We indulge our tastebuds at Udupi Palace in Berkeley

by foodhoe on May 14, 2012

1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 | 510.843.6600 | website |
Monday – Sunday 11:30 am – 10 pm

Are you familiar with the paper thin, and deliciously crispy Indian crepe known as the Dosa?  I was introduced to these several years ago (yikes that was actually 5 years ago) which you can read about here.  Not long ago, I saw an east bay restaurant called Udupi Palace, a small Bay Area chain that specializes in South Indian vegetarian cuisine, featured on Check Please! Bay Area.  It is known for serving a variety of lacy dosas filled with vegetables, idlys (steamed patties made from rice and black lentil) served with spicy sambar, uttapams (rice-flour frittatas), and a fantastic thali platter, where you can try a sampler of 10 items for under $10.

I felt compelled to make reservations, which as you can see were not really necessary.  The ambience is drab and institutional, but we were well attended and were able to use the next table as overflow when our food began to arrive and we couldn’t fit it all on our table.  I liked these bright red alcoves displaying colorful artwork.

We began by splitting a Ghee Sambhar Idly which are steamed patties made from rice and lentils that have ghee poured over them and are immersed in a bowl of spicy Sambhar.  This dish was like a south indian vegetarian version of chicken and dumplings and  vaguely reminiscent of matzo ball soup.  We scooped up some of the dumplings and dunked them in the accompanying chutneys, one was made with coconut and the other was a spicy creamy tomatoey mixture.  These two chutneys were served with several other dishes so we didn’t have to ask for refills.

My dad asked for bread, as he wanted something to dunk into the delicious sauces.  Our server brought a plate piled with crunchy, savory poppadums, which are wafer thin delicate lentil cakes fried to a savory crisp.  These disappeared in the blink of an eye…

I highly recommend that you order the South Indian Thali, a veritable tower of stainless platters because you can try a sampling of spicy vegetables, Daal (spicy lentils), a Biryani rice dish, Sambar, Rasam (spicy soup), yogurt raita, and a refreshing coconut rice dessert.  It was topped with a bowl of steamed rice, a puff of fried bread and another delectable crispy poppadum.

Once the plate of bread is removed, more dishes are revealed.  There are spicy potatoes with peas, chickpeas in a spicy sauce, an incendiary chutney, along with some delicious battered and fried things.

The big puffy bread balloon is called a Bhatura and was filled with air.  It deflated when we ripped into it, but the bread was excellent to scoop up and dunk into the spicy array of delicious fare.

We shared the Udupi Special Spring Dosa, which is a Mysore Masala Dosa smeared with spicy chutney and filled with lightly cooked vegetables, which were crunchy and fresh tasting.  This was particularly good, and so different from what comes to mind when someone says let’s go for Indian food.  It also came with the two chutneys and a bowl of Rasam the excellent spicy soup made from tamarind, tomato, ginger, and coriander.

We shared the Special Rava Masala Dosa, filled with Potatoes & Onions.  This dosa is a lacy crepe that the menu says is made from cream of wheat with onions.

I loved the Malabar Paratha, a platter of two pieces of paratha which is a flaky flatbread served with Vegetable Korma (mixed vegetables cooked with spices in a creamy coconut gravy) and Channa Masala (Northern Indian chickpea stew delicately spiced and very fragrant).  The rustic bread is cooked on the griddle until crisp on the outside and flaky and tender inside.  They can be pulled apart in layers, like pastry and are a heavenly indulgence topped with either of the aromatic spicy stews and drizzled with the tart yogurt raita.

The bill was $47 for four people, including sodas and beer.  The prices are very reasonable, the entire bill is less than what you would pay for dinner for one at Dosa in the City…  On the way out, my father found this little bowl filled with toasted fennel seeds and dried shredded stuff that seemed like coconut but was fluorescent orange.  It was dry and chewy and served to cleanse our palates in an astringent licorice-y way.

Udupi Palace on Urbanspoon

 

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