Monday, August 22

Vik's Chaat Corner

Somehow the entire summer passed by me while I went from cooking daily to not cooking at all and eating chickpeas out of a can (that wasn't actually me, but it conveys my point).  Much to my culinary consternation and gastronomical aggravation, I had no time to cook for eight weeks.  My time was ever so delicately sucked up by three bridge-crossings a day because of a class at UC Berkeley four days a week and work at UCSF five days a week.

my house is in this valley, SF is the little bubble of buildings
on the horizon, and Berkeley is on the far left of the horizon

The class (Data Structures and Programming Methodology, for those of you that care) was made entertaining by my more than delightful lab partner, and I was grateful for the chance to make some money this summer.  However, the endless cycle of driving, working, driving, programming, driving, homeworking, and sleeping was a little tedious and I started to lose a bit of my sanity.  I subjected my lab partner to sporadic bursts of maniacal laughter and, as a considerable portion of my job entailed removing staples, I started to hoard my mangled staples in a small box in a drawer.  I turned into a strange human hybrid, alternating between Cruella de Vil and Milton from Office Space, depending on my location in the Bay Area.

Point is, I survived those eight weeks.  (Was it that short?)  I am now on a weird, unintentional tour of the eastern part of the Mason-Dixon Line before I return to New York City and all that entails.  At the moment, the charming Mary and Margaret are letting me crash in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Wednesday I continue my way to Washington DC, Baltimore, Delaware, and finally New York.

But wait!  Before I left, I made sure to indulge in a couple of my favorites: Sol Food, Good Luck Dim Sum, Puentez Taqueria, and, for the first time this summer, Vik's Chaat Corner.

gotta love the hard-core, spandexed biker dudes

Vik's started out in the warehouse district of Berkeley.  When I was younger, I was always shocked by the bustling restaurant after driving through the empty streets.  Since then, they have changed locations to the corner of 4th St and Channing Way and added a market that sells all the ingredients needed for delicious Indian food.

it still has this warehousey feel

Their menu is a little intimidating at first, but everything is more than worth a chance-ordering.  (Apparently "chaat" literally means "to lick," as in, "I will now proceed to lick my plate.")  I recommend the Cholle Bhature (that big puffy thing), the Samosa Cholle (lamb samosas), the plate of Mixed Veg Pakaros (spicy nests of vegetables), Lamb Baida Roti (...lamb roti), Chicken Biryani, and their Mango lassi.  Never, ever forget the mango lassi.

I did not forget the mango lassi

As for the desserts, Gulab Jamun (Indian donut-like things soaked in a sugar syrup... I would compare them to the Greek loukoumades) is always a popular choice.  If you're in the mood for something a little more unusual, I would recommend Kulfi Falooda.  As a disclaimer, it took me the better part of six months AFTER eating this dessert to decide that I liked it and to start to crave it.  That said, kulfi falooda is composed of saffron ice cream that is topped with vermicelli, basil seeds, and a rose syrup.

the kulfi falooda in its elegant to-go container

Everything is decently priced (I bought a meal for 5 for about $25) and the Berkeley-ites that stream in are entertaining as only Berkeley-ites can be.  As an added bonus, Vik's offers vegan and gluten-free options and makes a solid contribution to greenery with compost bins and compostable utensils as well as environment-friendly plumbing and architecture.

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