Ghee Whiz

Perfect double bill: Amber India in Mountain View and Satyajit Ray in Palo Alto

I followed my usual, somewhat unsatisfactory, buffet behavior, which is to try a dab of everything on offer and then return for larger portions of what I like best (the unsatisfactory part is that I'm often full after the first go-round). In addition to the hot buffet, Amber boasts a cold one, with rice salad, potato salad, chickpeas, and what turned out to be one of my favorite dishes, small puri (puffed rice wafers) surrounded by a dozen little dishes full of chopped onions, peppers, fresh green herbs, yogurt, and dried spices. The idea is to dust the wafers with spices and sprinkle them with the other ingredients, according to your desire (the wafers look like miniature Jackson Pollocks when you're done). They taste wonderful: bright, crunchy, full of flavor.

The tandoori chicken was as good as before; some of the standouts among the other dishes included two that are not on the regular menu but show up frequently at the buffet, chickpea dumplings in curry sauce and mushroom caps in cream sauce. We liked the unusual boondi raita, yogurt with fried dumplings. Robert's favorite was Amber India's justly famed butter chicken, shredded tandoori chicken in a deep-orange, deeply flavored sauce made with lots of ghee (clarified butter), tomatoes, and fenugreek. Kesari kheer (rice pudding with nuts, cardamom, and saffron) and sliced fresh fruit was a lovely way to finish the entire meal, an amazing bargain at $11.50.

But perhaps my most memorable meal at Amber India was the glorious dinner party assembled by my friend Tom after seeing Mahanagar. The restaurant suavely handled the increase in our number from nine to 11, and served us a feast that began with classic vegetable samosas (pastries stuffed with mashed potatoes and peas); crunchy, stringy pakoras (fritters of shredded vegetables); and the ones I liked most, smoky little shami kabab, patties of minced lamb and lentils. We went on to tandoori mixed grill (the stars, again, being the chicken and the seekh kabab; the boneless chicken tikka and the chunks of lamb were somewhat dry), tandoori seafood (the best of which was, surprisingly, not the glamorous shrimp or lobster, but the spicy fish tikka, big slabs of Chilean sea bass that were moist and still custardy at the center, under their crisp exteriors), and two unusual and exciting lamb curries: chandani gosht, in which the lamb is bathed in a mild, thick ground-almond sauce scented with cardamom (made for drenching the fluffy, dry rice), and mirch la gosht, a hotter dish, with a dark sauce redolent of peppercorns and green chiles. The dal bukhara (lentils cooked with cream and tomatoes), baingan bharta (a purée of eggplant stewed with cream), and especially the pindi chole (toothy, hot-spiced chickpeas coated with mango powder) were enjoyed along with assorted breads (particularly the onion kulcha and pudina paratha, whole wheat with mint). But the deeply colored, deeply flavored butter chicken was again acclaimed -- Beth e-mailed, "I can't stop thinking about that butter chicken! We will have to go to Amber again soon."

Spice World: If you're going to make 
the trip 
to Mountain View, Amber India is a 
Anthony Pidgeon
Spice World: If you're going to make the trip to Mountain View, Amber India is a fine destination.

Location Info


Amber India

2290 El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Mountain View

Amber India

25 Yerba Buena Lane
San Francisco, CA 94103

Category: Restaurant >

Region: South of Market


Shami kabab $6.25

Tandoori mixed grill $20.95

Pindi chole $9.75

Fish tikka $15.95

Chandani gosht $15.95

Butter chicken $14.95

Kesari kheer $3.25

(650) 968-7511

Open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: easy. Noise level: moderate

2290 El Camino Real (at Ortega), Mountain View

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I'm thinking maybe Saturday, Dec. 6, when we can see The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha and One Hundred Men and a Girl (starring Ray's pet, Deanna Durbin), and feast afterward on hot goa fish curry, lamb korma in yogurt and coriander, biryani rice – and, of course, butter chicken.

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