Breads of India is one those places everyone wishes they'd discovered first. Expect long lines. Expect to share your table with a stranger, even the most gabby of whom will be rendered mono-syllabic: "Yum. Good." With a narrative menu-all entrees are accompanied by a prosey blurb citing the origin of the recipe and style of preparation-that changes daily "for the discerning gourmet in you," Breads of India is constantly winning over new fans. From a recent menu: methi ke tikke, tandoori chicken breast kababs prepared with green fenugreek herb; pukhta gosht biryani, leg of naturally grown lamb in aromatic, curried basmati rice; or benarasi kofta, vegetable balls made of plantains and potatoes in a thick tomato and onion-based gravy. The bread menu includes such choices as tawa ajwaini paranta, an oregano seed-spiked whole wheat griddle bread, or piyazi kulcha, a soft yeast bread prepared with yogurt, milk, and gamished with red onions before baking. Nonalcoholic beers, chai (a sweet, hot spiced tea beverage) and lassi (a sweet home-set yogurt and rose water drink) accompany the meal. You may not have discovered Breads of India, but be cheered: there's enough for everyone.
It's a good thing Breads of India serves such wonderfully fragrant food, because your clothes will bear a collage of scents away from this small Berkeley storefront, reminding you of your meal for many hours to come. Dress casually, bring cash and prepare for a bit of a wait outside at this longtime local favorite which doesn't take reservations, a specialist in dishes from less familiar Indian provinces. Unsurprisingly, Indian naan breads are the real stars here, served in copious portions, and furnish proof that for the best Indian food you have to cross the Bay. The menu changes daily, sometimes dramatically, so it's hard ro predict what you'll find. But there are always two vegetarian courses from seven or eight plus a fish dish and several of chicken and lamb. There are no appetizers, so you plunge right in. If you're lucky, the chef will have some selections from Hyderabad on hand. You may chance upon achaari murgh ($7.75), boneless fi:ee-range chicken sauteed in a fennel, mustard, and fenugreek seed sauce. Achaari is a style of pickling, and the dish was served with a mouth-puckeringly sour but utterly delicious naan bread with dough prepared from pickled mangoes. Kootu chitinad ($6.75) consists of a variety of vegetables prepared in a curry based on coconut and mustard seed, served with plantains, red potatoes, green beans, and red peppers, all ubiquitous here. It also turns up with the addition of cauliflower, mushrooms, and peas in divvani handi ($6.75), another vegetarian selection with a thick sauce of red onion and garlic, and a Delhi specialty. Lamb, always fi:esh from Napa County, is meltingly tender. Chokna Hyderabadi ($7.75) is south-central Indian Iamb cubed and parbroiled with fresh-crushed spices including dried roses and sandal powder. Much of this is spicy, though rarely downright Krakatoan, and you can wash it down enjoyably with yogurt-based lassi drinks ($2.50 and $3), mango and guava or good Indian beer. Be warned: main courses aren't huge, which is just as well because each order of bread could feed an army. Breads (all $2.25) always include a standard complement of naan, paratha, chapati, kulcha, and pappadums, all well worth the trip across the bridge. Skip desserts: you won't need them.
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Just when you've gotten comfortable confronting ten different kinds of bread every time you sit down to a restaurant meal, along comes Berkeley's Zaika. To sample every bread this restaurant will offer when it opens this month, you'd have to eat here for five months straight - weekends included. "From my childhood," says chef-owner Rohit Singh, "I've been fascinated by breads of all kinds."
Apparently, it certainly wasn't overnight that Singh came up with the more than 150 varieties of the stuff that he'll serve at his restaurant. His first place, Breads of India, opened three years ago and was the original showcase for his immeasurable takes on paratha, chapatti, naan, kulcha, dosa, appam, roti, bermi, poori, and bhatura - to name a few. There, the breads accompany inexpensive entrees centered on, say, Niman Ranch lamb or free-range chicken, and complemented by sides like spiced cauliflower, grated coconut, and potatoes with mint. The same ingredients appear on the Zaika menu, onlu in more elaborate preparations and amid more upscale surroundings.
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San Francisco Chronicle
Breads Leaven Berkeley Menu
Indian cuisine a bargain at tiny neighborhood restaurant
Breads have always been one of my favorite parts of Indian cuisine, so when I heard about Breads of India in Berkeley, I was especially intrigued.
The tiny seven-table restaurant makes several different breads every day. They always have traditional tandoori-baked naan, but also an array of more exotic breads like roomali roti, a thin unleavened bread made ftom a combination of white and whole-wheat flours, and tawa daa1 paratha, stuffed with spiced chickpeas.
I'd go back just for the bread, but there's a lot to be said for the rest of the menu, too.
The restaurant's owner, Rohit Singh, says that "cooking is an everyday festival." Breads of India is his first restaurant, and came about mainly because he missed the Indian foods of his youth. The majority of the recipes are his, although he doesn't do the cooking himself; he's usually in the dining room.
In addition to offering different breads, Singh also changes the menu daily (he ~as more than 300 recipes for entrees and 140 for breads). There's always a tandoori- cooked meat or chicken, as well as two other non-vegetarian dishes and two vegetarian entrees.
Descriptions of dishes are lengthy, including what's in them and from where in India they originate.
"I pick some dishes from less popular areas of India," says Singh, "because I want to educate my patrons and myself."
Prices make Breads of India a great bargain (three of us were able to eat three entrees, three breads, chai and dessert for $40). Entrees come with basmati rice and, except for the tandoori-cooked dishes, a spicy thin yellow lentil puree, too.
Half a chicken ($8.95) gets marinated in yogurt with oregano and garam masala before going into the super-hot tandoori oven. It arrives on a sizzling plate, garnished with cherry tomatoes. One evening, the dish was moist and delicious; on another visit, it wasn't quite cooked through, although a few more minutes on the hot platter finished the cooking. The tandoori assortment ($8.95) combines three of the restaurant's best-selling tandoori dishes. Boneless chicken breast gets marinated in saffron; chicken legs come in a nutty cashew paste; and spiced ground Iamb is formed into a sausage and cooked on skewers.
The mint chutney that accompanies tandoori-cooked dishes manages to be both spicy and refreshing, adding more flavor to the tender meats.
Lamb in a tamarind curry ($6.75) combines cubes of leg of Iamb with a rich, fragrant gravy; it alternates with other meat and chicken curries. Vegetarian options manage to be as hearty as their meat counterparts. Mushrooms and green peas are paired with paneer ($5.75), house- made Indian cheese similar to cottage cheese, in a thick tomato-and- onion curry sauce.
A combination of spinach and potatoes ($5.75) also has terrific complexity in flavor, with asafetida and red onions. A mix of green bell peppers, potatoes, peas and cauliflower ($5.75) didn't come together as well. Oil pooled around the edge of the dish and the semi-dry curry didn't marry well with the vegetables. The restaurant offers two traditional Indian desserts, both well executed. Gulab jamun ($2.50), balls of cardamom-flavored dough soaked in sweet rose syrup, come simply in a small, silver bowl. One of the tiny creations is so intense, it's plenty for one person.
Singh creates phimi pudding ($2.50) with basmati rice powder, cardamom and saffron, then stirs in almonds and pistachios. Don't mistake the silver square on top for foil; Singh likes to garnish this dessert with edible silverleaf. Service is efficient, although when it's busy food may be slow in coming, and water glasses may not get refilled.
The restaurant also hasn't received its liquor license yet, so only nonalcoholic wine and beer is available. But its easy to enjoy a wonderful meal with iced or hot chai.
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Contra Costa Times
By Anita Amirrezvani
The main drag in Berkeley glitters with saris and smells of pungent Indian spices emanating from food stores and restaurants. Now Breads of India, which is somewhat off the beaten track on Sacramento Street, adds a unique staump to the lineup of Indian culinary offerings. Opened 2 1/2 months ago, it serves exquisite food at very reasonable prices; in fact, it's the best Indian food I've ever had for the money (except years ago in India itself).
The owner, Rohit Sing, is something of a maverick. He adamantly I refuses to use processed foods of any I kind. "We want to serve food as fresh as possible. We don't even have a freezer here or a microwave," he says. "I want to make food for people here as in India. If you go to a . roadside restaurant there, they don't. even have a refrigerator."
Sing's regular business is to export medical equipment to India. But food is his hobby and bread is his passion. "I love breads; all kinds of breads. That how it all started," he says. On a research trip to India, he flew around the country researching different kinds of bread. "To my amazement, I thought we had only 64 breads to offer, but now the list has grown to 140."
Breads of India features a new menu every day of the week, with curries and breads from different parts of the country. During my two visits to the restaurant, the food has . been rich and complex; each bite presents a deep and changing array of spices that gains power as it lingers in the mouth.
The basic arrangement of each dish is the same. Large plates bear thick servings of basmati rice, dal, and the main course in three horizontal stripes, complemented by a bit of salad and a salsa-like spicy sauce. The menu thoroughly explains each main course, its origin and the way it's cooked. Still, the flavors are always surprisingly powerful and original; and you never quite know what surprises your dinner will hold. On my first visit, the restaurant's walls were quite plain. But recently the owners have added charming stencils of elephants, as well as silk hangings and thick curtains in deep reddish hues. The decor is simple but comfortable, as are the big tables and large serving dishes. Sing often takes the orders and serves the food himself.
Sing says that people have been dropping by every evening to collect his menus, which explain the preparation methods used in the dishes; but he has no fears of being imitated because the food is unique. Indeed, every dish coming out of the kitchen had the loving attention and care normally only given by a home kitchen. As one of my dining companions put it, the food at Breads of India is a "project of love." That's something we all could agree on.
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East Bay Express
August 17, 2001
Successor to the Crown
By Jonathan Kauffman
1700 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 510-849-2452
Open dally. Lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
(starting In a few weeks; call ahead).
Dinner served 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wheelchair accessible.
"I think Zaika must be at the end of that block," said my friend Leigh Anna as we walked up Shattuck.
"You see the sign?" I asked, trying to peer through my own myopia to read it.
"No," she sighed unhappily, "a crowd."
Despite the buzz surrounding the opening of Breads of India's sister restaurant early this month, I took a risk and decided to hit the place early in its run, hoping that I could escape the hordes. But a little press and a huge sign out front have worked all too well. The real risk of reviewing a brand-new restaurant is that it won't' have hit its stride. For restaurateurs, openings tend to be messy, messy events filled with dust and yelling and sleeplessness and parades of vendors. Somehow, though, Rohit Singh and his team have emerged like Athena from Zeus' head, fully grown and swinging. Overlooking a few problems, Zaika serves some of the best Indian food I have ever tasted.
Singh put a lot of money into making a night at Zaika feel opulent Heavy silverware and heavier goblets (stuffed with brightly colored cloth napkins) anchor the white linen tablecloths. Meticulous, intricate carvings cover the backs of the chairs, and an eight-foot carved screen surrounds the doorway into the kitchen. The walls bloom With color: Mughal-style tableaux are surrounded . by intricate designs representing months of work. In a setting aiming for timelessness, the squeak has not yet left the clean, but the room is spacious, bustling yet relaxed.
Like Breads of India, Zaika focuses on serving freshly prepared, regional Indian specialties made with organic produce and free-range poultry and meat. Unlike the former, Zaika maintains a monthly rotating menu - not daily - with fifteen entrees and a few appetizers and desserts.
Don't come for a quick pre-theater dinner - plan on spending fifteen to thirty minutes waiting outside amid crowds of eager diners. It will take another fifteen minutes to read the huge leatherette-covered menu, complete with introductory mission statement and somewhat hyperbolic descriptions of each dish, along with a full ingredient list and preparation notes.
It's both mouthwatering and informative. The opening menu lists dishes from all over India, such as the oh-so-familiar Punjab, Singh's home state of Rajasthan, and southern Karruitaka state, and divides entrees into vegetarian curries, nonveggie curries, and items cooked in the restaurant's two tandoor ovens.
The ovens are also used for a rotating selection of eight breads (Singh claims to have a master list of 160 bread recipes). White-flour naans include soft but bland Tulsi Naan (fresh basil) and strangely bitter Chatpata Kulcha (red onion and and mint). While I prefer naan in general, I thought the Churidaar Paratha, a soft round of whole wheat with a crispy, flour-dusted crust, and the Aloo Paratha, stuffed with a thin layer of curried potato puree, had more character.
Most of the main dishes were transcendent, perfectly cooked and vividly spiced. As one friend observed, "in most of the Indian food that I've tasted the spices all meld into a single, rich flavor. Here they're all distinct." Well, you can't exactly identify all the ingredients in masalas with "umpteen spices" (as the menu describes one dish). But you can come close.
Many of the vegetarian dishes taste as hearty as those bearing meat My companions loved the Besan Ke Gatte, Rajasthani chickpea-flour dumplings steamed, sliced, and then braised in the most traditional tasting of curries. I preferred the Coorgi Kofta, "meatballs" made of grated zucchini, spinach, and chickpea flour. Though delicate, their flavor was substantial enough to counterbalance the earthy, chunky tomato sauce that coated them.
It's not just the seasoning but the main ingredients that make dishes succeed A mild Bengali mixture of fenugreek, fennel seeds, onion seeds, mustard seeds, and cumin animated the Chorchori; the crisp-tender consistency of the fresh zucchini, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and pumpkins within turned it into a revelation. In the Malabari Meenpari, notoriously touchy sturgeon, metallic and dry when slighdy overcooked, simpered in a South Indian sauce fragrant with fresh coconut, ginger, and peppery curry leaves.
Indian desserts are not for the meek or the diabetic. However, the two desserts at Zaika are remarkable because some flavor manages to slip past the sugar blast. For example, the cardamom-saffron syrup that permeates the Galub Jamun, that old standby, leaves the mouth perfumed. Ground carrots are stewed with milk, & sugar, and fresh cardamom pods and ginger until they reach the consistency of a good bread pudding. Both desserts are topped with gossamer scraps of edible silver foil.
On my second visit, our table of four big eaters ordered one appetizer, five entrees, and three breads. With beverages and dessert, the meal set us back $30 per person. Persevere, prospective diners - don't let the lines scare you away. For once, your endurance and resolve will be rewarded.
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Marin Independent Journal
By Leslie Harlib
Berkeley still merits its nickname "the gourmet ghetto." The cheek-by jowl suburban-urban region is home to some of the most distinctive restaurants in the Bay Area, worth exploring because they are unique and offer dishes unavailable anywhere else.
Such a restaurant is Breads of India, on Sacramento Street off Dwight and a scant 25-minute drive from San Rafael if there's no traffic. Seven years old and not much bigger than the average master bedroom in Ross, it draws lines of patiently waiting customers every evening for the chefs interpretations of dishes from all over India.
The menu changes daily, which turns every visit into an adventure. It also emphasizes that only Napa Valley-grown organic produce and meats are featured, all the spices are blended in-house, and for health reasons, only extra-virgin olive oil is used.
Fusion cuisine? Perhaps. There is no ghee within a mile of this place. But I can't help wondering if the nut-enriched gravy cloaking the fork-t1akable cubes of lamb in Gosht Duen Goji billed as a specialty of Kashmir, India, is the real thing. Certainly the subtle velvet of the texture, the aromatic fragrance of the ginger and garlic, and the sweet smokiness of saffron in the sauce, make the provenance of this curry interesting. In the end, wherever it comes from, it's a great dish.
Typically, there are five standard menu offerings, with another three nightly specials, depending on what's in season. Each is identified by its region, such as Goa, Kerala, Himachal, Udaipur. Each dish description also lists a suggested flatbread as the optimum accompaniment - a novel touch. (In most restaurants it's a suggested wine.)
For those of us used to enormous bills of fare and at least a dozen small plates, Breads of India's spareness may be unsettling, at first. Cross a bridge to an eatery with no appetizers? Where they take only cash? Where you may have to wait outside for 20 minutes or more, and the only heat lamp is inside the restaurant?
If tasting new foods is important to you, the answer is, why not? And if you make the trek, go with a party of four. For all that the menu's so small, the offerings are inexpensive enough, and there is enough variety in the breads, to make it a must to sample several dishes with accompanying breads.
Breads of India - Address: 2448 Sacramento St. (just off Dwight), Berkeley
Cuisine: Indian regional
Service: Good, quick
Recommended dishes: Tandoori prawns; Googi roast (pork); Gosht Duen Goji (mild Iamb curry); Lahsunia Naan (with garlic chives) Liquor selection: Minimal choice of wines and beers
Heart-healthy and vegetarian selections: Yes
Parking: On the street
Wheelchair access: Yes
Hours: Open daily. Lunch, 11 :30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Credit cards: None; cash only
Summary: If you love the Indian spice palette and want to try something different, it's worth a trip to Berkeley to sample the regional cuisines that show up on the menu at Breads of India, which changes daily. Each day, there are five entrees listed, along with three or four specials; that's it. Organic produce and meats are the backbone of this bill of fare, which also emphasizes excellent and assorted Indian flatbreads made with organic flour.
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A Lifestyle of Karmic Luxury
2006 - 44 Best Indian Restaurantrs on the world
Breads of India, Berkeley
Like many of its Berkeley neighbors, Breads of India takes the trend toward organic ingredients seriously. The rock bottom prices and the cupboard size space explain the long lines, but if you're willing to endure the wait and commune with others at shared tables, expect to be wowed by the dizzying number of regional breads. A few favorites include the oregano-seed-spiked whole wheat griddle bread, and the soft yeast bread prepared with yogurt and garnished with red onions. The rest of the menu changes daily.