this one has been long on my bucket list. Z actually ate there on his last trip to San Francisco and we were able to go this time too. We jumped in a cab and headed out from our hotel. Dosa was about 15 or 20 minutes up and down San Francisco’s famous hills until we pulled up at the restaurant. I doubt we looked local but as we walked in a guy asked us for directions. We walked in and were seated at a little table up in the balcony area right away. Sadly, our server didn’t know we were there and that caused a little confusion but they got it straightened out and we began to wind our way through the South Indian menu. A small bowl of papadums was delivered for us to munch on with our drinks. Papadums are sort of most typically a thin cracker that is made of lentil, chickpea or black gram flour and they have a savory flavor. Z ordered a smooth and refreshing mango lassi while I ordered a ‘spice route’ gin & tonic from their specialty cocktail menu that included a house-made tonic flavored with fig and cardamom. It had a beautiful saffron glow in the bottom of the glass and was rather dry and refreshing. The mango lassi is amazing with the tart cooling yogurt on your tongue after you consume fires of chutney.
We decided to share small plates in order to taste the most flavors and I was so glad that we did. We started with crispy fish pakoras. The fish was sustainably caught, marinated in cumin, chile, ginger and garlic-then fried. It was served with a a hot chutney and a sweet onion chutney. Let me tell you something right now. The chutneys in South India’s cuisine are out of this world! Each one unique and amazing, full of flavor. You want to just keep dipping and eating them. They develop so much curiousity on your palate. Our next plate had two samosas, one ‘North’ and one ‘South’-one filled with vegetables and one with potatoes but the chutneys! Oh-one spicy with habaneros and one sweeter. The third small plate was full of idli with cilantro chutney. Idli are normally steamed cakes made of rice and black gram paste but these were more than that. Cut into slices and fried and then dusted with spices. I wanted to keep tasting them. We also had to have a dosa. A dosa is a huge crepe like pancake made of fermented lentils and stuffed. Ours was smeared with spicy basil, curry leaves, cashews, shallots, chile and ginger and filled with a mound of masala (spiced mashed potatoes). You eat it by breaking off a piece, dipping it in this delicious sambar (lentil dipping soup) and then into chutneys. Oh man. It was amazing. So much flavor. It was a really exciting meal. I am in love with this food and can’t wait to try it again and again!
*a little side note if you are looking for a good read that I need to pull out of my bookcases. Monsoon Diary: A Memoir With Recipes by Shoba Narayan is a great detailed food memoir about life in Chennai India. I read it alongside the first Indian meal I ever cooked, and likely one of the first I ever ate, about 8 or 9 years ago. I would recommend it highly.