Chennai Tiffin, San Diego

Some of my friends are of the strong opinion that Tamil food is the best representation of South Indian cuisine.  Chennai Tiffin is one of the best South Indian restaurant I have visited.  (Chennai is in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and used be known as Madras).  We went for lunch and the restaurant was packed with Indians.  We ordered onion uttapum, idli and a thali.  Uttapum is a thick savory pancake.  Idli are hard to describe - slightly salty, slightly tangy steamed cakes served with chutney and sambar (a thick vegetable stew).  A thali is a multi-course meal on a tray.  It is a good introduction to the cuisine.  It has a vada (a savory donut), rassam (soup), sambar, some chutnies, some curries, yogurt, a dosa, a pappadum, rice and a dessert.  One cost $12 and could easily feed two.
The food was excellent.  Each dish in the thali had a distinct spice profile.  Everything tasted very fresh.

The hot spicy level is a little on the high side by typical white American standards.  If you don't like spicy, the idli or dosa (plain) is a good choice.  If you want the thali, ask for extra yogurt.  Mixing the curry with rice and yogurt tones down the hot level.

This is a vegetarian restaurant, which is typical of South India.  The staff is very friendly!  They also serve a breakfast buffet on the weekends from 9 - 11 AM.  They close for a half hour to set up for lunch and reopen at 11:30 AM.  It is in a small shopping mall with several other restaurants and also a Hindu temple.
This is the uttapum with red onion

Idli with a coriander chutney and sambar (not shown)

There is a dosa and poppadum on to of the rice.  The small cups hold the other items.  The cup at bottom has dessert


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