995 Valencia Street, SF 94110 http://www.dosasf.com
Dosa made quite a sensation when it first opened over a year ago, because it is the only restaurant serving South Indian cuisine in the city. I was compelled to try it out after hearing 2 different people rave about how good it is in the past week…
The interior is a warm orange with green accents, gilt edged mirrors and high ceilings from which glowing retro pendant lamps hang. We got there early without reservations and were quickly seated, and since there were 3 of us, they added an extra seat in the aisle to what really should have been a 2 seat table, so I was constantly bumped from the rear by servers and patrons on their way to the facilities in the back. The dining room quickly filled up and was pretty loud, considering our cozy table, I found myself cupping my ears yelling, what?!! fairly often.
Our waiter was very knowledgeable and patiently guided us through various options, as the menu is long and many of the dishes were unfamiliar territory for us. We were served a plate of ethereally light and crispy poppadom.
The Rasam firebroth soup was deeply satisfying, with a spicy kick, made of tomatoes, tamarind, and lentils, kind of a miso soup on steroids… very tasty
Chickpea salad was zesty and brightly flavored with crunchy chopped purple onions, herbs, tomatoes mixed with piles of garbanzo beans. It was light and a wonderful combination of textures, but very very filling.
Dahi Vada – steamed lentil dumpings under the visually stunning scrollwork of piped tamarind, yogurt (the straus family creamery was prominently displayed in the menu), and mint sauces. As soon as you scoop out a dumpling the intricate design is destroyed, leaving you free to enjoy the combination of flavors: tangy, minty and spicy with the cool sensation of creamy yogurt, against the firm chewy textures of the lentils, each bite was a pleasure.
Potato Croquette was a little bland in both taste and texture and the least interesting dish of the evening. I like a little more contrast in texture and they seemed delicate and plain compared to the other aggressively flavored dishes.
The Masala Dosa arrived resembling a mutant fortune cookie… It was a gigantic crepey thing served with both a coconut and a tomato chutney. I loved the paper thin, crisp on the outside, but slightly chewy consistency of the dosa. I marveled at how it would crack apart into pieces like a creme brulee, but still managed to maintain the thin layer of airy doughy breadyness. My taste buds must have been numbed as I could taste neither coconut nor tomato in either of the chutneys; however, I did continue to dip away…
a fiery slightly sweet sambar was also served to accompany the dosa for further dipping.
The dosa was stuffed (just in the center) with a dense filling of spiced potatoes and cashew nuts
Our last dish was the Channa Bathura, a mild garbanzo curry whose spices ignited my taste buds with slow heat and was very addictive
served with a bhatura, which is a gorgeously puffed pillow of fried bread, that you pull apart and dunk into the curry.
Hmmm, in retrospect, it looks like we had a vegetarian meal! In future visits, I will not order more than one chickpea or potato dish as they are very filling! Because of this unfortunate miscalculation, we didn’t order anything from the dessert menu, which just means that I will have to go back, as there were many interesting looking items.
My one complaint is that the lock in the woman’s restroom is not secure. I was seated and helplessly watched as someone kept jerking the door handle until the lock popped out and the door flew open (to my extreme mortification)! I wrote them an email and received a prompt response that they had already fixed the problem (this was the next day, but on a subsequent visit I noticed the fix was a small sign to knock first).
Pricewise it was very reasonable, we paid $42 each which included 2 drinks each. This place rocks, go there and enjoy. The preparation has a light and fresh approach, they use organic ingredients and local produce – and those dosas are just heavenly.