Sauce Magazine - 2011 Readers' Choice
RFT - Best of St. Louis Winner 2009
River Front Times 3/12/2009
St. Louis Post Dispatch 04/05/2006
St. Louis Post Dispatch 06/16/2005
River Front Times 10/27/2004
St. Louis Post Dispatch 03/06/2003
Sauce Magazine - 2011 Readers' Choice Winners
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Gokul Snacks & Sweets
Vegetarian restaurant: Why, after all these years, can the phrase continue to conjure such unappetizing images of bland food? Break that cycle with the delightful Indian buffet and takeout at Gokul, where the main ingredients are love and butter. So much butter. What highlights the perfect textural contrasts in the food here, from the snapping cashews and smooth, dense root vegetables in velvety navratan korma to the fluffy, oven-browned naan? Butter. What makes the bright tomato base of muttar paneer rich enough to complement the fat green peas and generous cubes of cheese? Butter. For those who seek a purer love, Gokul offers a vegan dinner buffet on the first Monday of every month.
A Table for How Many? at Gokul
By Stefani Pollack in A Table for How Many?, Restaurant News & Reviews
Thu., Mar. 12 2009 @ 3:29PM
Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences for Gut Check.
When 12 Turns Into 22
When I called to make a reservation for dinner at Gokul, I asked about bringing a party of twelve. The person to whom I spoke expected a full house that night but was happy to accommodate our large party.
As soon as we announced the location, the reservations started rolling in. I could see right away that we would exceed twelve. After my husband sent out a reminder encouraging people to RSVP, we had a final count of seventeen. "It won't be a problem," said the nice man who recorded the updated number.
When we showed up, there was a big table set up for us -- big enough for seventeen. Then a new member who had RSVP'd for one showed up with his mother and child. Minutes later, I turned around and noticed two others who hadn't RSVP'd. "Eeek!"
The motto of our group is the cliché, "The more the merrier." We didn't want to turn people away, but if everyone else showed up, there clearly would be a problem.
As the rule-abiding RVSPers arrived, the restaurant added chairs to our table, and we all squished in, elbow to elbow. Since the restaurant was full, there was no way to add another table, though our server gladly added an extra table later in the evening after an adjacent party headed home.
Would we turn people away next time? We'll continue to try not to do so. Even though we were on top of each other, everyone enjoyed seeing new faces. Some even said that the proximity made the meal more intimate.
(Does anyone have any tips on how to encourage group members to RSVP?)
Buffet Is Best
You can't beat a buffet for a group dining experience. It's so easy! People can get up and grab food whenever they are ready to eat. Separate checks are a breeze since everyone owes the same amount. The problem with buffet dining is that most dinner buffet options in St. Louis are bad. Go ahead: Try to convince me that any of those mega Chinese buffet places serve food that I want to eat.
Then again, don't bother.
Gokul, however, is a different story. They have an Indian dinner buffet every night, but it goes vegan on the first Monday of every month, which happens to be one of the nights that our group goes out. I wondered whether people would even show up for a vegan buffet -- only one person in the core group is even a vegetarian. But as you can see from the count above, people did not shy away from vegan cuisine.
I heard few complaints and tons of compliments about the fare at Gokul. A few lamented the lack of butter on the naan and the lack of chicken tikka masala, but that just goes along with the territory. Also, one member said that he was going to head home and cook some meat for himself because no meal is complete without it. Of course, this same member doesn't like any fruit -- not a single kind. We're lucky he even came.
Should You Go to Gokul?
Go, go, go! Go for an easy buffet experience with your group without sacrificing food quality. Go for the cheesy Bollywood movie that plays on the wall, sure to provide table conversation if there is a lull. Go on the first Monday of the month for the full vegan experience.
A La Carte
BRING THE HEAT: This is how we resolve to break a sweat this year: the spicy, scrumptious mirchi bhajia appetizer at GOKUL SNACKS & SWEETS. A pair of huge banana peppers are packed with potato, garlic and ginger, then dipped in spiced chickpea batter and deep-fried. Served piping hot with sweet tamarind and cool cilantro chutneys, it's Indian fast food at it's fierce.
10633 Page Ave. • Olivette • 314.428.8888
Gokul Indian Restaurant
By Judith Evans
POST-DISPATCH FOOD EDITOR
You easily can find almost any fast-food chain restaurant on the stretch of Page Avenue that runs from Woodson Avenue to Lindbergh Boulevard, but if you look a little harder, you can find a nice variety of good ethnic food, too.
I've enjoyed the Vietnamese food at VN Cafe and Mexican food from Las Palmas. Last week, I popped into Gokul for a few minutes and left with a lovely Indian meal.
Everything on the menu is vegetarian, which is not to say the menu is limited or small. As I studied the dozens of listings, I mentioned that I wanted dinner for two. The order-taker promptly suggested saag paneer ($8.99) and vegetable korma ($8.99), which both come with rice. As accompaniments I ordered two flatbreads, regular naan ($1.50) and onion kulcha ($2.99).
That was plenty of food - in fact, we had leftovers - so I saved the samosas (filled savory pastries), chhole bhature (spiced chickpeas with sourdough fry bread) and other enticing choices for another day.
All of the food arrived home hot and appealing. The breads were wrapped in foil; at least 4 cups of rice filled a large plastic-foam tray.
Each entree was packed into a 16-ounce foam cup with a plastic lid.
Both breads were good, but the kulcha was a standout. It was filled with squares of sauteed onions and sparked with a bit of spice.
The long-grain basmati rice was cooked to perfection, each grain separate. It was speckled with yellow from saffron and got additional flavor from tiny cumin seeds.
Saag paneer is a creamy spinach-based dish with chunks of homemade cheese. It was rich and subtly flavored with a combination of spices.
The korma included chunks of cauliflower and sweet potato, lima beans, green peas and other vegetables in a creamy tomato sauce studded with a few cashew halves. Golden raisins added a surprising and delicious burst of sweetness.
Gokul is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and has a lunch buffet for $6.99 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Gokul Indian Restaurant
By Kiwi Carlisle
Special to the Post-Dispatch
We had spent a long day in the open air and were starving, so when I suggested Indian food, all eyes brightened. Even the Indian-food novices said they'd put themselves in my hands and eat whatever I suggested, and off we went to Gokul Indian Restaurant. I thought that the confirmed carnivore would blench when the menu turned out to be 100 percent vegetarian, but no, he simply scanned the menu and ordered his favorite meatless dish.
As he later pointed out, Indian vegetarian food is never bland and boring, as many Western veggie cuisines tend to be. Often, the vegetarian section of an Indian menu has the most interesting dishes and is generally where the seasonal specials are to be found. Dishes that sound flat and uninteresting without meat turn out to be so subtly (or wildly) spiced that they stand on their own.
At first glance, Gokul might seem a bit intimidating to those used to a standard Indian restaurant. It's laid out like the "snack shops" one encounters in Chicago and other cities with big Indian populations, with a bakery case piled with Indian specialties and a board covered with the names of dishes without any descriptions. Fortunately, the menu itself features good descriptions, and the staff is helpful.
Much of the food is ordered to go, and you'll need to place your own order at the counter. There's a big decanter of water with plastic cups next to it, and you may need a few refills during the meal, depending on your heat tolerance.
The food here is in the style of northern and western India, which includes the delicate rice dumplings called idli and many dishes made with homemade fresh cheese. The samosas ($2.99), spiced potato and pea turnovers, are big and tasty here. We also tried an order of Delhi's chaat ($3.99), also known as "Indian nachos." These are wheat tortilla shells topped with boiled potatoes, onions, chickpeas, tamarind sauce, chutney and yogurt sauce. It's a nice dish, but eat it quickly, before the tortillas go limp!
Aloo gobi ($8.99) is a wonderful blend of cauliflower and onions with tomatoes, ginger garlic, herbs and spices, served over rice - an outstanding rendition of this classic dish. Channa masala ($8.99) is good here, too, with its garbanzo beans simmered in tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices. Spinach lovers will enjoy the saag paneer ($8.99), fresh spinach cooked with cubes of homemade cheese in a cream sauce.
We'd ordered a vegetable biryani, with the usual veggies, nuts and dried fruit, but ended up with masala biryani instead - a happy accident. Masala biryani ($7.99) is a wonderful blend of basmati rice, mixed vegetables and hot spices. It's an exciting change of pace.
If you're totally undecided or want an introduction to this kind of food, try a Gokul special thali, which will easily feed two for $10.99. You get one naan or two puris, three vegetables, daal, rice, two pieces of vegetable pakora (fritters), an appetizer, the dessert of the day, the crispy bread called papardum, pickles and the yogurt and cucumber sauce called raita.
Gokul prepares nine kinds of bread. Their soft, chewy garlic naan ($2.50) is delicious, as is their fried whole-wheat puri bread ($1.99), which has a texture much like a croissant. There are the usual desserts, including the golden mild pastry balls called gulab jamun ($1.99), served in rose-water syrup, and my favorite, the delicious rice pudding kheer ($2.99).
Bring an adventurous palate to these great spots, and your inner cheapskate will thank you
By Rose Martelli
Published: October 27, 2004
... Similar impressions apply to two-year-old Gokul Snacks and Sweets, St. Louis' sole "Indian fast food" joint. Sharing a boxlike building with a check-cashing joint amid a fog of strip malls and gas stations in Overland, Gokul is exotic, healthy, vegan, cheap and very, very good. Unlike typical Indian restaurants, which are often laden with ornamentation and ethnic embellishments (sometimes even Christmas lights), the only visual cue toward Gokul's ancestry is the food. There's a utilitarian vibe to the place that makes it feel like an office kitchen, with its counter service, plastic baskets of utensils and napkins, the serve-yourself water cooler and compartmentalized foam trays for plates. At lunch, Gokul goes the way of many Indian eateries and offers an all-you-can-eat buffet. Dinner is à la carte and takeout is encouraged; in fact, the Indians even have a word, tiffin , that means "box dinner." Gokul's includes naan, two vegetable dishes, basmati rice, daal (lentils simmered with vegetables) and dessert.
Gokul's naan and basmati rice -- staples not just of the menu and buffet, but of Indian food in general -- are fantastic. The naan tastes, surprisingly and happily, like pizza crust: chewy and moist, almost to the point of being doughy, and simultaneously salty and sweet. The basmati rice, sticks of cinnamon jutting out of it like tree trunks, is perfectly soft and loose, studded with lovely, plump green peas. The menu is strictly meatless. (There's a sticker on the counter that reads, "Be kind to animals. Don't eat them.") Perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid here is that everything is so flavorful and hearty -- korma made with nine kinds of vegetables, crisp pakora (fried morsels of spinach and ground chickpeas), three dishes made with the tofu-like cheese paneer -- that the most diehard carnivore will be hard-pressed to miss the meat.
As at Soy Café, the contents of Gokul's refrigerator case prove most foreign. You wouldn't know it by all the spicy purées that comprise most Indian entrées, but traditional Indian fare includes loads of finger foods (often sold from streetside carts) and tons of sweets. Gokul's house-made mango ice cream, above all, is delectable: creamy like gelato, with a vibrant orange color and strong citrus taste.
To enjoy either of these restaurants, an adventurous palate helps -- but truly, the food is not as peculiar as you might think. If anything, the exploration happens not when eating something unfamiliar for the first time, but when driving somewhere that may not look at first sight like a worthwhile dining destination.
The affordable feast
Alternatives for folks on a budget
Gokul is the place to go for Indian fast food
By Dru Thomas
Special to the Post-Dispatch
From Delhi to Calcutta to Ahmedabad, street vendors sell “chat” (snacks) and “meetha” (sweets) redolent with the seasonings of India 's complex cuisines. Now St. Louis has a source for these treats. A small, deli-like operation called Gokul opened six months ago on Page Boulevard near Warson Road . Billed as St. Louis ' “first and only Indian fast food restaurant,” Gokul offers savory snacks, cookies and sweets, along with a menu of inexpensive vegetarian dishes priced from $2.99 to $7.99.
The little restaurant is named Gokul after the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the Hindu deity. Recipes are North Indian and Gujerati (Gujerat is a state in western India ). While Gokul's small storefront suggest a tidy fast food operation, the wonderful aromas and snacks displays promise food that is much livelier and more exciting. We weren't disappointed.
Gokul's surprisingly extensive menu offers 28 appetizers, light dishes and lunch or dinner options. We sampled Dahi Puri ($3.99), a delightful dish. Seven little puffed shells made with cream of wheat were hollowed out and filled with a mix of chick peas, black lentils, potato and yogurt. The shells were topped with crispy bits of sev, a savory, vermicelli-like snack food, along with a sprinkling of potent chili powder. The result was a wonderful mix of simultaneous sensations – earthy, crunchy, smooth, cool, sweet, salty and hot.
Chhole Bhature ($4.99) was a tasty stew of chick peas and tomato, served with two large, warm bhature (deep-fried flatbread) and fresh chopped onion. The thick stew was seasoned with the Indian spice blend garam masala, and the coriander, cumin, cardamom and cloves created a heady aroma. Methi (fenugreek leaves) added a slightly bitter flavor much like that of kale. Our order of Bataka Vada ($2.99) included two potato balls rolled in whole-wheat flour and deep fried. The coating had a nice, nutty taste, while dense, mashed potato filling was hot with black and red peppers. Spicy cilantro and mint chutneys were served on the side.
Gokul's Paneer Tikka Masala ($7.99) used cubes of a mild, house-made Indian cheese in the classic, tomato-based sauce. This red orange sauce was a standout, though – particularly creamy and smooth, with intense, but not fiery, spices. Caraway seeds added pungent burst of flavor to the accompanying rice.
Our palates were lively with all the contrasting tastes, but we couldn't resist the sweets so colorfully displayed at the counter. We tried saffron cookies and bars of carrot halva; both were dense and delicious, with a delicate sweetness.
The savory snack display offered many shapes and textures, from wafers to shoestring shapes and trail-mix-style choices. The snacks were made from various flours, with spices, herbs, greens, seeds and legumes abounding in the toasted morsels. We left with several small bags of these terrific, spicy and crunchy alternatives to potato chips, pretzels and the like.
The tiny restaurant isn't much to look at. It's located in a small commercial building on the north side of Page. With seating for only 16, it's really more of a carry-out operation. The food makes Gokul special, and the staff is friendly and eager to please.
This surprising little restaurant is a must for Indian food lovers and vegetarians. Our criticisms were minor. Styrofoam is used for serving and packaging food, while a more environmentally friendly choice would be preferable. Also, we would have liked labels with some identification or description at the displays of snacks and sweets. But most importantly, Gokul's food is loaded with appeal. This is a great place to explore Indian dishes and sample delicious snack foods. It's also a bargain.