Mango Smoothies, Onion Rings and Donuts

Hillcroft -- that magical street where the adventurous soul can find the weird, wild and wonderful cuisine of India and the Middle East. Udipi Café at 5959 Hillcroft is just off 59, tucked between a gas station (go figure) and a jewelry store (go figure again). This restaurant came recommended by Indian nationals working in Houston.

We ordered the Uthappam Deluxe, a pancake made from fermented rice and lentils, a sampler platter of all things veggie and fried, and a few sides. Udipi shines with the simple dishes. Chiles bajji was spicy as hell; the thick fried skin complemented the fresh crunch of this five-alarm pepper. Medhu vada, or South Indian donuts, were served with a delicate and complex tamarind sauce that's a must-have at Udipi. Onion pakora, similar to onion rings, paired well alongside pickled mangos and refreshing mint chutney. A side order of raita -- yogurt with cucumbers, coriander and tomatoes -- was not necessary, and the Uthappam couldn't find a rightful place alongside the fried appetizers.

The mango lassi rocked hard. These guys could simply open a mango lassi shop and forego the trouble of deep-frying lentils and veggies. Bonus: A lunch buffet is offered at a measly $7.99 and includes 15 dishes, including dessert.

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