If I have my facts right, Udipi Cafe had its first branch in Decatur, then another on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, and now there's one in Smyrna. I haven't visited the one in Decatur much but the one on Peachtree, I have. I really like the decor (dark orange-saffron walls, wooden chairs, quietly festive, if I can call it that). The food is really nice; none of those scary-looking red gravies or overly spiced/greasy vegetable dishes. The food has an almost homely quality to it. In fact, I am guessing that the owner hails from Udupi, a region in Karnataka, India. A fact that registers rather well in the cooking although experts may disagree.
Anyway, we visited the Smyrna location for lunch yesterday.
It's open from 11 am to 3 pm for lunch, and we reached around 2:15 pm. There were few diners, and we almost had the place to ourselves. I have heard from friends that the place had been open for two days only, and people were thronging... makes me happy!
We made a beeline for the buffet which looked real good. I made a meal of all the South Indian items - idlis, masala dosa (that is served at your table as part of the buffet), onion pakodas (a tad tough, unfortunately), alu tikkis (wonderfully moist and crisp - at the same time - can you believe it?) and an amazing array of chutneys and sambhar.
P helped himself to some of the other buffet items - sauteed cauliflower and beans, zucchini and carrots in a tomato-based gravy, a mint-flavored vegetable dish with green peas. I was too busy slurping up the South Indian snacks on my plate to even taste anything from his plate.
What I really like about Udupi Cafe is, the food tastes authentic. You know all those Indian restaurants (put together an algorithm to create names, throw in 'India', 'Bombay', 'Delhi', 'Madras', 'Palace', 'Garden', 'Taj'... and you get the name you want) that serve the same red slop with the one flavor of onion-garlic-red chillies. That isn't Indian cuisine at all. Let me rephrase, that is the 'Indian restaurant in the USA' cuisine. Not authentic by any stretch of the imagination.
Thankfully, Udupi Cafe beats the trend. Btw, the location on Peachtree has this wonderful dish on the menu called Set Dosa with Kurma. A set of six (?) mini dosas arrive with the ubiquitous chutneys and sambhar in cute steel bowls and the piece de resistance, the kurma. Think vegetables (carrots, peas, beans) in a coconut-based gravy, intensely flavored with pepper, coriander, cardamom (and probably some other spices that my tastebuds couldn't register), the Kurma is a perfect foil to the oh-so-soft dosas. I should also mention the sambhar at Udupi is perfectly spiced, every time.
Since the restaurant was near closing time yesterday, the server got me a bowl of sweet and cool rasmalai. I would also recommend the South Indian filter coffee - a most excellent ending to a wonderful meal.