"There are good restaurants. There are bad restaurants. There are okay restaurants. Then there are those places, the magic ones, those extra-special kinds that have an intangible special something, a convergence of food, personality and vibe that can never be created or forced; it just happens because it does, and you always come back again and again because the food doesn't just taste good and satisfy hunger, but helps heal the heart and soul. Manoj Chopra's Little India is one of those places. I've tried a number of other Indian restaurants in the area, and some are better than others, but this place has The Vibe. I can't really describe it any other way, the food doesn't just taste good, it feels good."
"Practical specifics: The appetizers are great (the spicy wings especially are fantastic and will definitely wake you up). The dal is uniformly excellent. The various curries are always good ( Manoj varies the specific recipes from day to day, always offering different variations). The tikka masala chicken is an all-time favorite. Heck, what can I say; it's all good! And don't forget the mango lassi!"
"Go. Eat. Be happy."
A Restaurant Review From Going Out with the Habits
George & Cindy Habit in the Independent Newspaper Group
A world class Indian restaurant with home cooking flair, best describes Manoj Chopra's LITTLE INDIA in Redwood City. When we first entered the intimate Indian food establishment we were struck by the simple, yet grand, home-like feeling of the place. Owner Manoj Chopra introduced himself and paid careful attention to our table-and all diners throughout the evening. We felt like guests in his home, who can't wait to return for another visit!
Before we carry on and on about the feelings Manoj and his exotic cooking and atmosphere conjured up let us share a bit more with you. LITTLE INDIA specializes in "All You-Can-Eat" buffet style dining with a gourmet flair. Manoj cooks all entrees fresh, using the most natural ingredients available and then keeps his buffet entrees warm in warming pans along the serving table.
Manoj has been providing healthy home cooking since 1991. Over the years, LITTLE INDIA has developed a dedicated following of "regulars", people living in the area, Indian families seeking authentic Indian cuisine. Manoj's culinary training is stellar-having taught cooking in the Bombay Hotel School, and over 20 years of international cooking experience in hotels, restaurants and private dining rooms all over the world, including cooking in Bombay for the late Indira Ghandi. His style is elegant and refined, and he takes great care to avoid the "mass production" of Indian food offered by so many other Indian restaurants in the area. Manoj painstakingly cooks the dishes in advance of your arrival, and the rich flavor is achieved by the slow blending of the individual ingredients' flavors. He also prepares most of his foods at a mild spice level and offers plenty of chutneys and sauces to increase the spiciness level to each diner's satisfaction.
Manoj's artful buffet begins with a large offering of fresh fruits and a make-your-own salad, including two wonderful dressings-his version of the yogurt dressing is something truly special. All meals are served with Nan, a warm soft Indian bread that is served to your table.
Once you've addressed the salad platter, your culinary journey takes you to the hot tureen of Madras Tomato Soup, which was very rich and silky, with spicy hints of cumin. The full buffet follows the soup, beginning with a village style potato curry, vegetable samosas and pakoras (stuffed pastry triangles and breaded deep fried vegetables), Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless barbecued chicken in tomato sauce), Tandoori Chicken, Basmasti Rice Pillau, Spinach Saag with Paneer (spinach, collard, mustard greens, with traditional Indian cheese-my personal favorite!), and Lamb Curry to name a few of the exotic buffet offerings.
While we could barely take our minds off the food, we noticed the large beverage selection included sodas, iced teas, coffee, beer and wine. No foray into the world of Indian food would be complete without the traditional Lassi, so we ordered a sweet Mango Lassi and were knocked off our seats with such a delightful find-this delectable and smooth drink was sure to satisfy those in India wanting to escape from the heat and stay well hydrated and nourished in its arid climate.
As you can see, we were truly overwhelmed with satisfaction at every turn and returned to the buffet to try each and every one of Manoj's expertly prepared creations. The gorgeous buffet concluded with a dessert that complimented the entrees perfectly: Shari Rice Kheer (rice pudding with edible silver topping) was an instant favorite. The Mango Pharniee Custard was to die for: made from powdered rice, mangos, milk and raisins.
LITTLE INDIA is indeed, a rare jewel in today's fast-food frenzy. Take a minute to travel the Bombay way and duck into LITTLE INDIA, where you will be transported to another world in warm and intimate style by the Chopra family's home cooking and gentle hospitality. The long history and family recipes bring together the diverse flavors in Indian cooking to create an experience you won't soon forget-we can't wait to go back!
At Little India Restaurant in downtown Redwood City, diners don't have to waste long hours perusing a four-pound menu.
There isn't one.
Instead, the 3-year-old restaurant serves a mixed bag buffet that consists of whatever owner and chef Manoj Chopra feels like making that day. The night we went, Chopra had prepared eight dishes, one soup, five chutneys, one salad, one dessert and two types of bread for the buffet.
Regardless of the ebb and flow of dishes, some items remain constant. Come at lunch or dinner and you will always find basmati rice pillau, salad with cucumber and tomato, raita (spiced yogurt dressing), vegetable pakora (vegetable fritters), papadum (pepper cracker) and an array of chutneys. In addition, all meals come with a generous basket of Nan, the warm, soft Indian bread.
Otherwise, the vegetarian dishes could be a combination of dal (lentils), cauliflower and potato stew, eggplant bhurta, and spinach saag. On the other hand, they might be eggplant masala, mushroom muttar (mushroom and pea masala), cumin potatoes or okra masala.
The same goes for meat dishes and dessert. If you had lamb vindaloo, chicken tandoori and prawns island on Tuesday, you might find lamb roanjosh and chicken tikka masala on Saturday.
If mangoes are in season, dessert might be mango phirnee (rice flour pudding). Rice pudding, on the other hand, is a good indicator that Chopra couldn't locate any fresh mangoes that day.
"That includes tax," said Chopra.
At lunchtime, $5.99 buys everything. At dinnertime, $5.95 buys everything vegetarian while $7.95 buys everything.
Chopra and his wife run the restaurant together, with Manoj in the kitchen and Sunita in the front.
Restaurants don't get much cozier than Little India. Small, softly lighted and redolent of curry, the place feels like an enlarged dining room in someone's home. Someone with a penchant for Indian carvings, that is.
But one thing is certain. At Little India, you never have to worry that you'll get inferior service because you left your jacket and tie at home. And -- a rarity these days -- you can hear your friends talk.
As for service, well, you pick up your Melmac plate, head for the steam tables and eat. No fuss, no bother.
Like the place, the food is unpretentious and homey. It is lighter than at many other Indian restaurants -- Chopra hates grease -- and milder. Those who like their Indian food fiery can always intensify the experience by using one of Chopra's five chutneys: tamarind, cilantro and mint, tomato, hot pickle and Chopra's "gunpowder" special.
In the sweet realm, Chopra's mango chutney is one of the best I've tasted. It is so good, we ended up buying several containers (75 cents each) to take home. We also came home with containers of masala tea (75 cents for four ounces), a fragrant blend laced with cinnamon that Chopra makes himself. Little India sells several other items for home cooks, including Chopra's dry pepper bread and some commercially prepared sauces.
The mango pudding dessert was another highlight. Light, cool and refreshing, the pudding is sometimes made with carrots, pumpkin or nuts instead of mango.
For drinks, Little India serves two types of lndian beer, Kingfisher and Taj Mahal, and several domestic beers. The restaurant also has wine and three types of traditional yogurt drinks. Sweetened and plain yogurt drinks are $1. Mango yogurt drinks are $l.50.
Overall, Little India offers a welcome change from the fast-paced, herd-them-through atmosphere of the Peninsula's all-you-can-eat salad bars and smorgasbords. And, when calculated in pounds of food per dollar, it is a very good deal indeed.