Eating out – or getting take out – with a vegan is no easy matter, at least here in San Leandro (L.A., though, is another matter altogether). So I’m starting to ask restaurants what vegan dishes they offer previous to taking my daughter to the restaurant.
These four dishes are always vegan at Favorite Indian, Hayward. I’m sure that’s true too at the other branches, but you may want to confirm.
Vegetable Pakora, veggies coated with seasoned chickpea flour and fried.
Dal Curry, a yellow lentil curry. I tried this at the buffet, and it was pretty good.
Aloo Gobi, potatoes and cauliflower cooked with spices.
Bhindi Masala, okra cooked with spices and onions.
Chana Masala, chick peas cooked with spices. Alas, my daughter is not too fond of this.
In addition, Favorite India can make the following dishes vegan. Simply ask them to make them with no cream when you order them:
Eggplant roasted in tadoor and cooked in a cream and tomato sauce
Vegetables, nuts & cheese cooked in a mild sauce (asked them to hold both the cream and the cheese/paneer)
Mushroom & green peas cooked with onion & tomatoes
Whole black lentil & red kidney beans cooked in a creamy sauce.
They may have other vegan dishes at their buffet, so it doesn’t help to ask. The restaurant manager/owner – the young woman who is often at the reception desk – is very knowledgeable as to the ingredients.
Ristorante di Palermo is, as one Palermitan Yelp reviewer made clear, not a Palermitan restaurant. It’s not even a Sicilian restaurant, though they have a couple of Greek/Mediterranean dishes which I assume may be found in Sicily. Ristorante di Palermo is your basic Italian restaurant, and as long as you don’t have higher expectations than that, you shouldn’t be terribly disappointed.
We went there for Christmas Eve dinner and we had a rather good meal. It was nothing extraordinary, but it was solidly executed and I would go again.
We started by sharing the “fungi de portabella” ($12), a grilled portobello mushroom cap in a gorgonzola sauce. The only thing I can fault this dish is the price – $12 is too high -, but flavor-wise it was a real winner. The grilled portobello had a meaty, somewhat smoky flavor and it went very well with the sauce. This isn’t a complicated dish, however, and it’s one I’ll try replicating at home.
For our main dishes, I had the chicken marsala ($16), Mike had the salmon special for the night, and the girls had the gnocchi de la casa (in tomato sauce – $12.25) and in gorgonzola sauce ($12.25). Both girls liked their gnocchi, though I didn’t taste them so you may want to take that with a grain of salt. The one in tomato sauce seemed to have plenty of cheese, and I assume the other one shared a sauce with the mushrooms. My chicken marsala had a very nice sauce, it was a little darker than I cook it myself, which I thought was good, and there was some smokiness to it as well. The chicken breast, however, was pretty dry in the manner of chicken breasts everywhere – I wish they would make it with chicken thighs instead. Mike’s dish of salmon with shrimp in some dark sauce was probably the least successful of the evening. He felt the sauce, whose specific flavor he can’t remember, overpowered the seafood. My main complaint about the entrees is that they were in the small size. None of us were left hungry – but I had had an appetizer, the girls don’t eat much (but they cleared their plates) and Mike wasn’t hungry when he started. I think they could increase the portions without hurting their bottom line and make customers’ happier.
For dessert, I got the cannoli ($6?). It was quite good, though nothing out of this world, pretty much your standard cannoli. I’d say the same about the tiramisu ($6) that Mika got. Camila ordered the blood orange sorbet ($5), I didn’t taste it but I suspect it was Ciao Bella. It’s a great sorbet and Camila didn’t complain.
I had two glasses of the sparkling Barbera ($9 each), which was basically sparkling grape juice with a kick. I liked it, but it’s extremely sweet.
Service was very good, our waiter was very attentive. The restaurant is quite nice, but more of a casual place. It’s very roomy, so it’d be a good place to dine when you don’t want to be overheard.
Ristorante di Palermo
22532 Foothill Blvd (b/t A St & B St)
Lunch daily: 11 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Su-Th 5-9 PM, F-Sa 5-10 PM
I walked past Acqua e Farina several times, on my way to and from my favorite tea house, The Golden Tea Garden, before I noticed its existence. From the outside, the restaurant looked simple and inviting, like an old world, hole-in-the-wall sort of place. I put it on the back of my mind as a place to try some day, and from there I retrieved it last April, when I was looking for a place to celebrate my anniversary, with both my husband and children. We had a great experience then, which I repeated last night with a group of friends.
As we discovered once we actually went into Acqua e Farina, this little restaurant occupies the space which was once the home of Rue de Main. The dining room is a little strange, with several smallish eating areas. The largest one is decorated with wall paintings of Italian village storefronts, so you can easily pretend that you are eating al fresco in a piazza. It’s quite nice.
The menu is filled with classic Italian and Italian-American dishes. The pasta ones are nicely priced in the low-to-mid teens with meat and fish dishes in the high teens. A porterhouse steak tops the price list at $30.
We started by sharing the prosciutto ($8) and the polenta ($7). The prosciutto, which came wrapping thick slices of melon, was good, though this is not a favorite dish of mine. The polenta, however, was outstanding. The baked slices are served with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce that is just out of this world. I’d had it in my previous visit, and it was just as good this time. Don’t miss it.
For my main dish, I had the gnocchi della casa ($14), which came with a creamy tomato sauce. The gnocchi just melted in my mouth, and the sauce was quite pleasant. Like most of the entrees at Acqua e Farina, this wouldn’t win any culinary awards, but it was solid. My previous visit I’d had the spinach ravioli in meat sauce ($14), and I had enjoyed them, but not as much as the gnocchi. This time, my friend Katrina had the ravioli but in a pesto sauce, which she enjoyed very much. At a previous visit, one of my daughters had the lasagne di carne ($14.5), which she also liked. Again, no culinary awards, but good, simple Italian food.
Acqua e Farina may do even better with its non-pasta dishes. Eddie found her salmone alla griglia, salmon grilled and served with a garlic, basil and fresh tomato white wine sauce ($19.5) to be the best salmon she’d had in a while. Parker, meanwhile, was very pleased with her melanzane del giorno ($12.5), eggplant in a tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella. She found it a big heavy on the cheese for her taste, but thought it was very good.
The desserts may be Acqua e Farina’s weak point. My ricotta cheesecake ($6) was light but unexciting, and while I didn’t try Eddie’s lemon sorbet ($4), I did notice she only ate half of her dish. I can’t remember what I thought of the tartufo di cioccolato ($5.5), chocolate ice cream with hazelnuts, which I had in my first visit, which means it wasn’t particularly memorable.
Service was outstanding both times. The waiters were attentive and friendly, though this time they failed a bit in the replenishing drinks part. The meal after tax and tip came to about $133.
In all, Acqua e Farina is a solid restaurant for when you want a nice night out at a moderate price.
Acqua e Farina
22622 Main Street
Lunch: M-Sa 11 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Su-Th 4-9 PM, F-Sa 4-10 PM
In the last couple of weeks I’ve gone to Favorite Indian twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. Their offerings are just as extensive for both though the dinner buffet, only available on F/Sa/Su is more expensive ($15 vs. $11, I think). Still, it’s an amazing deal considering that you get over 20 choices of dishes, plus nan bread, sodas, juices and dessert! And keep an eye on Yelp and their Facebook Page for special offers. Mentioning “Yelp”, for example, should get you a 15% discount off the buffet prices.
But the deal with Favorite Indian is just how amazingly good their food is. I mean, this is buffet food (they do have a la carte dinners weekday nights, but why would you bother?). And it’s some of the best tasting Indian food I’ve ever had.
In my last two visits the chicken tikka masala has been to die for. The chicken itself is a bit dry (that’s what you get when you use white meat), but the sauce is heavenly. I don’t bother with the chicken anymore, just put the sauce over rice or eat it with nan. At a dinner visit, I couldn’t get enough of the fish pakoras. The flaky, melt-in-your-mouth fish has a wonderfully crispy crust and was delicious. Their tandoori chicken has also been very good in my last visits, as have been assorted curries. They vary from time to time, but they are all worth trying (even if not all are always winners in my book). My daughter loves their soft serve mango ice cream for dessert, but I’m a fan of their gulab jamun. which they serve both hot and cold (hot is better). Their nan bread is quite good, but at the lunch buffet I went they had a paratha sytle bread that was even better.
Anyway, I’m in love with Favorite Indian and I can’t wait to go back.
I’ve been back to both the lunch and dinner buffet at Favorite Indian several times now. It’s always good. Mika loves going for the mango soft-serve ice cream.
July 2010 Review
Favorite India on “A” Street in Hayward has been my favorite Indian restaurant in the area since it opened. The small, humble dining room isn’t much to look at – but the Americanized Northern-Indian food is delicious and the staff is very friendly. Plus, and this is a very important plus, they deliver to San Leandro.
Some months ago they opened a new branch in Hawyard, under the name “Favorite Indian” and we finally checked it out last January, when we discovered the A St. location is no longer open for dinner. The new location is a great improvement. It’s in what was probably an all-American family restaurant in the past, so it hasn’t much in the way of atmosphere, but they’ve added a couple of nice fountains and some decorations and the place looks nice enough. More importantly it’s comfortable, with plenty of booths and tables that accommodate large parties (there is even a party room, I think) and there is plenty of room for a large buffet – which they now offer not just for lunch but for dinner on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays (6 – 9 PM).
In the last seven months I’ve been to Favorite Indian for lunch and dinner on numerous occasions – and I’m always impressed by the buffet. It has an enormous array of choices, more than 30 items, so much that you cannot possible hope to try everything (even if, like me, you just skip the vegetarian options as a matter of course). Last night the meat offerings alone included chicken tikka massala, chili chicken, ginger chicken, chicken tandoori, lamb vindaloo and a lamb kofta curry. There were many vegetarian choices, including vegetable pakora and daals, There are soups and salads and the usual accountriments – including rice and hot naan. The buffet price ($14 for dinner) includes soft drinks and dessert (mango soft ice cream in addition to Indian goodies).
What is really impressive, however, is the quality of the food. It may not have the sophistication of the offerings at Aroma in Castro Valley, but it’s uniformly tasty, nicely seasoned (i.e. not too spicy) and very balanced. Everything, from the tandoori to the tikka massala sauce tastes great. Nothing is too oily, nothing too fatty or gritty. The chicken in the tikka massala did manage to be a bit too dry for my taste in my last visit, but that was really a minor complain. In all, I don’t think you can get a better meal in the Bay Area for the price – one reason why I keep going back 🙂 BTW, you can get a 15% off discount of your dinner bill by mentioning “YELP” when you visit (I’m trying to see if they’ll do the same for “Marga’s Blog”). Restaurant.com also has gift certificates, but it’s only valid on the a la carte menu, Sunday through Thursday.
Favorite Indian Restaurant
24052 Mission Blvd.
Today I took my daughter to lunch at her favorite chain restaurant, Panda Express (783 A Street, one of *three* locations in Hayward). It was much better than I expected. For $5.50 you get your choice of fried rice or a simple chow mein, and any two of about a dozen entrees.
All the meat is tender and seems to be of decent quality.
I didn’t try the fried rice, but the chow mein has “wok hei” – the smoky aftertaste of a properly made stir-fry. The orange chicken (my daughter’s favorite) was tangy and not over-sweet; the crust was not mushy at all. The sweet and sour pork is – well, inoffensive.
I had broccoli beef and black pepper chicken. The broccoli was cut a little too large to be convenient to eat. It would have been more manageable either cut smaller or cooked a little longer. Mind you, it was delicious. The pepper chicken was aromatic with black pepper, but not hot, and strewn with slivers of onion and green pepper.
Very little of the food is prefab; we were able to see a huge glass-fronted refrigerator filled with trays of raw vegetables.
I don’t know that it’s a particularly child-friendly place: most of the chairs and tables are tall, like bar stools, which would be risky for small children. (My daughter’s an adult, so that wasn’t an issue for us.)
There are banners hung from the ceiling proclaiming “Gourmet Chinese Food.” I wouldn’t go that far, but Panda Express presses most of the Chinese-American-cooking joy buttons.