March 2, 2012

Sunnyvale: Arka Restaurant, Bar & Lounge; restaurant review

725 S. Fair Oaks Ave./El Camino Real, (408) 733-2752. L-D daily; $$.

Featuring a spacious and colorful dining room, the contemporary Arka Restaurant, Bar & Lounge blends authentic Indian cooking with a stylish presentation. Specialties include tandoori kebabs, biryanis, curries, dosas, and uthappams, plus an extensive selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes are available. Among the many unusual items are two personal favorites--kaccha kele aur palak pakora (fried fritters of raw plantains and spinach served with a chutney) and chettinad chicken (a spicy tomato curry flavored with black pepper and curry leaves)—as well as tandoori mahi mahi (marinated with lemongrass and kaffir lime and served with roasted Portobello mushroom fritters) and shrimp vindaloo uthappam, (a pancake topped with shrimp in a spicy vindaloo sauce and red onions). Traditional butter chicken (shredded chicken in fenugreek-flavored creamy tomato sauce) is also available. Vegetarian delights include bharwan chandi kofta (paneer and dried cherry-stuffed kofta in a mild cashew-onion sauce accented with kewra and silver vark), bhindi la jwaab (stir-fried okra with onions, pomegranate seeds, and raw mango), tandoori subz kebab (a twist on the traditionally lamb-based dish), and an eggplant dosa (stuffed with smoky eggplant and peppers flavored with tamarind, coconut, and peanuts). The garlic-chili naan is thin and crispy, but next time I plan to try roomali roti, described as “light airy, handkerchief-like.” For dessert, try the classic kulfi rice pudding or the more unusual carrot payasam (stewed carrots with ghee, nuts, and a hint of green chilies); a selection of ports are available at a discounted price with desserts. A daily lunch buffet allows sampling many dishes. Cocktails go well with the cuisine, and an option is to sit at the sleek bar and enjoy appetizers there (happy hour occurs nightly from 3 to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m to closing).

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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