Summary: Disappointing Indian food at this very hyped place.
I have always (OK, for years) wanted to go to Breads of India. It had a reputation for having very good Indian food and great bread (and I love naan). But the one time we tried to get in at the Berkeley location, it was raining and the line was too long. I don't really like places where I have to wait.
But now Breads of India has opened a new restaurant in downtown Oakland, which takes reservations for parties of four or more (though, judging by how empty the restaurant was when we visited on a Friday night around 7:30 PM, you don't need them). It looked to be a perfect destination for a dinner out sans kids with Boris and Regina. But it wasn't so perfect. Our general consensus during the evening was that the food was bland and uninspired, and didn't live up to any hoopla there might have been about the restaurant. I'm pretty sure none of us would go again.
There aren't really appetizers at Breads of India, but there are samosas for those who want something before the meal. The menu itself changes daily and includes dishes from all over India. Friday, they had five meat entrees and three vegetarian entrees.
Mike had the tika duenjusi (and you will have to forgive me if I get some of the names wrong, my notes are not always clear), tandoori chicken marinated in walnut paste, yoghurt and several spices ($12). He thought the chicken was moist and nicely spiced, and he liked it dipped in the daal. I was less impressed, and found the chicken to be too mildly flavored. That was the problem with my combination of Gosht Madira (leg lamb cubes in tomato, greens, garlic and rum curry) and Pondu Kozhi (chicken cooked with garlic pods in a south Indian style curry) ($13, I think). I found the chicken curry, in particular, to be too mild, too watery and infused with too little flavor. The lamb was more flavorful, though nowhere near spicy, but I didn't much care for the sauce. It wasn't bad, just nothing spectacular. The meat had a nice lamb flavor, however.
Regina was happier with her choice, bhopali tamatar, a fresh tomato stuffed with curried vegetables in an onion, garlic and cumin sauce ($9). She liked it, she thought it was flavorful without being overwhelming. Boris, however, was unimpressed by his pork coorgi (roasted spare ribs marinated and barbecued in a South Indian style). It's very unusual to get pork at an Indian restaurant, so of course Boris had to try it. He found it kind of boring, and full of bone and gristle. Again, not something he'd order again.
We were divided about the breads; we ordered four different kinds (which I can't recall one, though one was a garlic naan, and another had basil on it) and they all pretty much tasted the same. They were thick and doughy in the edges and somewhat undercooked. Boris and I liked that, but Mike and Regina weren't happy. I can't say that the breads were flavorful, however. They might have been better if the curries were tastier.
My sweet lassi was fine, perhaps not as sweet as I like it. Sodas were canned, and Boris and Regina did not comment on their wine.
Probably the best thing about Breads of India is the room. It's a large square room, with big windows to the outside, and furnished with study wood tables and chairs with tapestry-like seats and backs. They were also very comfortable. Service was fine.
In all, our experience at Breads of India was disappointing and we wouldn't be rushing back.
Breads of India 948 Clay Street