Thursday, May 13, 2010
Vik's Chaat Corner, Berkeley
I never knew how good VIK's Chaat Corner could be until I visited after the recent move to a brighter and bigger spot on 4th and Channing, two blocks south of the original location. The Indian specialties remain the same, but you get to enjoy your meal in a freshly painted, eco-friendly location that's better organized and less hectic.
VIK's is known for chaat, or Indian street food, but serves weekday and weekend specials like vegetable and meat curries. The menu is a mix of the familiar (samosas) and the unfamiliar (dahi papdi), so it can be difficult to order wisely. My advice is to visit the updated Web site, which includes photos and descriptions of each dish, and write down what you want.
Upon entering the new warehouse space, the smell of oil, coriander, tumeric and other spices arouses my senses. One of my first impressions is based on smell. Too much bleach in the air tells me the restaurant is hiding something; the smell of fresh herbs and spices means the meals are freshly homemade.
On a recent visit, the lamb curry was deliciously light, juicy and fragrant. Served in a compostable bento tray, lunch specials range from $6 to $8 and come with various carbs in basmati rice, roti, dal, raita and papad, and achaar, a pickled salad. Chaats start at $4.75. I am still amazed at the quality and authenticity of the food with reasonable prices.
While the food has not changed with the move in March, the atmosphere has. Instead of fighting for grungy seats and tables in a pale, depressing warehouse, diners now enjoy bright yellow, purple and orange painted walls and shiny new tables and chairs. Getting your food has also gotten more organized, with the cash registers far from the food pickup. Orders are still announced on the speaker, but there's enough space that people are not waiting shoulder to shoulder.
It also wouldn't be Berkeley if the business wasn't green. Along with using compostable dinnerware, VIK's also divides trash into three barrels for compost, recycle and trash.
Overall, the move is a major improvement and only makes me want to visit VIK's more often. Let's just hnpe the newfound makeover doesn't mean an increase in prices.
VIK's Chaat Corner
2390 4th St., Berkeley
Photo: Nicole L.