Over the last few months on my (now) rare drive up and down El Camino Real, I have eyed this new Indian restaurant at the intersection of E Remington Dr. and El Camino Real called Balaji Bhavan. I finally got a chance to go there today and here is my review.
Balaji Bhavan on a Friday afternoon looked oddly empty. And on El Camino Real, that is saying something. Moreso for a new place. I wasnt sure if it was a right choice coming here. But every place is worth a shot and this one deserved its. A colleague of mine had been there once and said it was definitely worth that shot.
We entered the voluminous dining area and its voluminous for sure and found it relatively quiet. A couple of other tables were occupied (by Indians, which is a good sign) and we got ours. The first thing to know about Balaji Bhavan is that it is does not offer a lunch buffet. That staple of every Indian restaurant does not exist here. Nor does it offer the food on a banana leaf, ala Komala Vilas. What it offers is an a la carte menu which includes every south Indian tiffin item known to man, some chaat items and of specific note, thalis.
Three types of thalis (full Indian meal platters) are offered, a South Indian thali, a North Indian thali and a combination of the two. All four of us chose the South Indian thali. The food was served pretty quickly. The thali is large and contained a significant amount of rice, a cup of pulao, a chappathi, a small cup of pakoras, an appalam, sambhar, rasam, kootu, a beet root curry, a potato fry curry, a kesari, yoghurt, a small cup of pineapple juice and a small cup of buttermilk with ground ginger and curry leaves. But here is the best part of it all, the thali food is unlimited. You read it right. You can ask for any item in your thali, any number of times. Effectively like Komala Vilas.
Unlimited food is good when well, it tastes good. On that front, I am happy to report that the food was great. The spice was just right for me. I could eat everything without taking massive gulps of water. The sambhar was a standout as was the buttermilk. Everything else was good to great. I had no complaints about any of the dishes served. I completed every one of them. At $9.99, it was one of the better thalis I have had in a long time.
If you are in the neighborhood, give Madras Cafe and Komala Vilas a break and head over to Balaji Bhavan. You just may thank me for that.
Ambiance: 8/10. Big TVs all around. Spacious dining hall and relatively clean.
Service: 8/10. Good service. No major gripes. For a dish or two we had to remind the waiters twice but it wasnt a hassle and they were responsive.
Food: 8.75/10. The thali was very tasty all around. No complaints. I enjoyed it.
Price: 9/10. The thali at $9.99 is excellent bang for the buck for lunch in the South Bay.
Overall: 8.75/10. I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at Balaji Bhavan and would recommend it without any reservations. Go for it.