708 Addison Street
(between 3rd St & 4th St )
Berkeley, CA 94710
Scharffen Berger Chocolate
914 Heinz Avenue
(between 7th St & 8th St )
Berkeley , CA 94710
The pungent smell of spices wafting down the street in west Berkeley is unmistakable. Located in an industrial area on Allston Avenue , a tiny area has become the unlikely hub for Indian food. Vik’s Chaat Corner has been attracting an eclectic crowd from multi generational Indian to white collar office workers.
One step into the high ceiling restaurant, the sizzling sounds from the open kitchen and a glass container with various baked goods stimulates the senses. Chaat literally translates “to lick” and it means road side snack served on a leaf.
The eating utensils resemble this – a spork and disposable containers hold the food. A quick glance around the room, most patrons enjoy their food by actively dipping their flat breads in various colorful sauces. Vik’s offer Indian food ranging in shapes and textures.
For a great summer starter, the ser puri ($4.25) excites the appetite with its cold temperature. Served on a square flat wheat chips, a mixture of potatoes, onions, and garlic chutneys result in a sweet and crunchy combination. Shaped like an oversized rolled up crepe (made from rice and lentil), the masala dosa ($7) would make a great street food.
The golden crust pairs well with the spice infused potato filling creating a tasty comfort food dish. To compliment the dish, a quick dunk into the coconut chutney sauce rounds out the dish. I would only taste a small sample of the lentil soup with a watery consistency. Skip the batata vada (potato fritters served with coconut chutney-$4.25) which has a doughy consistency from the crust that destroyed the dish.
With a chewy texture from an oversized puff, the bhatura cholle ($6.25) was my favorite dish. The puff is made from small wheat flat chips fried to form a light puffy shell. The chewy puff pairs well with the intensity of the garbanzo curry and crunch onions. With a melody of flavors ranging from spicy and sweet, the mango lassi (flavored yogurt drink-$1.67) refreshes the palate.
Instead of opting for the all-you-can-eat-lunch buffet route near Berkeley campus, Vik’s offer an affordable option. Served in a plastic bento box, lunch specials deliver a dabble of many textures and flavors. All specials includes basmati rice, roti (wheat flat chip), papdis (small wheat flat chip), raita (yogurt), dal (lentil) and a main dish.
The chicken special ($6.75), bathes in a light curry that I wished had more heat. Another great special was the seabass ($7.50) with fillets that cleverly soaked in the curry sauce. A vegetarian special $6.25 is available as well. Each day, new lunch specials are posted on their menu.
Adjacent to the restaurant, Vik’s also serves as a restaurant distributor. Indian beer and spices are just of the few items in their inventory. After my meal and in need of a drink or two to wash the spices down, I trekked over to Takara on Addison Street and took part in their free sake tour.
The tour included a brief video and a museum tour. Stealing the show, the free sake tasting was the highlight. Patrons are invited to sample a range of sakes from dry to sweet. The clean taste of the sakes definitely offers a nice contrast to the complex spices of Indian food.
A short drive will bring you to the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory for a nice dessert. After the one hour tour, unlimited samples of the premium chocolate are available. Next to the factory, the Scharffen Berger café offers great IPA beer and chocolate drinks.
Cleverly, Vik’s also serves as a distributor.
3 Great reasons
1) Increase the bottom line. Restaurateurs can pick up their supplies and hop over next door for lunch.
2) Taste the product. Being purchases a big volume of spice, the restaurant menu serves up dishes that use a particulate ingredients. Sampling is key.
3) Word of mouth. With gases prices at a high, many households will revert to cooking at home. The distributor offers many products. Jennifer may cook a great Indian dish and present it at a potluck. She receives numerous great feedback and will likely suggest others to visit the distributor.