I am sad to say that up until my 18th year on this planet, I had never eaten Indian food. This is not to say I did not have Indian friends - quite the contrary - so I really have no excuse. It wasn't as popular as it is now, and I suppose I just thought I wouldn't like it. Then came the epiphany. Only a few days into my college experience, I was dragged my new pal from Vermont to the local Indian joint. Needless to say, I was pissed I'd waited so long, and now it is one of my most favorite cuisines. What I didn't know, however, was that North and South Indian food are two very different things. I was totally sold on the roti and curries (aloo gobi....mmmmm.....) of Northern India, but had no idea about the world's most perfect food: The Dosa.
Even upon moving to SF, a pretty culturally diverse place, at least in terms of food, I was still unexposed to South Indian cooking. This is truly a disgrace considering I moved here to be with my boyfriend (now husband) who's entire family is from Madras, in Southern India. In fact, there is a large South Indian population in the bay area, but up until recently, all the South Indian eateries were in the South or East Bay - none in SF. Then along came Dosa. At first, it got some pretty bad reviews for being slightly more Californian than Indian, and it does have a CA twist to it, but all my friends and my husband love it. Only a few months ago, Udupi opened an outpost only one block away for those wanting the more traditional (read: no frills) fare. We love Udupi too (hell, they catered our wedding) but when in the neighborhood, Dosa always wins. Maybe it's the more cosmopolitan ambiance, the high ceilings and orange walls, or maybe it's the fact that they serve one of my favorite wines (Sula Chenin Blanc), but really I think it's just the food.
To start, they have the best salad in the city: The organic greens with mango and walnuts in a sweet cilantro dressing. Vegans, just ask for it without the goat cheese. And that brings me to another thing I love about this place. Mention you're vegan and your knowledgeable server will tell you everything that you can eat or that can be modified. This way you can get your masala dosa sans ghee. Speaking of which, you must get at least one of the namesake items while here. In India, dosas are breakfast food, but you won't care what time it is once you try one - like a giant burrito, but with a paper-thin tortilla, these savory wonders are filled with light and fluffy potatoes and spices. That gives you your basic masala dosa. Add-ons are encouraged, but I like it plain and simple. No matter what you choose, your dosa is served up with rasam (a smoky tomato/lentil soup) and two chutneys - coconut and tomato - both of which are vegan. I always leave Dosa feeling like I just had the perfect meal, and last night was no exception.
Last night was exceptional, however, in that I ordered dessert. I never have here, as I'm usually quite full, but it had been a long day, and my dining companions were all about it, so I tried the Deep Chocolate Vegan Sorbet. OMG. "Deep chocolate" doesn't even being to explain how chocolate-y this is. I loved it so much and all the people I shared with agreed. It was amazing.
For me, Dosa is a look into my husband's dining ancestry, a reminder of our own trip to Southern India 2 years ago, and a simply divine culinary experience every time. I recommend you try it soon. Here are some pictures: My salad, my dosa, the sorbet, and my tattoo which reads "vegetarian" in Tamil, my husband's family's language, just to prove my dedication. :)