Great Indian Food is Great, and Cheap

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Every so often on Haight Street, passers-by will suddenly exclaim, “Hey, great Indian food!” They’re not clairvoyant taste-tasters, capable of sensing the quality of food by mere proximity, but rather pointing out the new establishment at Shrader and Haight Streets, the self-proclaimed Great Indian Food.

Kallie and Bobby Dhillon, parents of a first-year student at UCSF, opened the restaurant earlier this summer. Their mission is to provide home-cooked Punjabi style meals at reasonable prices. In addition to rotating daily specials, Great Indian Food offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items such as Aloo Gobi, Punjabi Chole, Chicken Masala and Chili Chicken.

Fourth-year medical student Emily Watkins and I decided to see what they had to offer. The restaurant isn’t a formal sit-down type place with waiters. Instead, customers are able to order right away and see their food being assembled in front of them.

There are four types of combination meals that come with varying amounts of food. The lowest-priced options include the Kola, a rice bowl, and the Roti Roli, your choice of filling rolled inside of a roti — a traditional Indian flatbread — and served with raitha, pickled onions and chutney. At $3.99, these options seem like a good deal for a quick pick-me-up or light meal.

At the other end, the Combo Thali ($9.99) offers your choice of two items, rice, raitha, salad, chutney and roti. This seemed like more food than we could handle, however, so Emily and I both opted for the Mini Thali ($7.99), which is like the Combo Thali minus the raitha, salad and chutney.

Attempting to cover as much territory as possible, we tried the Chili Chicken, Palkh Pork, Aloo Gobi and a paneer dish, in addition to sampling a couple of mango lassis. We liked the paneer dish, which featured a pleasant buttery tomato sauce and a generous portion of paneer cheese.

The Palkh Pork, however, was by far our favorite. The pork was fall-apart tender and the spinach sauce was flavorful.

We had never had an Indian dish that featured pork and spinach before, and Kallie assured us that it was a unique find. In fact, her husband, Bobby, created the dish for their children when they were small, and because it was such a hit, figured he should offer it in his restaurant.

We were also big fans of the mango Lassi, which is created with yogurt made fresh in-house every day, resulting in a thick, tangy, and refreshing drink. The portion is also very generous — you get a whopping 16-ounce drink for $2.99, and both Emily and I felt stuffed at the end of our meal.

In addition to the combos featured on the menu, we discovered that there are a few items you can get that aren’t listed. A salty lassi can be custom-made, and you can also substitute the rice on the thali plate for salad if carbo-loading isn’t your goal for the night.

You can also get 8-ounce, 16-ounce or 24-ounce containers of the a la carte item of your choice. At a mere $6.99 for the 24-ounce size, this seems like the best deal of all. Combined with a stack of made-to-order rotis, dinner ordered in can be had at a bargain price.

As well as offering food, beer, wine and great customer service, Great Indian Food boasts an enormous screen that broadcasts major sporting events, including the NFL, MLB and NBA. It also offers free Wi-Fi for those looking to work in a change-of-pace environment.

If you needed another incentive to try the place out, Great Indian Food offers a discount to UCSF students — check it out and support a great local business.