Occupation: Stay-At-Home New Mom
Location: Santa Clara
Favorite Restaurant: deedee’s
Reviewed deedee’s: Sunday, February 14, 2010
deedee’s is a welcoming neighborhood restaurant serving food from the northwestern part of India. This restaurant is in a residential neighborhood in Santa Clara, close to the Santa Clara University campus. They have a great buffet with quite a wide variety. The buffet is available all day on weekends and on weekdays for lunch. The food is prepared fresh every day and is not doused in fat/oil like in other Indian restaurants. The décor is a mish-mash of a few Indian paintings, chachkis, and an altar. There is also a cooler with some sodas, water, and such. This place definitely does not score points for the décor. This is the place you want to go to if you want some delicious food served with a smile. We have always had great service and equally great quality food.
The day we visited to review this restaurant for the Check, Please! Bay Area show, they had some roses and fancy tablecloths on each table for Valentine’s Day. We had to remove the tablecloth to keep our one-year-old from pulling it off the table. The buffet featured food from the Indian state of Maharashtra. Though there were some appetizers already in the buffet, the lady from the kitchen came out and said she was making a fresh batch of bhelpuri to replace the one in the buffet that had gotten soggy. Bhelpuri is a puffed rice dish with potatoes served with a green coriander chutney and a tangy date and tamarind sauce. It is a type of chaat, or small plates of savory snacks, that are very popular in Maharashtra. The bhelpuri was very tasty with the right amount of crunch and sour/sweetness to it. The panipuris were also equally appetizing.
When I thought that we should now move on to tasting the main courses, a fresh batch of aloo tikki was brought out. I am normally not much of a tikki fan but, my, these were some amazing tikkis, just fried to perfection. They were crisp on the outside and fluffy and light with the potato goodness on the inside. Moving on to the main course and sides, the food was just amazing. Very authentic and well prepared. I particularly enjoyed the mutter paneer dish and the undhiyu (gujarati dish). The paneer was fresh and the dish was not overly creamy or oily like in most other places. Undhiyu can be described as a mixed vegetable stew with dumplings. The seasonings were all done to perfection.
The food here is never so spicy-hot that the other flavors get hidden. One can taste the symphony of various flavors in each dish. The puris, rice, and freshly made rotis smeared with ghee were all perfect vessels with which to enjoy all the offered sides. The kadhi (spicy and warm buttermilk soup) was perfect when mixed with rice. When I thought I couldn’t eat any more, my husband reminded me that I needed to pace myself to eat the dessert.
The shrikhand was sinfully creamy and yummy. I could pass on ice cream for this one dish! Even my one-year-old liked this sweet thick yogurt dessert. Shrikhand can be eaten as a side along with puris, but I prefer eating it as a dessert. Puranpoli (rotis stuffed with sweetened lentils) is another dish specific to this region, and it was another big hit. We were surprised to learn that falooda was served free on account of it being Valentine’s Day. Falooda is an interesting twist on ice cream. It is a scoop of vanilla ice cream served in a tall milkshake glass with noodles, rosewater essence, spices, and some interesting looking seeds. These seeds that look like caviar are basil seeds, and they burst in your mouth.
I would recommend this place to all of my friends and family, and to any one of you who want to try some true, authentic, home-style Indian cuisine. The food tastes like it was made at home and tastes as if someone’s mother has cooked it with a lot of love. In this case someone’s deedee (in Hindi it means “elder sister”) has cooked it with care. Final verdict: Great food at a great price in very homey and not fussy surroundings.
Occupation: Higher Education Administrator
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pomelo
Reviewed deedee’s: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
deedee’s is probably as close to the edge of the Check, Please! Bay Area driving radius as you can get for this San Franciscan! My coworker and I drove down to Santa Clara one misty evening after work, and by the time we got there (and turned around once — it’s not an adventure until you have to make a U-turn, right?), we had definitely worked up our appetites. We were surprised that the dinner service was focused on the buffet, and I was happily surprised that everything was suitable for a vegetarian. The place was practically empty — the family was leisurely cleaning and preparing for other customers — and aside from my party of two, there was only one other couple, and a woman who seemed to be a regular (she even conversed with the namesake, deedee, who was sorting through paperwork on one of the dining tables). We could have asked to order additional items from the menu, but we were so hungry, that the appeal of an all-you-can-gorge buffet was too good to pass up. My friend and I both enjoy Indian cuisine, so we wasted no time in helping ourselves to a big silver plate and loading up for Round 1.
For a dinner buffet service, the service was quite attentive. By the time we got back to our seats, glasses of water and a plate of roti (flatbread) had already been set out for us to add to the bounty on our large plates. We even got frequent water refills, and when the puri (fried flatbread) was added to the buffet line, we were served generous helpings first. I was happy to have two or three helpings of the basmati rice (perfectly steamed), vegetable Bbryani (vegetable rice), palak paneer (spinach), mutter paneer (peas and cheese), chana masala (chickpeas), vegetable fafrazi (vegetables in a tomato sauce), kheer (rice pudding), and gulab jamun (fried dough in sweet syrup).
The heat from the food came as a surprise. In the middle of our dinner conversation amid lots of laughter (the owners must have thought we were strange), I felt beads of sweat spontaneously erupt on my brow and on my temples. Normally, I would expect that as a sign from good Indian food that all the combinations of spices and flavors and sauces were suitably complex to deliver full flavor without being simply tongue-burning capsaicin. Unfortunately, I found most of the dishes to be rather flat in flavor, with the dominant taste being just salt. Perhaps because the food was on a buffet line, it had become overcooked and reduced to simple saltiness. That was a shame because the mutter paneer (one of my usual favorites), was an overcooked, dark, olive green-grey pea soup with no discernible cheese. Similarly, the palak paneer was almost a creamed spinach soup, and lacked some of the texture I would usually want to accompany my rice or other food. The vegetable rice was also beautifully saffron colored, but overcooked and mushy in texture. The vegetable jafrazi had a great combination of different vegetables that held their textures, but also got a bit lost in salty curry.
Some of the standouts from the dinner were probably the side dishes: the basmati rice was cooked beautifully; the puri was a delicious fried dough (it’s hard to go wrong in any culture’s cuisine with fried dough) that was flaky and crisp on the outside and steamy hot and puffy on the inside; and the gulab jamun was an excellent end to the meal (more fried dough, this time as golden brown balls that were wonderfully sauced with a sweet syrup that smelled of rosewater and tasted a bit of honey). I wish that combination of texture, aroma, and flavor had been more consistently present in all of the dishes.
Overall, my friend and I both thought we got a lot of food for the price, but that, considering the distance we traveled to/from San Francisco, there are too many other equally good (or bad) Indian restaurants that are more accessible for us, so we probably would not make the trip again with the sole purpose of going to deedee’s. If it had been mind-blowingly good, we might consider it, but it was just average or, perhaps more accurately, unremarkable. If deedee’s was a more “local” option, I might head back there more often to sample other menu items, for take-out food, or to load up on a very affordable buffet meal.
I want to add that because I work for a university, I noticed (on the take-out menu) that one acceptable form of payment at deedee’s is the Santa Clara University meal plan (or some form of it). Because the university is literally a block or two away, I think this is an attractive feature for the students, faculty, and staff who work nearby. I also think it’s a nice testament to the kind of partnerships that colleges and universities can have with local businesses (especially family-owned and operated) that appeal, not just to a global palate, but also to a consumer culture for food on demand, and it is a nice example of campus-community collaboration that should be supported and emulated.
Occupation: Engineering Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Farina Focaccia & Cucina Italiana
Reviewed deedee’s: Saturday, February 6, 2010
We were quite excited about trying an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant in an area of the Bay that we have not been too. It took us about one hour to reach to our destination. As we approached the restaurant, we realized that what was projected by the web site was a bit out of touch with the reality of this little hole-in-the wall place. When we walked in, the kitschy atmosphere immediately slapped us in the face by the way of bright fluorescent ceiling lights, many Indian statuettes, and colorful paintings of destinations in India. We also observed a highly disorganized restaurant layout where kitchen utensils, bags of rice, and other ingredients were piled on tables, corners, and hallways.
The gentleman who greeted us seemed to be multitasking during our stay. He finally got to us and indicated that we could pick any table, one of which had to be cleared off of bags of rice for us to take a seat. Once we sat down, he told us that we could proceed to the buffet, which presented a very small selection of dishes — no more than sixteen choices including side dishes, and various breads and sauces.
There was a stack of stainless steel serving plates with compartments, which immediately reminded me of my boot camp in the Turkish military. The serving glasses were also made of stainless steel and stacked up high. We picked up some utensils and gathered a few dishes from the buffet. I had no idea what I was eating because the descriptions were not displayed near the trays. Upon tasting the food, I got the feeling the meals were prepared as close to the authentic recipes as possible; they were tasty and not Americanized at all. Spices were vivid, textures were loose, and ingredients were distinct. At the same, I just wished I knew what they were called.
One thing that bothered me were the stains on the tablecloth, left from previous patrons, right where I set my stainless steel plate. The clientele were all Indian families, and they totally seemed to be having a great time. I could tell that if you were familiar with the food, this would be the place to have as close to a home-cooked meal as you can get. The multi-tasking gentleman came over and served us some naan with his fingers, not the most sanitary way of serving, but it seemed to fit the atmosphere somehow; very casual.
As we got up to pay our bill at the cash register, I finally noticed a few signs on the top of the buffet island that said, “Gujarti Weekend,” and had handwritten names of the dishes we just consumed. Overall, we found the experience to be interesting, and the food to be tasty. The choices were limited, a welcoming ambiance was lacking, but it was cheap and local. Plus where else can you watch an Indian movie in dialect as you get served naan with fingers?
I would not necessarily recommend this restaurant to my friends, as I believe much better Indian is available from almost all corners of the Bay Area. I do have to admit that the taste of food was, most likely, as authentic as you can get in terms of the regional cuisine. Many families seemed to be enjoying themselves and the food. We just could not enjoy it as much.deedee's