UV food court is hidden gem after all
The University Village food court often appears to be a wasteland of mediocre ethnic food. Though there are more than 10 establishments occupying a vaulted room in USC‚Äôs resident strip mall, students have long lamented the greasy, overpriced food and run-down appearance.
I decided to put this reputation to the test and embark upon a tour of the UV food court, testing the best-sellers at each stand. So far, I‚Äôve only ordered from five of the ‚Äúrestaurants,‚ÄĚ but there have already been clear winners and clear losers.
Manas Indian Restaurant is often thought to be the only respectable Indian restaurant in the USC campus area, but the UV gives them a run for their reputation with Taste of India, a fast-order takeout establishment.
Don‚Äôt be intimidated by the cafeteria trays in the front; though the displays might all look similar, every item is drastically different. As odd as it might sound, the fact that the dishes have been sitting out in the warm metal trays means the spices and flavors have had time to meld together and create a more complex taste.
The chicken tikka masala was fair, with large chunks of chicken swimming in a fairly standard masala (a creamy, tomato-based sauce); when combined with a heavy-handed serving of basmati rice, the portion was hearty and delicious. The chana masala ‚ÄĒ chickpeas with a light garam masala sauce ‚ÄĒ had a spicy kick to it, thanks to both ginger and chiles.
Overall, the only problem with Taste of India was its naan, which was served as a lackluster side dish to the flavorful main courses. It was dry and tasteless. For around $12, I purchased a two-item meal (which came with sides of basmati rice, naan and a generic salad) and a large drink. The portion size ensures customers get their money‚Äôs worth.
For those who prefer Japanese food, the UV has one sushi and bento stand; initially, I was hestitant to try raw fish at a restaurant in the UV, but after trying the bento box at Manna Japanese, I realized a good meal at a Japanese restaurant didn‚Äôt have to include sushi.
The lunch special bento box cost less than $10 and came with an impressive amount of food: five pieces of crispy panko-breaded vegetable and shrimp tempura, three fried gyoza (potstickers), four pieces of California roll, a serving of teriyaki chicken, salad and a cup of miso soup.
The tempura was good until the end, when the last few pieces proved too soggy, but each piece was distinguishable as either vegetable or shrimp (an important consideration). The gyoza was delicious, as was the miso soup; however, the teriyaki chicken varied between well-cooked and overly tough.
A word of caution for teriyaki fanatics: Extra teriyaki sauce will cost you another 50 cents, but the sauce is so good it‚Äôs worth it.
I plan on continuing my tour of the University Village international food court, and so far have yet to be majorly disappointed. This hidden gem could do with an infusion of customers, so stop by the UV for a cheap meal of appreciable quality and diversity.