I am always interested in visiting new restaurants- especially vegetarian friendly ones in the vicinity of my work and home. Most often, I am aware of a new restaurant, especially the Indian ones, coming up prior to its opening. So it was to my utmost surprise that I heard of a new Indian place – Arka on El Camino Real that has been open since Dec 2011. I didnt know it existed until this afternoon. So I was naturally excited that there was a new place to eat and also review.
We were a party of 5 from work that visited Arka on a Friday afternoon. Arka is located at the intersection of Fair Oaks and El Camino, across the road from Spice Hut. It is a pretty big place and looks unlike most South Bay Indian restaurants. It has a full-service bar and a banquet area in addition to a well furnished and modern setting unlike most of its ilk. The look of the place further piqued my interest. There was a modest 5-10 minute wait for a table. We were ushered into a pretty nice looking area with the buffet on the side.
The buffet was reasonably big. The vegetarian menu was not massive but consistent with most Indian restaurants in the area with the exception of Athithi and Sneha which believe in cramming as much items as possible with a smaller impetus on quality. The food was mixed- as in from all parts of the country. There was tamarind rice and hyderabadi vegetarian biryani. There was a nice paneer sabji and a mushroom sabji that I skipped. There was dhal that was pretty good. There were small bajjis and pakoras for starters. On the salad side, there was a cucumber/potato and kidney bean salad that was interesting. There was dhokla which was pretty bad (the texture is the most important element of the dhokla and this one was just not right). There were a couple of basic veggie salads to reduce the carb overload guilt as was a nice fruit salad. In all, decent sized vegetarian menu.
From the dessert standpoint there were quite a few options. There was the usual gulab jamun which I am happy to report was fully cooked with no floury feel in the middle and it was warm. Well done to the cooks. One would be surprised that cooks can go wrong with the gulab jamun but you’d be surprised how many do. There was rasmalai which was not as good as the gulab jamun but still pretty good and yes, the malai was not too thick and not too soft. Just soft enough. There was also a mango souffle which wasnt bad but for the artificial pink syrupy coloring on top that took the charm away. Otherwise, pretty tasty.
Overall, it wasnt a bad place at all. I wouldnt call it the best of Indian food that El Camino Real has to offer but it is definitely worth a second trip.
Ambiance: 9/10. One of the better looking Indian restaurants in the area. Pretty classy interiors.
Service: 8/10. Much of the service was good. We would have liked our second round of naans sooner but otherwise, no major gripes.
Food: 7.5/10. The main food was good not great. The desserts were definitely of the better kind.
Price: 7/10. The buffet is $13. That is not cheap either by Indian buffet standards nor specifically by the neighborhood standards. I could pay more for the ambiance but only so many times. Also, for a five party buffet, gratuity was automatically added. That was an unpleasant surprise.
Overall: 8/10. Good first experience with very minor hiccups. I plan on making a second trip and if you havent been to Arka, I can suggest atleast one trip worth making for the buffet.