Education in Oakland

Hidden Food Treasure

Posted by novometro on February 7, 2007

In a rather bland review of Breads of India in Old Oakland, a Chronicle food writer dinged the restaurant for serving too many bland dishes. By way of introducing Breads of India, the reviewer noted that downtown Oakland has a surprising shortage of Indian restaurants. There probably is room for one or two more Indian buffets catering to the lunchtime crowd in Oakland. My favorite Indian buffet, not just in Oakland, but in the entire Bay Area, seats only 8 people and has a steam tray the size of a small desk. The place looks like it could be cleaned out by a single party of hungry Kaiser employees.

Khana Kazana is a tiny storefront on 19th Street between Franklin and Webster Streets. The business model is ingenious. The owner has another, larger restaurant on San Pablo in Emeryville. The food is cooked there, and he brings it to the Oakland restaurant by van. He’s usually there by noon, setting up the trays of pakora, naan, curry, and tandoori chicken. The final touch is a thermos of chai that he places next to the cash register, right under the hand-painted poster depicting some obscure scene from Punjabi folklore.

The plates are plastic, so are the cups and the utensils. But the food is delicious. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, the owner was a bit late setting up shop. He had been catering a lunch of Chiron bigwigs. The vegetable korma, rich with coconut milk and cashews certainly tasted worthy of the executive dining hall. I have no idea how much the biotech guys paid for their meal, but I paid only $6 for all I could eat. And I ate too much.

But no one should take my word for anything regarding food. For the last 14 years, I have never lived more than two miles from a Barney’s, and that’s not by accident. My business partner, however, is from New Delhi, and she knows good Indian food. She claims Khana Kazana serves some of the best buffet-style Indian she’s had in the Bay Area. Last week, she even took a plastic cup of sag, a creamed spinach dish, home for her husband to try.

Khana Kazana means food treasure in Hindi. This one is hidden.


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