8 years ago
|Kelsey Mesher , a Professional Reviewer, wrote:||
by Kelsey Mesher, Mountain View Voice (Oct 2, 2009)
Walking into Sakoon off the sidewalk on Castro is like ascending into an Indian fantasy land where no color is too bright and no morsel too flavorful. The restaurant is Bollywood dream meets Las Vegas swank, melding modern interior design aesthetics with traditional Indian themes.
Three large chandeliers dominate the main dining room, their "branches" hanging artistically like jellyfish tentacles with glowing color-changing LED lights on the ends. Grab a booth seat along the wall for the best view of the spectacle — and it is a spectacle, with lights dancing off large mirrors and ornate decorations.
The space of the restaurant is itself impressive: Sakoon boasts a main dining room and an upstairs lounge for private parties. While a long hallway back toward the bathroom could have been lost space, Sakoon designers lined it with intimate round booths for couples or small parties, giving the venue a cool yet sophisticated club-vibe. Emerging from the end of a long hallway, diners find an additional small seating area and the most elaborate, intricately designed and detailed bathrooms I've ever seen in a restaurant.
I would make the argument that Sakoon is over-designed, had its food not lived up to the grandeur of its aesthetics. Fortunately for Sakoon — and its patrons — the food was as lively and colorful as the decor.
Like many Indian restaurants, Sakoon features a lunch buffet ($11.95 weekdays, $12.95 weekends) overflowing with favorites like butter chicken and served with a basket of fresh naan. From the many choices, the most successful were the dishes that could withstand, or even benefit from, the buffet-style service. While the fried dishes were slightly soggy or, in some cases, very hard from sitting out, the eggplant curry was rich, the vegetable tender and loaded with sauce.
Other highlights from the lunch menu included the chicken tikka with pickled mango, which was moist and flavorful, and the chicken kali, a saucier dish with onions and a nice spice.
One of the weekend features of Sakoon's buffet is its "live" station, which changes weekly, and features a special dish that a chef prepares out in the dining room. The Saturday we lunched, diners were filling their plates with pani puri, small pastry shells filled with potato and mint, accompanied by a minty sauce to drizzle over the bite-sized snack.
Though the buffet was highly satisfying, for a truly authentic Sakoon experience make time to stop in for dinner. In the evening the dining room really dazzles, the tables lit by sparkling orb-like candles. It would be a good choice for a dinner date or birthday outing.
Our waiter helpfully pointed out his favorite dishes — a long list — and we elected to start with a trio of samosas ($6), a ubiquitous Indian dish, and avocado jhalmuri aloo ($6.50), which seemed less traditional. The samosas came out hot from the kitchen, the pastry casing crunchy and flakey. Their unconventional fillings, like pomegranate seeds with feta, potato and peas, were especially good when paired with the house tamarind sauce (which we found complex and very tasty).
We found the avocado dish a refreshing digression from standard Indian fare. Presented beautifully in a layer-cake style, the appetizer had all the flavors of what you could imagine to be a deconstructed Indian guacamole.
For the main courses we sampled the phool makhane ki subzi ($13), popped lotus seeds with cheese, peas and cashews. A fellow diner who is a vegetarian said this dish was light in flavor, but with good texture. The lotus seeds were slightly chewy, almost meaty, in consistency, adding substance to the dish.
A heavier vegetarian option is a sauce-laden mushroom and cheese dish with bell peppers, ginger and onions. The textures of the rajasthani khumb paneer ($13) weren't quite right for a few of my dining companions, though I found the flavors of the mint tomato sauce and vegetables exciting. The paneer tasted lighter than normal.
The rack of lamb ($22) was plated like a piece of art. Though it looked almost too good to eat, the tender meat, which was actually served a bit rare for my liking, paired well with curry flavored mashed potatoes. The flavors of the dish were distinctly Indian, but the presentation was an interesting and sophisticated departure from more commonplace lamb dishes.
In addition to the many flavorful main courses on the menu, Sakoon offers several unique rotis, naans and rices to accompany the food. Sweet toothes and coconut fans should try the Kashmiri naan ($4), which is sweet with coconut flakes and rose essence. The coconut rice ($5) is more neutral in flavor, and makes a good pairing with any main dish.
For dessert we unanimously agreed that the coconut lime soup ($7) was truly delicious. Sweet and bold, the coconut flavors were complemented nicely by just a hint of lime — a satisfying ending to a sensory eating experience.
Diners looking to enjoy Sakoon at home, will miss out on the jazzy decor, but receive 10 percent off their takeout orders. The food alone, though, will have patrons returning to Sakoon for more.
Sakoon also offers catering.
357 Castro Street
Mountain View, California 94035
650-965-2000 | phone
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