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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jonathan Kauffman Finds Thali Pleasures at Ruchi, South Park's South Indian Gem

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Ruchi's masala dosa. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Ruchi's masala dosa.
Remember the thrill of discovering that Indian food isn't some murky repertoire of indistinguishable, ghee-drenched curries, inevitably served up with naan and cucumber raita? For most of us, Udupi Palace might have been a liminal zone of paper dosas and idli sambhar ― substitute Straus yogurt, add cocktails, and voila: Dosa ― but, San Francisco had little in the way of everyday delicious South Indian. SF Weekly food critic Jonathan Kauffman finds remedy today at Ruchi, the four-month-old, mostly lunch place near South Park, where the cooking has rasam-dipped roots reaching all the way to Andhra Pradesh. Pick through a big old thali of Kauffman finds at Before you go, prime your palate with SFoodie's pungent excerpt (after the jump).

The restaurant, which took over a flailing Naan 'n' Chutney outpost in November, does most of its business at noontime -- more than twice the dinner crowd, the waiter told me, which was borne out when I ate there in a half-empty room one evening. But at lunch, the booths fill with tech workers (giveaway: fleece vests) and Chronicle Books staffers; 12-person work parties often claim most of the freestanding tables. Many of the lunchtime diners are methodically working their way around thalis on silver, low-lipped trays the size of a 12-inch record. Small stainless-steel cups ring the mound of rice at the center; a thali meal is accompanied by the musical clinking of bowls knocking against one another as your spoon dips and you spin the tray, trying to get to the dish you want.

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