This is going to be a bit of a different post. It's mainly because most of the time I had no idea what I was eating at Madras Cafe. But that doesn't mean it wasn't good! Madras Cafe resides in Little India Center, along with Ashoka the Great Cuisine of India, and the Ker-Little India Megastore among others. The difference is that Madras features Southern Indian vegetarian cuisine. I managed to take photos on two separate visits. The first with the Missus, the second with Ed from Yuma.
The only thing I really knew about Southern Indian were Dosas:
A thin crepe-like pancake made from rice and lentil flour. The regular menu features Dosas "stuffed" with a variety of items. Since we were eating from the buffet, we were served plain Dosas, nice and warm, and very much crepe-like in texture.
We were also served piping hot Idli with our meal:
Idli is a steamed rice and lentil "cake". It almost reminded me of Chinese steamed rice cakes but with a mildly grainy texture, and I enjoyed these.
On the visit with the Missus we were served this:
It was a "balloon" of crust! I have no idea what is was; and as the restaurant was quite busy, I really have no idea what this was!
Here's a photo of the Onion Chutney:
As the Missus and I discussed the food we noticed that the same North-South dichotomy that existed in China, certainly existed in India. The North part of the Country featured many wheat products; while it seemed that South Indian dishes seemed to be rice based.
We also appreciated the metal plates and compartments that separated the individual dishes, so they would not mix together; allowing for us to taste each dish individually.
On the visit with the Missus we enjoyed the Eggplant dish, nice and mildly spicy, with a slightly sweet and somewhat "earthy taste". We also enjoyed the Okra dish(on the right of the Eggplant dish above), which at first tasted very sour, yet very "clean". But as we kept eating, the sour taste kept getting stronger until it started tasting almost bitter. Funny thing was that I mentioned how much we enjoyed the Eggplant while paying and asked what the name of it was, and was told, "It's Eggplant with sauce". Oohhhkay, I'll have no problem with that one!
My next visit was with Ed, and we enjoyed the buffet as well. What was interesting was that the items served where completely different from my previous visit!
Here are a few:
The two rice dishes were good. I enjoyed the version on the right which was a bit spicy, over the mild basmati rice with beans on the left.
My favorite dish was this version of "peas and carrots" with curry:
The melding of textures, in addition to the curry flavor and spice, made this so delici-yoso!!! Among the best peas and carrots I've ever had, and I hate peas and carrots. This changes any preconceptions of peas and carrots I've ever had.
Ed's favorite of the day was this spicy, tangy "Sambhar"(sambal):
At least that's what the Gentleman serving us called it. Basically a spicy, slightly sweet, and tangy stew. I found that most of the dishes at Madras were alot "looser" then the Indian food I've eaten before; and alot less "rich". While Ed was visiting the "facilities" our Server told me that the tangy flavor was imparted by the use of lemon and tamarind.
Here are a few of the other items served in the buffet.
A nice lentil and vegetable fritter.
I remember that I kept asking Ed "what are we eating?"
And Ed responding, "I don't know, but it's really good isn't it?"
Madras Cafe is worth a try. Even though the dishes are vegetarian, they are all very well flavored, and it seems that the dishes change from day to day. Regular menu items feature various Dosas and Idli, but the small (14-16 items) lunch buffet is priced right($6.95), and worth your attention. I've been told that the food is so hot as to be unbearable, but I didn't think so. But remember, I love spicy food. I'm sure that someone will provide some information as to what we were eating........
So what did we eat? I don't know, but some of it tasted really good!
9484 Black Mountain Road
San Diego, CA 92126
Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:00 am-2:30 pm
Sat-Sun 11:30 am-4 pm
Dinner: Tue-Sun: 5:30-9:30 pm
Closed on Mondays