Review: Dosa

Ok, I’ve been hearing about this place forever. I finally went recently. It was awesome, just like people (and the huge wait list) suggest.

They have two locations, Mission and Fillmore. I met Melanie way too late one night at the Fillmore location. We intended to go to SPQR, but were snubbed without a reservation*. So we got to Dosa around 9pm and I didn’t get home until midnight, so full that I thought I might explode. It was epic.

Dosa was full at 9pm on a Saturday night. And unlike SPQR, they were kind enough to put my name on a wait list**. We sat at the bar to wait our 30-45 minutes and then were kindly seated at a table for our 10pm dinner. Perfect!

Chutney appetizer. Four flavors! Good, but way too spicy for me. I could only eat one of them without crying.


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Atmosphere: 2/5   ♦   Service: 2/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  One   ♦   Will I Return?:  Probably not.

Tandoor HaywardTandoor is just across the street from Moreau on Mission Boulevard in Hayward…between Harder and Tennyson if you’re not familiar with my high school’s location. It’s the one that used to be Thai, then Indian, then Thai, then Indian, then Thai…

You get the idea. Now it’s Tandoor, another Indian Restaurant. Let’s dive right in. There are a few problems with this place that have probably affected each tenant. First, the location isn’t great. It’s on a run-down, industrial/commercial strip of Mission Boulevard and people don’t really go to that area for a nice dinner. That said, there is a ton of traffic that passes right by, so if the place were awesome, I bet the customers would come. Second problem: the facility needs a lot of work. The design is outdated, the single-pane windows allow little insulation against whatever temperature it is outside, and the interior is poorly decorated. It doesn’t have a lot of ambiance and there are varying degrees of improvements that could be made to spruce up the place.

Tandoor Hayward

The inside of Tandoor in Hayward could use a little work.

When we walked in, we had to wait to be seated even though there were only two other tables of people there. The two employees were so quiet—though they were polite—that it was hard to get anything from them. My opinion of the service increased throughout the meal a bit as one of the men refilled our water glasses repeatedly; I love that.

Matter Paneer

Matter Paneer from Tandoor Hayward.

Kadahi Shrimp

Kadahi Shrimp from Tandoor Hayward.

The food wasn’t anything particularly special; the cheese in the Matter Paneer seemed old and squishy but the shrimp dish that we ordered (Kadahi Shrimp) was actually pretty good, though it was not served in a personal wok as described on the menu. The rice and nan were standard.

Indian Food

Our meal at Tandoor in Hayward.

Basically, this place was ok but why go when Pakwan is just down the street and, even better, Favorite is just down the street from that?

Tandoor Indian on Urbanspoon


Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Yes Indeed

Pakwan has been sitting at the bottom of the hill for some time now.  By the “bottom of the hill” I refer to the Hayward hills, housing Cal State East Bay (formerly, and better known as Cal State Hayward), and, incidentally, my house.  We refer to pretty much everything in Hayward as being “down the hill”, mostly because just about everything is.  The Hayward location of Pakwan is just near the base of Carlos Bee on Mission Boulevard (other locations in SF and Fremont), and that facility used to house a variety of mediocre Chinese restaurants over the years.

It is perhaps my memory of these previous owners, vague as they are, that kept me from dedicating a meal to Pakwan for so long.  The old places were dingy, dark, with shabby carpet and dilapidated fixtures (yes, I am offended by dilapidated fixtures).  I don’t remember the food or service being very good.  Again, I was probably a child and didn’t visit often, and there were many different owners, but that’s still the feeling I had about this establishment, warranted or not.  Plus, every time I drive by Pakwan, it looks like it’s empty.  I hate eating at completely empty restaurants, it’s always a bit awkward.

Those were the reasons that I haven’t gone until now.  These are the reasons I will go again:  Pakwan has been completely redecorated and looks great inside.  Pakwan is clean, has a hearty menu, has a friendly man at the counter, has lots and lots of business, and is extremely cheap.  Oh, and the food is good – let’s not forget that.

Order/pick-up counter on your left, seating area straight ahead and more seating to the right. Pakwan Restauran in Hayward.

I couldn’t pick the previous decor out of a lineup (…though I would be curious to see a lineup of decors…) but I do know that Pakwan has much improved whatever was there.  Tasteful soffits now line the perimeter of the dining room, warm, soft lights brighten the space, I’m pretty sure all the windows have been replaced, and there’s crown molding for heaven’s sake.  This should be someone’s motto: “Crown molding: it makes a space look goooood”.  And it does.  The mildly gaudy crystal chandeliers manage to not overwhelm the room and even, in my opinion, give it the classy feel for which they were no doubt intended.   Even their website is nice and professional looking.  You go, Pakwan, I like it.

The space is divided up a bit oddly; the whole room is a giant open rectangle, but they’ve sequestered off two of the sides to make the normal dining area a big “L”.  The remaining area is cordoned off with a large accordion, roll-away, partition, which I think messes up the grandeur of the space a bit.  This explains why my drive-bys were so fruitless; it’s this partitioned area I see when I drive down Mission Boulevard, and that area is empty on a standard night.  This often empty space is used for banquets, which can hold up to 150 people, and also for the Sunday brunch buffet, which is offered every week from 11am-3pm.

A scheming brunch buffet looks like it will be plotting its revenge every Sunday between 11-3...

Notes about the brunch buffet: 1. They offer 25 dishes of all you can eat food; 2. It’s under $13 a person; 3. As posted on a sign near the front counter, they have recently reduced the price of the brunch buffet, due to the economic crisis, to $12.76/person +tax (from $13.79/person + tax).  How adorable is that?  And they’ve increased the age of children who can eat at the buffet for free from 4 yrs. to 6 yrs., and will now charge only half price for children up to 10 yrs. of age.  If that’s not being kind to the customer, I don’t know what is.  Oh yeah, and: 4. I must return for this brunch buffet.

Notice about how they lowered the price of their brunch buffet recently, due to the economic hardships.

Ok, the food.  We ordered three vegetarian dishes – Mix Vegetable Curry, Saag Daal (spinach and lentils), and Paneer Makhani (cheese cubes in Tikka masala (creamy tomato-y) sauce), with rice and naan.  It took a bit of time to come out of the kitchen, but when it did, it was good.  The Daal was a bit spicy for my taste, but sometimes that’s just the way it is.  I utilized their napkin dispenser in retaliation.  Everything seemed well prepared, tasted fresh, hot, and yummy, and was comparable in quality and presentation to other Indian restaurants I have been.  It wasn’t fall-out-of-my-chair good, but it was come-back-soon good.

Our meal at Pakwan, Hayward. Yum!

Mix Vegetable Curry at Pakwan in Hayward.

The only thing that I didn’t love was the order/pick up at the counter style.  I don’t mind ordering at the counter, but there were a few items I found confusing about it all.  First, the drink area is serve yourself, but the drinks are not included.  That’s fine, pretty normal.  My mom wanted tea with her dinner, but apparently that is included, though I don’t think we were going to be told that had we not asked.  Also, the chutney sauces and desserts are in the drink area where you can retrieve them at your leisure, which is nice except that you are not told this.  I only saw the chutney after I waited in line to order some Gulab Jamun (donut-type pastry balls in sugary syrup) only to be told that the desserts were serve yourself.  Was I supposed to signal to the man to put the Gulabs on my tab, or was it on-your-honor?  I’m not really sure.

Additionally, the “pick up” area of the front counter seemed to be a bit confused.  Orders often came out piecewise and the staff don’t seem to have a good system for recalling who ordered what or signaling to the patrons when their order has arrived.  There was a lot of waving across the room, a little bit of microphone use (“Order of Samosas” announced to blank-faced patrons), and some hollering to nearby tables.  That’s probably the only thing that I think they could improve on – it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to assign each dish a number and have that number attached to said dish when it exits the kitchen.  A quick microphone announcement of a number wouldn’t disturb everyone very much, and all would be well in the land of pick-up-your-own-dang-food-we’re-not-walking-it-over-to-your-table.  Them’s my suggestions.

After mentioning the terrible places that used to be in this location, the awesomely remodeled interior of Pakwan, the brunch buffet, the food, and the slightly odd pick-up counter, I feel I must touch on a very important point about Pakwan.  It’s cheap.  It’s fabulously cheap. Not, like, “Oh, that’s so cheap I think they might be dumpster diving” cheap, but like, “wow, they’re really efficient and really give us a good deal” cheap.  I guess it’s also because we ordered all veggie stuff; each “Vegetarian Delight”, as they call it, is only about $5.50!  The Paneer Makhani breaks the bank on the veggie menu at $7, and all Tandoori BBQ and meat curries are about $6-$8 per dish.  It doesn’t look like a lot of food, but it’s filling and it’s good.  You can happily leave Pakwan with a full belly for probably $8 a person, or spend a couple extra bucks to fund drinks or desserts.  Any misgivings I might have had (like the weird zig-zag shaped tables – what’s up with that?) are easily soothed by the extremely reasonable price of the foods.

Pakwan: I like you and I hope we can be friends.  I will be back to see you again.

Bombay Garden

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited: Two   ♦   Will I Return?: Yes Indeed

Bombay Garden is on Mowry Avenue in Newark (and I thought it was Fremont?!), near New Park Mall just west of 880, and surely has one of the most impressive Indian buffets known to the Bay Area.  This was my second visit to The Garden and I dare say that it will not be my last.

There are apparently four locations of Bombay Garden (Newark, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Rafael), though I am only qualified to comment on the Newark location.  But I would extend my recommendation to any of the other three locations; if they’re anywhere near as good as Newark, they deserve a visit.  The Newark location is a huge country-home style place, that looks like it might house a Mimi’s-type All-American restaurant of a bygone era.  And bygone is fine with me, Bombay Garden can take over any establishment they want in my opinion.  Think they might want to open one in my house?

Seating area and statue inside Bombay Garden.

Judging from the PDF of the menu on their website, it appears that you can order à la carte dishes that are just as diverse and mouth-watering as those offered in the buffet.  But be warned, fair reader, few à la carte dishes can compete with the majesty that is the Bombay Gardens Dinner Buffet.

Behold, the glory of the Bombay Garden buffet table.

Offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 5.30pm, the dinner buffet takes up a large corner of the floor space in the main dining room and is quite a sight to behold.  A dozen and a half huge copper tubs are placed evenly along an adequately sneeze-guarded buffet table that must be over 15 feet long.  This houses the main buffet options: all the meat dishes (there were about six) and most of the veggie dishes (easily a dozen more).  It’s standard Indian, so veggies or meat in sauce, lentils in sauce, garbanzos in sauce, little fried veggie or potato patty thingies, and (of course) rice and naan.  Every dish is labeled with the name and a brief description (for us American folk – thank you BG) and just about every one is delicious (though I don’t speak for the meat, of course).

More glory, keep beholding.

Then there’s a side table with about half a dozen more trays of goodies, a folding table with a bunch of things that look like garbanzo beans, meatballs, and yogurt sauce (I never did find out what that area was for – an adventure for next time!), and then the far wall with green salad, random sauces, dessert balls, and soda/ice cream dispenser.

Side table with unknown goodies, still to be discovered (by me) at Bombay Gardens.

The buffet costs around $15 or $16 per person and includes unlimited food (duh), soda, tea*, and dessert.  The dessert mostly consists of these awesome donut-ball things in sweet syrup, which took some getting used to but I now love.  There’s an ice cream machine that my dad says has a really nice flavor of orange or mango or something, but it’s often out of order.  And, as promised, it was last time.  But no matter, I think the waiter could have tripped me and I would still rave about the place – it’s just really, really good.

I’m not sure if they have any food specials, but they do have an immense banquet room adjacent to the dining area.  There was some sort of wedding reception going on when we were there, and it looked like a good time.  And the best part is that I assume they cater – delicious.  I definitely shouldn’t blog when I’m hungry…craving the Garden now…

*The tea is some sort of chai spiced tea.  At a glance, it looks like creamy tea or coffee, but upon bringing some back to the table, it appeared to be chai-esque and I was quickly reminded that I hate chai.  So, no tea for me!

Bombay Garden on Urbanspoon

Favorite Indian

Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited: A Few Times   ♦   Will I Return?: Yep

Favorite Indian started out as a tiny restaurant on A Street just east of 2nd Street in Hayward.  They had a killer-value lunch buffet that was small but soooo cheap and very tasty.  I guess they’ve been doing well because they’ve moved into a far larger location just near the intersection of Jackson, Mission, and Foothill.  Flashback to the past – this new facility used to be Sizzler, then Perko’s Cafe, followed by El Rancho Steakhouse, then maybe something else – anyone?  Where are my locals?

Anyway, moving away from Hayward Historical Trivia (which I’m probably not very good at), Favorite Indian has moved to the big time, so to speak.  They’ve really done-up the old Sizzler (it will forever be Sizzler to me) nicely with dark colors and a sophisticated theme.  It looks great.

The decor at the new Favorite Indian Restaurant on Mission Blvd.

And being that I’d only experienced the lunch buffet at the other place, I don’t know if the menu is the same as before.  But it’s a very professional looking menu with lots of choices – and it’s Indian, so there’s plenty of veggie stuff, of course.  The prices are reasonable – about $7 for an a la carte veggie dish – but we decided to go for something more exciting – the dinner combos.

A veggie dinner combo is priced at $11.95 typically, and meat combos are about a dollar more.  The combo is so much more fun that I can hardly describe it properly.  It includes: soup and papadams with dipping sauce in addition to your main dish, rice, naan, and then five small side dishes including the daily curry, some other curry, red saucy stuff, white saucy stuff, and a sweet and delicious dessert ball.  Forget the crappy description, a picture can tell a thousand words:

Veggie dinner combo at Favorite Indian Restaurant.

The combo wasn’t exactly cheap, but if you think about it, you’ll probably order rice anyway ($2) and naan ($1.50) along with your main dish ($7), and by that time you may as well pay the extra $1.50 to get all the fun sides also.  At least that’s what I think.  And I was hungry so what the heck.  While boyfriend and I normally can finish two main dishes with  rice and naan, all the extra little sides of the combo left a whole lot of our main dishes remaining this time.  So, we even have another meal to have at home, and all for under $30.

The service was extremely attentive this visit, so I want to give it the highest rating.  But, I have to say that there was very little pizazz in the demeanor of the wait staff.  They were polite, they were helpful, they did their jobs pretty much flawlessly; but they didn’t seem very excited.  I know it’s an odd complaint, but I feel like if they’re not excited to be there (or at least pretending to be), why should I?  But it didn’t detract from the experience at all, just a random thing I noticed.

I’m certainly happy with the new and improved location and the quality and taste of the food at Favorite Indian, and I will most certainly be back for the famed all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, and maybe even the weekend dinner buffet!  Note that you can also enjoy Favorite by ordering online and via free delivery.  I’ll have to try that sometime on a lazier day…

Favorite Indian Restaurant Inc. on Urbanspoon