Since 2000, I’ve been to Santa Clara’s Dasprakash a few times a year with a family member or a friend. Every time I visit, the service is impeccable. The hosts are by turn gracious and loquacious, always asking if there’s something else they can bring to my table to complete my meal. Going to Dasaprakash is like visiting the warm, elegant home of a hospitable aunt, an aunt who strikes a fine balance between serving a home-made meal and presenting it with flair and style, an aunt who, no matter the day or time, whips up a simple, yet delectable meal in which every dish looks distinct and tastes different.
Decades of working in the dining business has rubbed off on Madhu and Geetha Das who hail from Mangalore, India. Madhu's father opened the first Dasaprakash in Udipi in the state of Karnataka in the 1950s. Over the years, Dasaprakash's name would become synonymous with delicious home-style South Indian Vegetarian food. Dasaprakash in Santa Clara has turned it up a notch in the price department compared to many other restaurants that offer similar fare. But when I eat here I know my dollars are well spent and I can predict my food will be well digested. The décor is classy and subtle; on display on the left wall are small black and white photographs of scenes from Indian villages. On the right wall hang age-old cooking utensils among a few vibrant saris from the South. It’s minimalist and calming. And–most important–it has a clean restroom.
Dasaprakash promises me consistency every time I go, a quality that’s almost impossible to find here among Indian fare in the Bay Area. So what is our problem? Why can’t Indian restaurants keep up the quality? Why don't they, once and for all, clean up their act–along with their restrooms?
Most Indian restaurants around the United States–with the exception of a Tawa Café in New Jersey that on a cold day in January offered a warm dead rat dunked in Mutter Paneer to my sister-in-law’s friend’s friend who lived to tell the tail–are mediocre. Tawa apparently got roasted last month by the Department of Health but as someone says on the Internet, what’s to prevent the owner from opening shop somewhere else using someone else's name?
I think the real problem is that the Indian clientele does not care enough about authenticity; non-Indians, who really don’t know that the food doesn’t meet standards, shrug it off. I implore patrons of Indian food who plan on dining Indian in taste-deprived Silicon Valley to consistently demand the highest quality. Don your cynic hat now!!!
And here's what to take to the different Indian restaurants in the Valley if you should go:
To Komala Vilas, Sunnyvale: A magnifying glass just in case it’s your lucky day and you should spot a slice of tomato in the rasam. Also take your own buttermilk or yoghurt. (Here buttermilk is a delicate balance of 90% water and 10% buttermilk blended just right)
To Dosa Place, Santa Clara: Great Gobi Manchurian here but you will need to carry a few empty crates to mail gallons of the “out-there” Sambar to Pluto. Let it go where no man may find it.
To Udupi Palace, Sunnyvale: Please take a Polygraph machine to this royal place. We want the Udipi Roti to speak up. Are you a roti or a papad? Or neither? Tell us the truth or forever hold your piece.
To Kokila’s kitchen, Cupertino: A “Change we Need” leftover sign from Mr. O’s campaign. Kokila–who used to be a nice 'behn' (sister, in Gujarathi) and the doyenne of the best rotis, gulab jamuns, chevda, dhoklas in San Jose–is fast becoming the bane of Indian food lovers. In the rush to offer vegan fare, these guys have forgotten the key ingredient to good eating. Taste.
To Saravana Bhavan, Sunnyvale: Don’t forget a science poster board to act as a buffer between you and the guys next to you. The tables here which are set about an inch apart for maximum accommodation don’t make it a great choice for Valentine’s: you may end up making lewd propositions to someone else’s date. If you let your date choose anything but dosa at this hole in the wall, that may well be the last date with your date.
To Amber Restaurant, San Jose: Red Alert! Carry a heavy dose of skepticism to this one. This upscale haunt in snooty Santana Row is the only Indian act in this tony part of town. I went there expecting a buffet in such a place to stun me. I was stunned by the mundane fare and the detached service.
To Chaat Paradise, Mountain View: Some of the nicest chaat and parathas in the Bay Area, no doubt. But please go here with a U-Haul and cart away their trademark idols and garlands. Won’t they de-clutter the place, lose the Bollywood show on TV and evolve from a trucker’s stop to a smart bistro considering they’re quite consistent on quality and high on taste?