by Heather Rock Woods
You're surfing the Internet around lunchtime (I won't tell your boss) when you come across descriptions of Indian food. There's "spicy vegetable balls in delicately blended sauce" and "pieces of lamb in delightfully spiced creamy sauce." With a few keystrokes, you order vegetable malai kofta and lamb pasanda from Sue's Indian Cuisine, the first Indian restaurant from the Mountain View/Los Altos area to go on-line on World Wide Waiter.
The service, which allows you to order from 60 Silicon Valley restaurants for no extra charge, took up residence on the Web in early December, and Sue's has been receiving a few faxed orders a day as a result.
My family and I took the traditional route and drove to the Castro Street restaurant in Mountain View. The restaurant is simple, distinguished only by the still lifes and village scenes, painted by owner Sue Sista, that hang on the walls.
The food is rich and spicy and good. We started with Taj Mahal ($2.50), one of several Indian beer selections, and two tasty appetizers. The crispy vegetable somosas ($3.50 for two) were filled with spicy green beans rather than the usual potatoes. Masala dosa ($5.95) is a large crisp pancake stuffed with spiced potatoes and served with coconut chutney and sambhar, a thick lentil soup perfect for dipping bites of pancake and potato.
The masala dosa was one of seven choices under the menu heading "Popular South Indian Favorites." Sista was born in southern India, and has brought a few specialties with her, like the popular chicken tikka masala and stinging vindaloo.
My three dining companions and I shared four dinner dishes, which were accompanied by baskets of nan (soft bread), dal (lentils) and raita, an essential yogurt and cucumber mix that cools the spices.
My father went straight for the vegetable vindaloo ($8.95), described on the menu as "a unique Goanese dish calling for a considerable amount of time and skill in blending chilies with several special spices to give its characteristic stinging taste."
"It's a very, very hot sauce," warned manager Lena Lau. Sue Sista says it's a secret recipe from old friends in India."
My father was the only one to eat more than one fork-full, probably because he's lost most of his taste buds over the years, and the stinging--which was indeed very, very strong--is one of the few ways to convey flavor to them.
We all liked the palak paneer ($8.95), a pastelike platter of spiced spinach with homemade cubes of cottage cheese, which tastes more like soft "real" cheese than cottage cheese.
The shrimp biriani ($8.95) was a flavorful surprise. Added to the basmati rice and shrimp were cashews, almonds and raisins, which gave the dish a pleasing flavor and texture.
The tandoori murgh ($10.95) was a big hit with the meat-eaters, who enjoyed the tangy whole pieces of chicken.
Vegetarians can choose from eight dishes in the vegetarian section of the menu, as well as a handful of dishes from other sections. There are also four seafood dishes.
The waiters brought us several pitchers of water (besides the vindaloo, the other dishes were spicy but not too hot too enjoy). Lassi ($1.50), a sweet yogurt drink, and chai ($1.50), a spiced Indian tea, supplemented the water and beer.
If you're planning an all-nighter, I highly recommend the chai. I had a cup toward the end of dinner, and because I normally don't drink coffee or black tea, I didn't get much sleep that night.
Completely stuffed, and very American in our preference for chocolate, we skipped the Indian desserts. Instead, we walked up and down Castro Street, past four other Indian restaurants within two blocks, until we had room in our stomachs for Double Rainbow, across the street and down a block or two.
Sue's Indian Cuisine, 216 Castro St., Mountain View, 969-1112, http://www.waiter.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Atmosphere: Casual, decorated with Sue's paintings
Highlights: Masala dosa (potato-filled pancakes), chicken tikka masala, vindaloo (very hot)
About the owner: Sue Sista was born in southern India and has brought her favorite dishes to Mountain View. She came to the Midpeninsula via England, and for eight years ran a previous incarnation of the restaurant, Sue's Kitchen, in Sunnyvale. She's had the Mountain View Sue's Indian Cuisine for almost six years. She expanded to San Jose about three years ago. Owning two restaurants gives her a place to display the paintings she does in her spare time.
Checkmarks for: reservations, credit cards, takeout, wheelchair accessible, non-smoking, highchairs
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