vegetarain places that are really stepping into the market and filling a great vacuum with wonderful food. Nirvana here in DC does regional vegetarian buffets and is getting rave reviews. A few weeks ago I waited for quite a while to have lunch there on a Wednesday afternoon. So yes here in DC I am beginning to see the start of a similar trend

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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There have been good South Indian eateries in the Edison, New Jersey area for at least 9 years. At that time, they were mainly serving the local South Indian community, and my then-girlfriend and I were usually the only non-Indians in a place at a small strip of stores on, I think, Route 18.

I think there's been a very slight proliferation of South Indian places in New York, mostly within the past 10 years or so.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I've been waiting and wishing for a trend like that in Philadelphia for lo these many years, and still nothing. I wish the folks from Madras Cafe in NYC or Udupi Palace down in College Park MD would make the move down here like Cafe Spice did.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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The only SouthIndian restaurant in the US that i liked was in the west coast..sunnyvale,ca...the new jersey/atlanta/d.c restaurants werent upto the mark..for me anyways...the one i liked served fixed lunches.. hmm..they even have a website now >Komala Vilas

edited to add: you can thank google for this .. the KV story

I remember one of the owners telling me that his cousin had recently published a book on south indian food..maybe some of you have heard of it.. Monsoon Diary

Edited by Lalitha (log)
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hmm.i'll grant the others but this

It is the memory of eating savory upma laden with ghee, curry leaves and cashewnuts while the steady click-clack of a train's wheels lull you to sleep.
i'll pass on :wacko:

now i want a dosa.

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Lalitha, have you tried South Indian places in New York?

New Jersey more than NYC...considering that I am always thinking of bolting out the minute I enter NJ(Edison, specifically), I cant come up with any memorable dining experience...altho' in ny, I remember a dinky little place called Pongal...because they had this wonderful spicy buttermilk...

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Lalitha,

Your signature link is fascinating. Absolutely fascinating!

Care to tell us more about yourself? Please.

I am currently slam bang half point of a cuisine diploma course at the Cordon Bleu, London. The blog is my way of keeping track of everything that goes haywire. It also reminds me look up info which I normally wouldnt do because I am lazy.

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There's been an explosion of South Indian/Pakistani places in San Francisco in the last couple of years. They are mostly low-budget, curry-oriented and TASTY. At these places you can get a plate of curry for about $5.00 and a good, just-made naan the size of a steering wheel for as little as a buck. Many have sprung up in an area of the Tenderloin which the San Francisco Chronicle has dubbed the "Tandoor-loin":

The Tandoor-loin

More such places have cropped up since the article was published a year ago.

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Gary,

Interesting article; however, it seems that the restaurants are precisely what "south Indian" restaurants are NOT. In idiomatic usage, a south Indian restaurant is usually [but not necessarily] thought to be vegetarian, but ALWAYS serving genuine Tamil/Udupi dishes such as dosai, idli, vada, utthapam, uppuma etc. Here in Ithaca, for example, there is a Sikh-run restaurant that claims to serve dosa and sambar; their offering truly is abomination, a term I otherwise NEVER use in regard to food.

The SF Tandoor-loin restaurants, especially those run by Pkistanis, would generally seem NOT to fall under the category of "South Indian" restaurants.

regards,

gautam

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Here in the "South Bay"/"Silicon Valley" part of San Francisco Bay Area, Pasand, in Santa Clara used to be the only South Indian restaurant for a long time. I never really liked the food there, although many people I know like it.

Then came Komala Vilas, in Sunnyvale, almost next door to Pasand. Lalitha mentioned this one earlier in her post.

Right in Komala Vilas's backyard there came up a branch of Udupi Palace, in Sunnyvale. They have another branch in Fremont, on the other side of the Bay. Udupi palace used to be very good when it first opened, about 2-3 years back. Sadly, they have gone downhill since then, but they are still OK.

We also have Saravana Bhavan in Mountain View, and last, but not the least, Dasaprakash in Santa Clara.

Of these, Dasaprakash is probably my favorite.

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Here in the "South Bay"/"Silicon Valley" part of San Francisco Bay Area, Pasand, in Santa Clara used to be the only South Indian restaurant for a long time. I never really liked the food there, although many people I know like it.

Then came Komala Vilas, in Sunnyvale, almost next door to Pasand. Lalitha mentioned this one earlier in her post.

Right in Komala Vilas's backyard there came up a branch of Udupi Palace, in Sunnyvale. They have another branch in Fremont, on the other side of the Bay. Udupi palace used to be very good when it first opened, about 2-3 years back. Sadly, they have gone downhill since then, but they are still OK.

We also have Saravana Bhavan in Mountain View, and last, but not the least, Dasaprakash in Santa Clara.

Of these, Dasaprakash is probably my favorite.

I never liked Pasand...and i wasnt going to step foot into that place after that scandal..forgot the name of that guy anyways...never been elsewhere in that region because KV pulled me like a moth to fire..mostly because it feels like 'home'...i remember this one time when i sulked loudly that we get only pumpkin sambhar every sunday(only because i was wayyy too comfortable..i visibly shrank after i heard my own voice)...it was horrible..i couldnt believe that i actually complained like that...thats home to ya..when they bend over backwards to keep your tummy happy and you still bitch about this and that....i was touched when the owner sent me home with a bottle of 'milagu kuzambu'...and said that most people who arent tamil/south indian dont really recognise 'vathalkuzambu' as what it is..they say that its the 'worst sambhar' they have ever tasted...wonderful folks...also, it was the only place i can pop 'rasikalal' after the meal..tell me which other southindian restaurant in the US makes you feel like you are getting out of some mylapore mess...now i should stop talking and get my everexpanding ass off this chair ...its not a good thing to have vathalkuzambu in mind while making toulouse cassoulet for practicals..disaster, it will be...

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There's been an explosion of South Indian/Pakistani places in San Francisco in the last couple of years. They are mostly low-budget, curry-oriented and TASTY. At these places you can get a plate of curry for about $5.00 and a good, just-made naan the size of a steering wheel for as little as a buck.

This sounds like a variation on the abominable use of 'East Indian' to decribe any kind of Indian food. I'm guessing that the thinking here is that the Indian food in this case is probably 'South Indian' because Pakistan is to the north of India, or something like that. Little shudders are going through my spine at seeing naan described as South Indian. Obviously, however many South Indian restaurants now exist in the US, there still aren't enough.

Vikram

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There's been an explosion of South Indian/Pakistani places in San Francisco in the last couple of years. They are mostly low-budget, curry-oriented and TASTY. At these places you can get a plate of curry for about $5.00 and a good, just-made naan the size of a steering wheel for as little as a buck.

This sounds like a variation on the abominable use of 'East Indian' to decribe any kind of Indian food. I'm guessing that the thinking here is that the Indian food in this case is probably 'South Indian' because Pakistan is to the north of India, or something like that. Little shudders are going through my spine at seeing naan described as South Indian. Obviously, however many South Indian restaurants now exist in the US, there still aren't enough.

To be fair, the San Francisco Chronicle article (that Gary linked to) is not about South Indian food -- its about north indian / Pakistani food -- and it's actually quite well written.

(for those who are not familiar with the San Francisco area geography) In San Francisco itself, there is an area called the "tenderloin" -- that's an area which has seen a proliferation of these Indo-Pak restaurants -- most of them very cheap and pretty good. I guess Shalimar is the grand-daddy of them all, and it still serves a mean tandoori chicken.

Here's the map (stolen from SF Chronicle):

fd_indianmap.jpg

Whereas the "South Indian" invasion in this area has happened mostly in Silicon Valley, which is about 50 miles due south (about an 1-hour drive) of San Francisco.

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In last couple of years number of new South Indian restaurants has opened in New Jersey. .......

Is this a trend in rest of the USA?

BPO - Son of Y2k and Infosys :)

In my building (multi-tenant highrise) I have seen in the past year and a half, many Outsourced-insource consultants who are in search of pure veg. establishments - There is a pent up demand tha is now being translated into new south indian restaurants. In NYC the pioneers in SI have focussed on getting Kosher certs.

anil

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