Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

Daily Dosa

November 17, 2009

Without a hint of the mad Bollywood-set lighting and billowing spice market-hued fabrics of Chakra and none of the casual hipness of a longtime take-out standard like Nikki’sDosa Place has more than managed as the homely sister by catering weddings and hawking a  serviceable lunch buffet to hungry Indian crowds looking for a lunchtime replacement of mom’s sambar in its dark strip mall cavern on Red Hill.

Its newly-opened second location is painted conservative gold and burgundy in its former steakhouse digs minus the booths and plus sleek black scrim-like shades and  heavy tasselled drapes. Is it cool? Not by a long shot. The handsome dark woods and 3-D paintings of Indian scenes give it a respectable if faintly matronly air: somewhere you’d take your co-workers, or grandma visiting from Kerala. Utilitarian and budget friendly, the steam table lunch buffet is also pushed here.  But the reason I love this place has nothing to do with décor or all-you-can-eat tandoori chicken. Dosa’s hidden charms are found on the regular menu. 

Mysore Madness!

Start with the Mysore Masala Dosa, a lentil batter crepe the size of the LA Times, its crackling golden brown paper-thin layers spiked with an incendiary blend of crushed udad dal, red pepper and tamarind swaddling a thick smear of curried whipped potato filling.  You’ll have to completely dismantle the thing to dip it in the soothing side of coriander and coconut-spiked sambar, or you can just spoon it on. A paneer dosa on another day didn’t have the same papery crispness or the promised spiciness as denoted by a chili pepper icon on the menu, even with the side of red curry. Sort of like a benign, flaccid Indian quesadilla.

If chapter four of Skinny Bitch grossed you out with its descriptions of factory farming and scared you into becoming an ambivalent-but- fabulously-emaciated vegetarian, you would get along great here because half the menu is meatless. This fact won’t occur to most omnivores thanks to vegetable dishes as complex and multifaceted as Hindu deities. Okra is doused with mustard seed onion  and   tomato,  perfumed with garlic and ginger paste, laden with aromatic curry leaves and fried with tiny lentils resulting in a surprising nutty crunch. Try the Baighan Baratha. The tandoor renders the eggplant velvety and it oozes with flavors of tomato, onion, chilies and a masala mixture too exhaustive for my poor server to recite. 

 Animal dishes rate high with me; smoldering rivers of viscous red curry studded with tender hunks of lamb,  fiery tamarind-based catfish curry with notes of red chili and jalapeños and chicken tikka masala as good as any around. On to our discussion of local Indian food, our waiter told us he had worked for twelve Indian restaurants and this was the best by far. “I believe in Karma.” he said. So do I.  

Dosa Place 17245 Seventeenth St. Tustin 714.508.7788. Dinner for two, $40.00, food only.