*NOTE: the chef has changed since this review, but the food is still delicious.*
Frequenters of the Tandooriloin used to love this joint when it was a little hole in the wall on Jones, and then it sadly went away for a while. Well, now ~LITTLE DELHI~ is back, rejoice, and in a much larger space. In fact, its new digs are a kooky little old school diner with Naugahyde diner seats and booths the color of cherry-bomb red. Everyone naturally gravitates toward the booths, but the rickety diner stools are a close second in the charm department. Indian diner, works for me. You almost expect Flo to walk up and take your order. Mel, kiss my masala!
The menu is a bargain-hunters delight, chock full of Northern Indian and Bengali faves like tikka masala ($7.99), a plentiful pile of diced tandoori chicken in creamy and chunky tomato heaven. I wish I could say no to that damned dish sometimes, but I never do. I know I'm not alone in this "Greatest Hits" habit of mine. We sopped up the sauce with the Little Delhi Special Bread ($3.50)—no, it was not delivered in a Jerry's Kid's bus. It featured a savory stuffing of tandoori chicken, onion, and homemade cheese. A note about the tandoori chicken in general: it’s a good thing they know how to rock it, because if they didn't, it would almost be grounds for dismissal in my book.
The tandoori fish ($12.99), the most expensive item on the menu, was a feast—a whole fish shows up (yes, head on!) and is served on a bed of basmati rice, with a "salad" of onion, mealy tomato, bell pepper, and cilantro. Never mind the salad—the fish was stellar. Sadly, our otherwise helpful waiter couldn't exactly tell us what kind of fish it was—the language barrier thing cropped up. Good spice, too. OH, a note on the spice—if you tell them hot, you will get hot, oh yes you will. And only later will you will understand the true meaning of "spicy twicey." So unless you're total champ chili chomper, just tell them medium, cowboy, and then you can really taste the many merits of these tasty dishes.
The sneaky fave of the evening was the keema gobi ($6.99), a wonderful dish of minced cauliflower (I think the little bits were originally fried) and then cooked with spices that just enchanted me. I gotta go back for that one—I've never had it anywhere else. A tablehopper reader tipped me off to the okra ($6.99), saying it's exceptional. Actually, there are a number of dishes I want to return for—the menu is quite lengthy (I have my work cut out for me—you will too).
Oh, and hungry diners will love this: you're barely cracking your complimentary pappadums and everything comes out quickly and practically all at once—you get flooded with your dishes, whoosh. Cute little metal bowls with decorative handles at that. It's also BYOB, so woo hoo on walking-in with corner store beer. Those craving a drank can also cruise down the street afterwards to farmerbrown, it's literally a block away. Nice service prevails—very kind staff.
Overall the space is really clean, like, truly. I debated sharing this one little detail, but I just have to. So my dining partner and I were all content, sitting at the counter, chowing down on our chicken, when a little friend decided to come join us. What kind of friend, you ask? Well, it was the cockroach variety of friend, which is no one's friend, like, ever. Our server was swift in whisking the little punk away for a prompt disposal, but dang, that little sighting was unfortunate. [Insert skin crawling sensation here.] I personally have no hesitation about returning to the restaurant, and I will. In the end, it's the TL for crissakes, and cockroaches seem to be having quite the party in that part of town. It wouldn't be the first one I've seen.
I even tried to look up Little Delhi on the SF Department of Health Violations page for any infractions—have you ever looked at this website? It's addicting, and a bit like culinary rubbernecking. You won't believe the scores of some of our local places—don't get upset with me if your favorite haunt really takes a nosedive on their rating, and now you're freaked about eating there. For some reason, Little Delhi isn't listed. Must be too soon. Anyway, don't let the critter deter you, and if it does, well, I guess I won't see you at the counter. Hopefully I won't see any critters anymore either.
So the next time you're at Union Square (it's close to all the Powell Street shopping), or catching a show at the Warfied, or perhaps just watching a "flick" at one of the skeevy Market Street "theaters" (ewwww), this little corner gem will totally get you hot and bothered. But remember, this is one place where things can get too hot to handle, so watch the spice.
83 Eddy St.
Cross: Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94102