Lotus Chaat & Spices, the only Indian chaat restaurant in the North Bay, debuted in San Rafael in April 2011.

The vibrant-colored café, which seats 80 indoors and 20 at sidewalk café-style outdoor tables, is at 1559 4th St. on the West end of San Rafael’s burgeoning business district.

The new eatery also contains an Indian grocery store with lots of great products from India – from frozen foods to spices and even toiletries.

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“We’re delighted to be the first chaat house in the North Bay,” said owner Surinder Pal Sroa, who also owns Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael as well as Café Lotus in Fairfax .

“Many regulars at our other restaurants complained to me that they have to go to Berkeley to get chaat or Indian groceries and the right spices,” he continues. “So we decided to open a center for that in San Rafael. The West End is just a mile from 101 — centrally located for all of Marin County and with easy access from anywhere in the North Bay.”

Sroa, born in India and who grew up in the grocery and spice business, says that chaat, or small plates of savory foods, have become one of the most popular meals in the world — not just in India, where they originated, but throughout Southeast Asia.

show_4Their popularity is spreading because these types of dishes are made with healthy ingredients: whole grains, grain and bean flours, fresh potatoes, chickpeas and vegetables such as onion and cauliflower. In addition, chaat are typically vegan as well as low in fat or even fat-free

“At Lotus Chaat and Spice, we’re serving the basic, most popular chaats in India,” Sroa outlines. “I love dosas, the giant lentil-flour pancakes, so we’re making those too. Most of what we serve at Lotus Chaat is gluten-free.”

In keeping with American diners’ increased demand for seasonal and organic foods as well as the ongoing trend for small plates, every dish at Lotus Chaat is under $8 and can be enjoyed as a snack or put together with other dishes to create a larger meal. Fried foods are cooked in canola oil. Almost all menu items are vegan or vegetarian.

Most of the ingredients are organic, even locally made. For example, the popular Three Twins organic ice cream company crafted four ice cream flavors specifically for Lotus Chaat & Spices, including Alfonso mango and green cardamom.

Three Twins Ice Cream

Popular plates at the new restaurant include Chole Bhature, wafer-thin, puffy breads deep-fried to be greaseless, airy, crisp and soft all at the same time, served with a richly-spiced, savory stew of chick peas and red onions. Bhel puris, little shells of crunchy, ultra-thin pastry filled with chick peas, tamarind sauce and yogurt, are another hit. The menu also features some of India’s most popular sodas. It truly is a street food extravaganza, but with the comfort of seating in a colorful, Indian art-filled space.

The kitchen is headed by executive chef Hari Krishana Mehta, who owned the popular India Village in San Rafael for 24 years. His chef de cuisine is Parshotam Lal, a veteran of India Palace in Mill Valley and Raja Cuisine of India in Berkeley.

“I love making these foods because they are deeply traditional,” says Mehta. “There’s a lot of creativity in putting together chaat plates, which are the original street foods of India.”

The space is also available to be booked for private parties and cooking classes, such as team-building culinary adventures. Call us for more information.

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Bring your laptop, tablet, or smart phone to Lotus Chaat.

Lotus Chaat offers FREE wireless internet access.

Go online at Lotus Chaat!

Hot Java!

Of course Lotus Chaat serves Chai, which is a delicious Indian tea with spices.

But did you know that Lotus Chaat serves delicious fresh hot coffee all day?

Whether you prefer regular or decaf, we’ve got your cup of java.