KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Lassi Love at Dosa
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Friday, January 06, 2006
Lassi Love at Dosa
I love mango lassis. Thick and cool with the sweet tropical perfume of pureed mango and the tang of creamy yogurt. Just writing about it makes me want to drop everything and go find one. Or perhaps zip down to Farmer Joe's (my local neighborhood market) and purchase the necessary elements to make one. Hmmmmmmmmm.

My ultimate mango lassi, the one I hold in the highest esteem, the one I crave, the one I compare all others to, is from Vik's Chaat Corner. Lined up on refrigerator shelves in too-small paper cups, I always want to order more than one, but by the time I've plowed through my kathi or puri or samosas or dumplings, I sadly have to walk (or is it roll?) away. But I digress, this is not about Vik's.

This is about another mango lassi I discovered at the newly opened Dosa, located on Valencia in the Mission (yes, for those of you wondering, it is in the former Val 21 space). The ever-so-lovely Davina (our newest BABer!) and I decided to sample Dosa's Southern Indian cuisine one recent evening.

The cozy little orange-walled space was hoppin' (a great sign since it was mid-week and the place has only been open for less than a month). We got lucky and snagged a couple of seats at the bar, but no sooner had we started perusing the drinks menu than we were whisked away to our table.

The drink list was interesting and included not only a selection of Indian beers, and the requisite lassis of course, but a variety of wines and cocktails made with soju, a Korean spirit distilled from rice and barley. In fact, they even have a house-infused lychee soju, which I promise to sample on another visit, if I can make it past the lassi. (Oh, and they also offer a soju-laced mango lassi. Interesting.)

But again, I digress. I know you are dying to hear about my lassi. In a word: divine. Either a very close second to Vik's version or perhaps even a tie, but definitely in the same league. (I might have to do a taste test in the very near future, if I can figure out how to make it all the way over the Bay Bridge without slurping it down.)

Lassis in hand, and with a plate of freshly-fried peppery pappadums (which were delicious but made me wish for some chutney), we were finally able to peruse the menu.

Starters range from some interesting salads, like fried paneer and romaine or a lemony chickpea salad, to small plates (chaat) of sambar-doused dumplings and steamed cakes to fried onion pakoras. We opted for the Dahi Vada, two plump lentil dumplings served chilled with spiced yogurt and tamarind sauce (and a green cilantro? chutney). The overall flavor was pretty good, but we found the dumplings to be a little dry and we wished for more tangy-sweet tamarind sauce to offset the savory flavors.

Entrees, as you might have guessed, weigh heavily on the dosa--crisp rice and lentil flour crepes that are slightly tangy from fermentation which are stuffed with a medley of options--with a couple of forays into uttapam (thick, open-faced dosas) and other Southern Indian specialties, such as lamb curry.

We chose the Spring Dosa, which was described as a masala dosa (masala dosas typically have a filling of spicy Indian potatoes, onions, and cashews) with the addition of fresh vegetables. The dosa we ordered was presented quite differently than any other dosa I've had, in three small cylinders that were stuffed full, rather than the bigger-than-your-dog dosas that have more crepe and less filling (granted, I noticed that they did serve the traditional masala dosa in the traditional way). The crepe itself was crisp and sour, just what you'd expect from a proper dosa. The filling, however, threw me off. I suppose when they listed "fresh vegetables" I might have made the leap to mean raw vegetables. The yummy masala component of the dosa was completely lost in a tangle of shredded raw cabbage, carrots, onions, and blanched peas. Not my favorite, but it was saved by the addictively delicious sambar (a lentil dipping soup with mixed--cooked--vegetables and spices) and superb coconut and spicy tomato chutneys which are served with each dosa entree.

We also ordered the "South Indian Moons" uttapam, five small uttapam "pancakes" of the chef's choosing (um, whatever was available in the kitchen?), also served with the yummy sambar and chutneys along with spicy channa (garbanzos), one of my all-time favorite Indian dishes. I've never actually eaten uttapam, so I really didn't have anything to compare them to, but I wasn't in love. The seemed more like thick pancakes with unimpressive fillings, again, saved by the fantastic embellishments.

Stuffed full, we couldn't make it to dessert (really what I wanted was another mango lassi, but I couldn't find room for it!). But I will definitely return to sample the masala dosa, in all it's traditional and simplistic flair, and of course, for more creamy mango lassis.

995 Valencia @ 21st Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Open for dinner only
Closed Monday


Blogger Sam said...

i think the consensus is - it is a good place to go drinking, not eating.

I reviewed it on SFist the other day and came to that conclusion. I'll republish my review on my own blog sometimes next week, i expect.

1/06/2006 4:27 PM

Anonymous Devi Gangadharan said...

Hi Kim - Having grown up eating dosas (my parents are from Tamil Nadu, which is in Southern India), I thought DOSA on Valencia was the real deal and I absolutely loved it. I just wanted to respond to your comment about “embellishments". Dosas and uttapams are not meant to be eaten on their own, so it's a bit unfair to evaluate them WITHOUT their embellishments. It's a bit like serving a hamburger without the patty, a mac without the cheese, a pasta without a sauce...you get my point, the accompaniments are an essential part of the dish. I always top each bite of my dosa with a little chatni and then dip it in the Sambar. Their sambar...oh sweet dancing Shiva!!!...was about the best I've ever had and their chatnis were unbelievable, though a little different from the one's I'm used to. Also, we had a bottle of the Gerwurtzminer, which complimented the food perfectly. Happy feasting! Devi.

1/08/2006 10:36 PM

Blogger Kim Goodfriend said...

Thanks for your comment Devi. Actually, I did not evaluate the dosas or uttapams on their own. As I said in my post, "it was saved by the addictively delicious sambar (a lentil dipping soup with mixed--cooked--vegetables and spices) and superb coconut and spicy tomato chutneys which are served with each dosa entree." I agree that their sambar was very delicious, and that it's an essential part of eating the dosa or uttapam. Glad you enjoyed your meal there.

1/13/2006 5:21 PM


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