As has been established previously, I wasn’t the most refined eater during my undergrad education. In a way, I’m a bit pleased with myself for having such a thoroughly true-to-stereotype college diet; I lived off of Hot Pockets, canned soup, dried pasta, and my mom’s care packages. Fortunately/unfortunately metabolism won’t put up with that kind of processed junk anymore, but at least I got all that horribly delicious food in while I could.
While I might not regret my MSG-laden mainstays, I do have one major regret from that period of my life. I attended college in a mecca of ethnically diverse cuisines: Indian, Himalayan, Nepalese, Ethiopian, you name it. Not once, however, did I step foot in any such establishment. Okay, I exaggerate — I ventured forth maybe once or twice, but never with a properly open mind. I’m hanging my head in shame.
Thankfully, one of Berkeley’s most celebrated South Asian restaurants, Udupi Palace, has an outpost in San Francisco as well. It was time to make amends for the oversights of my 20-year-old self.
The Udupi Palace of San Francisco is a quaint, quirky space serving up some unbelievably delicious South Indian fare. Some of our party was crestfallen once they realized that everything was vegetarian, but the disappointment disappeared as soon as we begin eating. Each and every dish we ordered exploded with spices, herbs, heat, flavor, magic.
We began the meal with two vada dishes, consisting of falafel-like fried lentil donuts soaked in sauce. It’d be difficult to choose a favorite between the spiced lentil sambar and tamarind and tomato rasa, but were I to choose one, I’d go for the latter and its light, herbaceous broth.
Next up, we tried the special veggie curry and malabar paratha, a multi-layered flatbread served with creamy vegetable korma and onion-chickpea channa masala (lead photos). As unhealthy as pan-fried carbs might be, there are few things tastier. No words, my friends… just inappropriate vocalizations of pleasure. We ended the meal with one of my favorite dishes, the special rava masala dosa (below; an Indian twist on a crepe). This, too, wonderful, though I’ll admit I just barely prefer the texture of Dosa’s. I might save my stomach space on other, unexplored menu items next time — of which there are many, many appetizing-sounding options.
I highly recommend eating family-style here; it just feels right, what with the homey space, unbelievably congenial servers, and solid portions of food. We left incredibly happy, with full bellies and intact wallets. While I might not make the hop over the Bay to visit the Udupi Palace of my college years, I’ll most certainly making up for lots of lost time here.
1007 Valencia St,
San Francisco, CA 94110