What do grad students do? Some of us write, some of us teach, most of us don’t sleep, all of us eat. For Astronomy PhD student Chat Hull and his friend Yogesh Surendranath, a Chemistry postdoctoral fellow, eating at every single Indian restaurant in Berkeley and writing about it is high on the priority list.
Berkeley has no shortage of Indian restaurants for the duo to review. “We stay within the city limit”, said Surendranath. Their blog, Masala Chaat, has been regularly updated for roughly a year. When I meet them in the office, they seem like the normal physicists: friendly, calm and full of physics. When I joined them in a trip to Bombay Cuisine, the restaurant-reviewing mode was turned on full-force. The inner comedians were revealed.
In their blog posts about each dining experience, they take notes from the smallest detail in the surroundings, such as the film of grease on the wall mirrors, to the viscosity of the mango lassi. They have a couple of “eigendishes”, items that they always order after reaching the conclusion that these dishes best reflect the skill of the chef. They tell stories of glass shards in their food and how the owner reacted “with little remorse”.
When asked “why Indian restaurants?”, Hull and Surendranath looked at each other, “Did we ever have anything non-Indian together?” The answer was “Maybe a coffee?”. They’ve been friends since college. During the lifetime of the blog Masala Chaat, some restaurants were closed down and others opened, and Hull made sure to update Google on those listings.
Now nearing the end of their quest, with fewer than 5 restaurants remain, Hull and Surendranath are considering expanding the scope to the East Coast, as Surendranath will soon start his professorship at MIT.