Summary: Mediocre Indian food in sad-looking surroundings
Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, specially those located in the "Little India" section of Bekeley, have to do something do differentiate themselves and attract attention. Some chose particularly well executed food, others attractive surroundings and yet others offer regional cuisines. Priya has opted for a different approach and has put its focus on having the most beautiful menus around.
The menus really are an object of beauty. The menu cover is made of wood, covered in metal and beautiful carved motifs. The front of the menu cover resemble double doors with little knobs that open outward. My little girls were thrilled by them, the four year old liked the "flower" carvings while the 1 year old liked opening and closing the menu door.
The rest of the experience was not as memorable. The restaurant itself is plain and sad-looking, the walls had some hangings but the whole place lacked atmosphere. It could probably do with a new coat of paint, and the bathrooms need a full remodel, though they were fairly clean. Service was friendly, though inattentive - the waiter didn't pay attention to our order and brought us the wrong kind of samosas and forgot Mike's soda. Still, we appreciated the family atmosphere of the place - some of the owners' children (I presume) were helping behind the counter while another one did his homework at a table.
Ultimately it's the food that matters, however, and we weren't really sold by Priya's food. Its menu offers both South and North Indian cuisines but we stack by our favorites. The chicken pakoras ($4.50) resembled large pieces of popcorn chicken, the coating was too heavy, there was probably just as much coating as chicken. They were a little bit spicy (too spicy for Mika) and I thought they were too salty - Mike thought they were fine. They came with three sauces, including a red chilli sauce and a green cilantro sauce. However, they didn't have that sweet-sour sauce that I so like. In all they were fine, but nothing else.
The lamb samosas ($4.25 for 2) were tasty, though once again they had problems. For one they were very fatty, they left a pool of oil on the plate, and for another there were too many peas in the filling. I'd venture to say there were even more peas than lamb. Still, we enjoyed them.
Mike also enjoyed the chicken korma ($10) we ordered, he liked its spiciness and strong cardamon flavor. I felt that the cardamon was overpowering, and that the sauce needed much more balance. I'm also not a big fun of shredded chicken, preferring it cubed.
The lamb pasand ($10) was better. The sauce was somewhat spicy (too spicy for Mika) but creamy and satisfying. It was too salty for my taste, and I'd prefer it to be sweeter, but it was tasty enough. The lamb itself was quite nice, very tender and not too fatty. I'd order it again.
Both entrees were ordered "a la carte" and served with a rice and nan (you can also have poories). The plain white rice was fine, but the nans were on the thin side, more crispy than bready. It's a matter of choice, of course, but I prefer the doughier variety.
The real low point of the meal for us, however, were the sweet lassis. They were sweet, alright, but they were also terribly salty (if you've never had something salty and sweet at once, there's your chance). They also had a hint of a spice taste I couldn't identify but didn't like. In all, we couldn't drink them.
Personally I see no reason to return to Priya, but tastes are different so others may like it. Priya does offer a daily lunch buffet and a dinner buffet on Sundays
Priya Indian Cuisine
2072 San Pablo Ave