First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at email@example.com.
We're taking a look at three new places, each with its own kind of appeal. One makes excellent baguettes and elegant sandwiches. One is already bringing plenty of excitement to a formerly under-producing California Pizza Kitchen, and one stylish little place in Davis served us some of the best Indian food in memory.
Zindagi Indian Bistro
213 E St., Davis
Every once in awhile, I get to visit a new spot, taste the food and immediately realize I'm onto something special.
That happened just the other night at this new and promising spot in a town with plenty of decent ethnic cooking.
Its small, modern and comfortable interior suggests quality and sophistication. The food, however, says so much more.
Two words you must remember: papri chaat. This little appetizer is just $5, but it packs so much "wow factor" and complexity. It's made with chips, potatoes, garbanzo beans, chilies, yogurt and tamarind chutney – all that served in eight bite-sized pieces.
The textures are crunchy and then velvety on the finish, and the flavors are so soothing and thorough that I didn't want the dish to end. Would it be wrong to follow an appetizer with the same appetizer? It was one of the most enjoyable dishes I've had in recent memory, paired with a nice glass of German
How do you top that? You bring out the naan bread, which also was perfect – pillowy soft, pleasing to the eye, full of flavor and with just the right amount of tender chewiness.
Then came the main dishes, one of which was vegetarian (like the appetizer). I'm referring to an eggplant dish called "Bengan Bertha," which is made in a clay tandoor oven. Tender, complex, perfectly balanced – it made me think I might have stumbled upon my new favorite place for Indian food.
The chicken tikka masala is always a good test – and this version didn't disappoint. Not only did the tomato-based sauce have the telltale creaminess and luxurious mouthfeel, but there was an added dimension of lively but balanced spiciness.
We left with more questions than answers. Which was our favorite dish? Impossible to say. When will we be back? Very soon. And who is the maestro in the