Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chai Pani Indian Street Cuisine - Decatur Geogia

(a shorter review posted to Yelp!)
Chai Pani is located at 406 W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030. If the address sounds familiar, it's the original location of Watershed. As with the previous restaurant, parking is a bit limited so you may find yourself parking down the street and walking back up to the restaurant. The space is open with many tables, with an interesting foyer area to wait for seating. There's also a gaming table where you can let all your Indian friends show-you-up on something unfamiliar to most Americans - you flick checkers to attempt pockets in the corners (sort of a cross between corn-hole, pool and shuttle-board scaled down to a table-top game). Have yourself a Kingfisher and enjoy the wait - on most nights it's fairly packed but worth it!

While you wait you can order a beer from an interesting beer menu - I ordered a draft Wild Heaven Ode to Mercy which was quite good - I'm glad Chai Pani offers some local craft beer as so many Asian restaurants tend to do a few basic imports while ignoring those of us who want something with a bit more heft. While you wait you can order some individual Pani Puris - these are small puffed pasties containing a confit of potato, corn and other veggies along with some chutneys, sauces, and then individually dipped in "magic water" - you eat them one at a time and put the whole thing in your mouth. Quite delicious and typical of something you'd find in the streets of Mumbai or Bangalore (I've been to both and should know). Take a gander around and notice the wall art - I love what they've done to decorate the space - it's interesting, unusual and provides a little insight into what you might find while traveling the Asian sub-continent.

I recommend any of the chaat and have tried the Matchstick Okra fries, Green Mango Chaat and both the Chicken and Kale Pakoras - all were quite good.

I've had the Sloppy Jai which is basically a lamb sloppy Joe - if you like sloppy, messy, spicy goodness you can't go wrong with this. I've also had the Mixed Vegetable Uttapam which was like a big flatbread covered in flavor - carrots, peas, onion, cilantro and spices served with coconut chutney and sambar.

Sloppy Jai
For dinner, if you want to sample a lot of items, go for the Non-veg Thali. You basically get a big plate with several small bowls filled with one of the non-veg specials, rice, daal, sabji, raita, roti, kachumber, papadum and dessert. You could probably add some extra rice and bread and split this dish with your mate.

Non-Veg Thali
The Vaa Pav is basically a potato burger which may sound strange, but was quite good - and a lot spicier than I had anticipated. I'd order it again.

The Masala Paneer Wrap is also surprisingly good - think of this as a veggie burrito.

Masala Paneer Wrap

Malabar Chicken Wrap
In all,  I really enjoyed Chai Pani and think it's a fantastic addition to the Atlanta and Decatur Indian food scene.

-- John

Chai Pani on Urbanspoon

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