Surati Farsan Mart - Searching for Good Indian Food in SD Part 3

>> Monday, December 19, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/7/2011 
Price: About $5-7 per item
Location: 9494 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92126

The Quick Bit:
+ Exciting flavor combinations
+ Fully Vegetarian, but still satiates the appetite
+ Selection of Indian Sweets
Δ Some flavors can be a little aggressive for a western palate
Δ Food can be surprisingly heavy even for being vegetarian
Δ Variation in food was somewhat lacking
Blogger's Note: With next week being Christmas, I will not be updating the blog. I expect to have an update for New Years along with some potential blog changes in 2012.
While I visited Surati Farsan Mart in October, I really wanted to post about it after seeing this amazing video footage (watch the video, really). Unfortunately there were some higher priority posts that had to be done first. At the time of this posting, it is unclear to me whether Surati Farsan has re-opened for business yet. It wouldn't surprise me if they are already reopen at this point, but hopefully a helpful reader can provide an update on the situation.
Getting back to the search for Indian food, Surati Farsan has long been mentioned as a bastion for enjoyable  Indian fare in San Diego. Prior to this visit, I had never actually gone there despite hearing about it several times. The key part that prevented me from visiting is that whenever I mentioned it to some Indian friends, they would brush it off as "just being a snack place." I set out to Surati Farsan to find out if I could eat a complete satisfying meal that was completely vegetarian.
I enlisted a group of friends and coworkers to help me navigate the menu and recommend items for me to try. 
dahi puri

The first item I tried was the dahi puri. The puri is the shell that holds the ingredients and the dahi is the yogurt. The inner filling contained a mix of chickpeas, green lentils, potato, and there was a water infused with tamarind, dates and mint chutney. 
For being a relatively cheap snack item, I was very impressed with this dish. The tamarind, date, mint water was the key component to the dish infusing the elements with sweetness, freshness, and a tiny bit of spice. The key to the water was that it infused a lot of flavor without being overpowering. The puri itself had an enjoyable contrast of textures and flavors between the different components with the yogurt marrying the textures together. This was easily my favorite dish of the night and I imagine it would work as an amuse on most fine dining menus.
pav bhaji
The pav bhaji was an Indian curry mixture containing potato, pea, onions, and a tomato-based curry. The bhaji was accompanied with some hamburger buns spread with ghee and some chopped white onions.
I found this dish fairly aggressively spiced, and otherwise uninteresting. I can see where an item like this is a staple food that people would eat on a daily basis as it contains some cheap and filling ingredients that contain a nice mix of flavors. Ultimately, I feel that while there was nothing wrong with the dish, a Western palate may not take the aggressive spicing well, and that there are more interesting things to order on the menu.
chole samosa
The chole is the curry of chickpeas and tamarind sauce that accompany the samosas, which contained potatoes, corn, and mustard seeds. 
This dish was a great dish for me. There was a large play between the contrasting flavors of sweetness and spice throughout the course. The chole contained an aggressive sweetness from the tamarind infusion to the curry, which was more restrained in the spicing; this mix was juxtaposed with the samosa which had a light sweetness from the corn and an aggressive sweetness from the mustard seeds and other spices. This play on the components worked really well for me. I also enjoyed that the samosas were prepared well as they were fried crisply and cooked well.
selection of sweets
While Surati has some savory dishes, it is even more known for its selection of Indian sweets. Similar to the chocolate display case at Godiva, the sweets are available for order in some large quantities. Fortunately for me, the proprietor took mercy on me for being the clueless Westerner and allowed me to purchase a sample selection of the sweets.
My favorite of the sweets was the item on the upper left, which was a sweet containing mostly dates and mixed with pistachios, almonds, and cashews. I found the different contrast in nut flavors and textures blended with the date to be satisfying and not too sweet.
I also enjoyed the rolled candy on the far right, which I was informed was a cashew filling to a milk based outer shell. 

While Surati Farsan is certainly a change of pace in relation to the other Indian food places I've been exploring, it does not mean that it cannot be part of the Indian food search. I came away from Surati with some mixed feelings; while I did enjoy the food I did feel there was the "comfort food" aspect of Indian food missing from the experience (which may be a good thing). I also felt that while I was able to take most of the aggressive seasonings, it may not be for everyone. While I can recommend Surati Farsan to adventurous eaters that are willing to experience an "unfamiliar" type of Indian cuisine, I don't believe that it will ultimately hold as the winner of the Indian food search.
Even so, for the exceptional dahi puri (a dish I think that could be served in a high end restaurant with a little more refinement), Surati Farsan is awarded with the bit award.


Sandeep December 19, 2011 at 9:42 PM  

Nice write-up, small correction though - it North Indian food :) (Gujarati primarily)
Their "Chats"/snacks are good (Delhi chaat, Chhole puri, Chhola samosa) but other items like paav bhaji, chhole bhatura etc don't really match-up to the authentic taste and preparation.

kevinEats December 20, 2011 at 12:06 AM  

Good timing. Surati's original outpost in Artesia is just a stone's throw away from my house, and I was thinking about giving it a try some time.

James December 20, 2011 at 12:13 AM  

@Sandeep - Thanks, made the corrections. I'm definitely not an expert on Indian food so I rely on help from the experts :)

@Kevin - The food in Artesia should definitely be better than SD from what I've heard. You should definitely give it a shot!

Brook March 9, 2012 at 10:07 AM  

You had me with your dahl puri photo. Surati Farsan is one of my San Diego food faves, circa May 2010:

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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