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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Ettan is my new favorite restaurant for Indian food

Ariel Zhou
A sample of the wide array of foods Ettan provides.

As we arrived on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto to celebrate my dad’s birthday, I had a feeling the dinner would be the same as it always is on birthdays: a sit-down night at Zareen’s, my family’s favorite Indian food restaurant. Though I truly enjoy the food from Zareen’s, particularly the rich and creamy butter chicken, we tend to eat there a lot when we can’t come to a consensus on where to eat. 

It took me by surprise when we turned into a desolate parking garage that reeked of gasoline, located under many buildings with graffiti sprayed all over them. As I climbed out of the car, I was told we were going to a restaurant we had never been to before called Ettan. From the information I could glean from my parents, it sounded similar to Zareen’s, just with a slightly more American touch to the food, and a whole lot pricier. 

My dad had tried to make a reservation at Ettan many times in the past because of its increasing popularity, but every time, we were unable to justify spending such large amounts of money without a special occasion to do so. My mom was finally able to reserve a table without my dad knowing and surprised him when we walked up to the front of the restaurant. 

We were led upstairs by a man in a tuxedo inside the two-story restaurant building that looked as if it were a palace. The massive chandelier in the middle of the dining area glistened as we found our way to our cushioned seats and began to scan the menu. 

As I began reading, I was intrigued by the creative appetizers and main course dishes that were offered. Ettan takes traditional Indian food and puts a slight twist on it that makes the food seem significantly more appealing and unique. 

The first item on the menu that caught my eye was the $15 edamame vada in the appetizers section. Vada is made of rice flour that is kneaded into circular shapes with a hole in the center, almost like a savory donut. Generally, I am not the biggest fan of vada, but the thought of combining edamame with vada intrigued me. Delicate on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the vada was cooked to perfection and the edamame added the perfect touch of light, subtle crunch to the vada that tied the two flavors together. The edamame added the perfect balance of softness and crispiness to the dish and created a heavenly match of two foods that unexpectedly paired well together. 

Then there was the sesame leaf, which was regular chaat on a sesame leaf with mango, chickpea crumble and sesame brittle at the bottom. Chaat is a typical street food in India which consists of a crispy exterior made from wheat and semolina called puri, generally not very pricey, but this dish costs $15 per leaf. This puri is hollowed out and filled with chickpeas, spices and chutney which can be either savory or sweet. 

This fusion dish was a family favorite because of its sweetness and extra crispy texture. The mango added a fruity touch. After ordering two rounds of this, we were ready for the main dishes. 

We ordered the chicken biryani for $31, which took normal chicken biryani but paired it with a delectable green apple raita that gave it a sweet flavor. Another ingredient added was mint, which isn’t commonly incorporated in biryani, but Ettan proved that the two belong together. The rice was cooked to perfection and had the perfect light, fluffy texture, while the chicken was perfectly moist, melting in my mouth with every bite I took.

When it was time for dessert, I immediately knew what I wanted to order. Since the proportions for the desserts looked really small, we ordered two different desserts to try. The first one was the $12 passion fruit meringue, which included a white, hard meringue coating a passion fruit custard. Surrounding this was a sweet lychee milk-flavored shaved ice that dissolved on my tongue when paired with the meringue. The lychee ice was light, the passion custard was tangy and the meringue was crunchy and sweet, creating the most divine blend of flavors that’s sure to satisfy just about anyone’s sweet cravings. 

The other dessert which really stood out was the $12 tender coconut kheer. Kheer, a rice pudding with extra spices like saffron and cardamom, is a traditional Indian dessert. In this dish, kheer was paired with mango sorbet and almonds which provided the perfect crunch in every bite. The cold kheer included the perfect amounts of cardamom that enhanced the flavors of the milk pudding, and the mango sorbet gave the kheer an extra touch of sweetness which the almonds helped balance out.

Even though Ettan is on the pricey side, I have had food from many different cuisines and I can firmly say that this was one of the best restaurant experiences I have had in my lifetime. Ettan’s service was excellent, and so was every dish we received. This restaurant is a must-visit if you are in the area and are looking for a splurge.

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