A Review of Vegetarian Indian Cuisine in San Diego

A Review of Vegetarian Indian Cuisine in San Diego

There’s something about the Californian air. It’s got this sense of weird calm in the air that made me feel relaxed, but it also could be that I was on vacation finally after two whole years. After being parents, VJ and I never had the opportunity to travel or have a vacation. Traveling to India feels like a chore as we are there for such a short time and have so much to do. So when VJ offered to go on a vacation, I didn’t immediately jump on the opportunity. The packing, traveling with a toddler who’s legs have a mind of their own, and air travel sounded like torture. But I did want to get out of this extremely cold weather. It had been so cold that I want to just sleep inside my blankie. But this momma needs a good break and I was finally given one. Choosing San Diego was pretty easy as we had friends living there who kindly hosted us (A HUGE SHOUTOUT TO S & D). I was excited for the culinary treasures there and the vegetarian options that have been absent from my life.

I wanted to try Mexican and Thai food as well, but despite our six-day trip we didn’t have enough time to try all that, so we stuck to Indian food. We split 3 days in San Diego and 3 days in LA. LA is a whole other story that I think needs its own article. Once in San Diego we relaxed for a bit hoping Arlo would nap in their house for a bit, but he was so excited about the new surroundings and all the different things he could explore, he skipped his nap and just entertained our hosts. Choosing a restaurant has become extremely difficult as Arlo becomes moody and won’t cooperate at times. We also like to choose restaurants that have good kids menu. Most restaurants either offer mac and cheese or grilled cheese and Arlo is definitely bored of them. He likes to have something different and not a repetitive meal.


At first, I decided not to write up on chain restaurants but this is the only Indo-Chinese fusion restaurant in the US. Indochinese is very popular in India and we love the Hakka Noodles, the Manchuria and all the schezwan sauce. Inchin’s Bamboo Garden specializes in Indo-Chinese food that VJ and I love so much. Our first impression of the restaurant was quite good. The ambiance was super cool, but we were met with a grumpy hostess who told us to wait. There weren’t many people in the restaurant, but we were told they were backed up. Being Christmas Eve, we didn’t mind the fifteen-minute wait. While the rest were waiting I took Arlo to the women’s room and was disgusted. It was filthy, there were no napkins, there was no toilet paper and there wasn’t even a diaper changing table. We didn’t have to wait for the entire fifteen minutes and were seated almost immediately after the bathroom fiasco. We were not given a menu and never asked if we wanted a drink. When the waiter came to take our order he realized we weren’t given a menu. He dumped a few at our table, still not taking our drinks order and disappeared. We were charged an extra 21% charge for four adults and one toddler, which seemed like a bit high considering the food wasn’t that great.

What We Ordered: Paneer Chili, Crispy Baby Corn, Hot and Sour Soup, Fried Rice and Chili Garlic Noodles.

What We Expected: My friend’s wife who is expecting their first had a bad cold and needed something for her sore throat, so she ordered the hot and sour soup to feel a bit better. I wanted to start off with appetizers so we ordered two – Paneer Chili and Crispy Baby Corn. I expected the Paneer to be really spicy. We ordered fried rice for Arlo and our friend and VJ ordered the same. I love Noodles so I tried to be a little brave and ordered the Chili Garlic Noodles. Our friend specifically mentioned that we wanted our main course to come after we finish our appetizers. The host told us that the kitchen was backed up and it would take that time, but we got it just a minute after our appetizers were placed on the table.

Hot and Sour Soup
Crispy Baby Corn
Chili Paneer
Kids Fried Rice
Fried Rice
Chili Garlic Noodles

What We Got: The soup despite being hot wasn’t very sour. The paneer chili and the crispy baby corn tasted and looked exactly the same. The baby corn was DELICIOUS, but the paneer was very rubbery and none of us wanted to eat it after tasting the baby corn. The fried rice was just okay and Arlo ate it with a lot of ketchup. The fried rice was liberal with vegetables but not overdone. The Chili Garlic Noodles tasted bitter and it was terrible to eat. Even the vegetables were not edible. The bell pepper was so bitter I couldn’t get it in. I was so sad that I couldn’t eat it. Noodles are my favorite and it was disappointing that I couldn’t eat them. Despite looking drool worthy they ruined my appetite for the evening. The early arrival of our main course made our table really congested. As we ate the appetizers our main course dishes cooled down and wasn’t piping hot anymore, leading further to disappointment.

Overall Rating: 2/5


It was Christmas Day and the entire day it rained every five minutes, creating a very cold and frustrating climate in San Diego. We wanted to spend the entire day at the zoo until they closed as Arlo loves to see the animals, but we had to cut it short as we were soaked. Arlo’s feet were cold from the socks getting wet – the only item I didn’t have a back up for. So we decided to call it a day, despite having spent only a few hours. At least I got to see the panda that day. Since it was so cold I wanted to go eat chaat. But when we arrived all the chaat places were closed for Christmas, which was expected. But as we were leaving we saw this one place that was open – San Idli.

Once we entered San Idli we could see that the restaurant was quite new. The owner or manager seemed quite enthusiastic to serve all the customers. When we came in it was quite empty, but it soon started filling up. San Idli is a vegetarian eatery that offers mostly South Indian food. The best thing about this restaurant was their BUTTERMILK! It was absolutely delicious. So tasty that I visited them twice afterwards just for their buttermilk. The flavor was quite stunning. There was open seating so we could sit anywhere.

What We Ordered: Mini Sambar Idli, Idli Vada Combo, Plain Dosa, Butter Milk, a Mini Mango Lassi and Filter Coffee.

What We Expected: I wanted some soft Idli’s with at least one chutney and sambar. The mini idlis immersed in sambar with a dollop of ghee on top and some chutney on the side. Coffee to be from Keurig instead of filter coffee but coffee-tasting and not filter coffee taste. I was craving some good butter milk for a long time and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I wanted to taste some good buttermilk and not the watered down salty lassi. I don’t like dosa to be extra crisp, so I wanted something that was soft yet not soggy. We ordered a Mango Lassi just to calm Arlo down as he was up from a nap and very cranky and tantrum-y.

Mini Sambar Idli
Idli Vada Combo
Filter Coffee
Plain Dosa

What We Got: We got exactly what we were looking for. The mini idli’s looked gorgeous and the sambar tasted delicious. The sambar mostly only had pieces of bottle-gourd in it, but it still was delicious. There was no ghee on top of the mini idlis, but the taste was still divine. The vada from the idli vada combo was very oily as expected but tasted really good – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The buttermilk was EXCEPTIONAL! The was tiny pieces of ginger, good amount of coriander and even bits of green chilli. It tasted yummy. Then I took a sip of the coffee that VJ ordered – and it was a filter coffee and not the Keurig one. The coffee had a good amount of chicory in it that is absent in most Keurig pods. Arlo enjoyed the idli as well and gave us his nod of approval. The plain dosa was amazing to taste as well. The batter was well fermented but not over fermented, that the batter turned sour. The dosa was crisp and quite soft too, making it finger-licking good. The only issue I had was that the chutney was so delicious and we were given such a tiny amount, but when asked, they provided me with a little more chutney without any additional cost.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5


My appetite for South Indian food was not cured by all the food that I had eaten in the past few days of the trip. Despite other cuisines available in the location, we choose Annapurna mainly for the South Indian cuisine. Being a weekend the restaurant was packed. We were seated almost immediately. Arlo just had a nap and didn’t want to sit in his high chair. The environment was festive and there were lot of people giving us positive feeling about the restaurant. Though we were seated immediately, there was no cutlery provided. We were given water but never asked again if we wanted to have any other drink. We choose the buffet and half the appetizers were gone and weren’t filled for a long time. We had to wait for at least ten minutes for the appetizers to come in, but they were worth the wait.

What We Ordered: We had off the Buffet.

What We Expected: A wide range of appetizers and main dishes ending with at least one dessert.

Mysore Bonda with 2 chutney’s and Sambar
The vegetarian appetizers – Idli, Mysore Bonda and Gobi Manchuria
Main Course – Mango Dal with Okra fry and rice
Dessert – Payasam and Bread Halwa

What We Got: The appetizers were almost done and Arlo started snacking on the appadam (papad) first. The mysore bonda arrived quite quickly and before we knew it everyone loaded those tiny balls onto their plates, probably because they were toothsome. I filled up on so many of those, that I couldn’t eat anything else. They tasted quite similar to the one we get on the roadside stalls in Hyderabad. Ten minutes after the bonda’s the other appetizers came in. The idli’s were getting dried out a little, so they covered them with a towel, which preserved the softness. The idli’s were soft and the chutney’s tasted really good. Arlo liked the idli’s and ate them with the appadam and some sugar which he loved. VJ loves fried food, so he didn’t have much of the idli and instead happily munched on the bonda. I joined him too this time as those bonda’s were lip smacking. There was Gobi Manchuria too that was neglected, so I tasted some and it didn’t meet up to the standards of the bonda’s or the idli’s. The main course was a feast. There was some bendakaya pakoda koora (okra with onion and pakora) and mango dal. The okra was simply delicious that I loaded my plate twice. The mango dal wasn’t as good as mine but it was definitely scrumptious. I did have some of the curd rice (yogurt rice) that they had, which I didn’t take a picture of, but it was very sweet and heavenly. It wasn’t sour or bitter and tasted perfect. The desserts was payasam which wasn’t very sweet, which I loved a lot and VJ loved the bread halwa, which was immersed in ghee and yummy. I missed out on some of the biriyani and two more vegetarian curries.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (Only for the buffet)


From the first day we landed in the state of California I wanted to have chaat. But time hadn’t permitted until the last day of our trip, but even then we decided to skip on the chaat items and we just ate the one’s we were craving for. On Saturday a day before the our flight, we went to a beach where Arlo had so much fun. He just wanted to stand at the beach as the waves kept hitting his legs. He loved the feel of the sand on his feet and hands – just like his mother. I always have had a strange pulling towards the ocean and the sea. I just like to sit and stare into the sun setting into the horizon. The sunsets in California were beautiful. I could just sit and stare at it all day long. But the biting cold made it difficult to sit at the beach for long hours or soak my feet in the waves. I made a promise to go back and watch the sunset again in the summer. That evening I felt the most relaxed in years. There is an outlet mall at the border between The United States of America and Mexico – there I had this drink called the Paloma which tasted like Lemonade with Tajin a type of Mexican seasoning that is spicy, tangy and salty. It was amazing.


When we arrived into Ras Raj, it looked more like an eatery rather than a chaat place. The place was HUGE. They had tables on the second floor too. When we arrived it was relatively empty, but almost immediately filled up. There were so many items to choose from that we were lost and confused as to what to order. VJ and I decided to have an early dinner instead of a snack. Arlo was hungry enough to have his dinner, so we went ahead and ordered our favorites that were available at quite the extensive list. I ordered my favorite Hakka Noodles, VJ ordered a Paneer Frankie and we ordered a cheese dosa for Arlo. As we were waiting for our number to be called, I noticed the restaurant was surprisingly clean. The washrooms were well-maintained and the tables were promptly cleaned. I also noticed that most of the orders were delivered almost promptly. The fast food place was completely vegetarian which was an added bonus for us.

What We Ordered: Hakka Noodles, Paneer Frankie and Cheese Dosa.

What We Expected: Frankly we weren’t expecting much. It was a chaat center and we ordered out of the norm. We decided to order regular chaat items if the food didn’t turn out good. I wanted to see Hakka Noodles and not Chow Mein like most Indian restaurants in Kansas serve. I wanted the dosa to be a little soft and cheesy. Originally the Paneer Frankie is a a thin roll or a roti or a chapati that has lots of spices in it with either potato filling or paneer filling. There are various versions of it and I’ve never been able to recreate it exactly as it’s available in Hyderabad.

Veg Hakka Noodles
Veg Frankie
Cheese Dosa

What We Got: Let me start off with the Noodles. The Noodles were exquisite. The taste gets a 10/10. The portion size was HUGE. The amount of vegetables in it was amazing too. It wasn’t the Chow Mein that I was expecting and were Hakka Noodles. The taste wasn’t overpowered by the sauces that they used but was a little spicy for Arlo to eat. He still ate some of them after dunking them into his ketchup that he loves. The Cheese Dosa that we ordered for Arlo was piping hot and he loved it. Instead of dipping it in one of the three chutneys or the sambar (not in picture) they gave, Arlo wanted ketchup. He was more interested in the noodles, but was too hungry to care what I kept putting in his plate. VJ’s Paneer Frankie was a monstrosity. It was huge and it tasted good too. It looked more like a wrap than a frankie, but it’s taste resembled a frankie the most. I wish I had the time and opportunity to taste more. But there is always a next time.

Overall Rating: 4/5

This was my first review of any of the food I ate. Despite considering myself a foodie the number of restaurants I have tried in Kansas are very few. So I’ve made it my goal to make sure that I go to a varied number of restaurants and to increase the restaurants that I’ve tried. Being a vegetarian it’s always difficult to find food in a state like Kansas – the state of the ribs. But VJ and I have learnt how to use that to our advantage. If you live in San Diego please do leave your recommendation in the comments. I will definitely try them out next time I’m there. I would like to give a big shout out to our friends S & D for hosting us and being such generous hosts.


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