Monday, March 22, 2010

Dosa Restaurant in San Francisco

Stylish Surroundings with South Indian Tastes
1700 Fillmore St. (at Post), San Francisco
Near Japantown
PH: 415.441.DOSA
Open for lunch/weekend brunch, Wed.–Sun., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, daily from 5:30 p.m. to midnight
Major credit cards, reservations accepted

I consider myself an adventurous eater, although I generally steer clear of (altogether now!) deep-fried food. I also have favorite cuisines (like Vietnamese and Italian), which means I also have some not-so-favorite (like Mexican and Indian).

But still, I try to be open-minded and will test myself now and then. Such was the case recently when I found myself at Dosa, one of the city’s more popular Indian restaurants. The restaurant specializes in South Indian cuisine and first opened in the Mission District on Valencia Street. It became so popular that they opened a larger and more stylish second location across from the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas on Fillmore.

I went to this location with my friend Janet, who was visiting from out of town. I had given her a few options near her Van Ness Avenue hotel, and by the time we walked through Japantown catching up with each other, we ended up just walking into Dosa.

Dosa’s second location has an expansive dining area and a pretty glitzy bar. Even though we didn’t have reservations, the hostess accommodated us at a table in the alcove area overlooking the bar. This tiny spot looked almost like a second bar area with a counter and a few two-top tables.

Since I don’t usually eat Indian food (not a fan of the multiple spices and the overcooking of meats), I felt overwhelmed by Dosa’s menu. Plus, it didn’t help that the lighting in the restaurant was San Francisco lounge-dark. So Janet relied on our waiter for some recommendations, but unfortunately she also revealed to him that I don’t like deep-fried foods.

This resulted in our waiter giving me the eye (like he was thinking, “um, so why did you come here?”) and responding, “most Indian foods are deep fried.” I kind of found that hard to believe, and I also didn’t like his dismissive tone.

Anywho, we were able to order a few dishes with our waiter’s help. We started out with a dosa since it must be a house specialty given the restaurant gets its name from this South Indian dish. Dosas are crepe-like dishes often filled with creamy potatoes. The menu lists several varieties, but we went with the Roasted Chile and Garlic Masala Dosa ($11.50).

The dosa came out looking like a brown triangular pita pocket accompanied with three types of dipping sauces. It was filled with a potato puree with onions and spicy chutney. We just had to tear into the dosa and ripped ourselves a piece to eat.

It was all kind of difficult to maneuver but I loved the thin crepe exterior and the creamy filling. Janet liked the variety of dipping sauces although one was very spicy. Still, the dosa was my favorite thing of the evening.

Then we had the Spicy Sweet Scallops ($10) as a starter. The scallops came out with a beautiful sear, sitting on two types of sweet and spicy sauce. I thought the scallops were cooked really well and the tangy spicy sauce was enjoyable.

We shared a couple of entrĂ©es, including the South Indian Lamb Kofta (lamb meatballs) with lemon rice ($19.50) and the Spicy Andhra Prawns ($18) with coconut rice. I know it seems like we ordered a lot of dishes with the word “spicy,” but not all of them were spicy hot.

Again, we had awful lighting at Dosa so I feel like my photos do more harm than good so I can’t show you nice shots of our entrees. Instead, here’s my plate with everything I ate.

I really enjoyed the lamb meatballs, which had a tomato and spinach sauce. The meat was tender and the sauce tasted very Italian. The prawns were OK. They were cooked well but both Janet and I agreed that the sauce was a bit clumpy and dry, almost like a paste, so it was an odd texture to eat with the prawns. We both liked the infused rice that accompanied our dishes.

Because the dishes weren’t very large, we still had room for dessert so I ordered the Passion fruit Pudding ($8) while Janet ordered the gelato ($6). I didn’t bother taking a photo of the pudding because it just looked like white jook or congee (the Chinese rice porridge). It had the same texture as jook, but it was sweet with bits of passion fruit. It was nice but it was topped with a stale cookie stick.

Janet’s gelato was cardamom (my favorite) and some kind of chocolate flavor that I forget now. It was also good, but nothing surprising for gelato.

I found Dosa’s club vibe and expansive room to be sophisticated and hip, making it seem like a fun place to return and get a drink at the bar and munch on a dosa. In the end, I think I enjoyed trying the flavors of South Indian although it didn’t necessarily turn me into a lover of Indian food.

Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (Wonderful Dosas)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Dosa on Urbanspoon

Other Fillmore restaurants:
1300 Fillmore: “Soulful Sounds Drift from Every Dish”
Yoshi’s: “Whetting My Appetite of Chef Kamio’s Genius”
Bushi-Tei Bistro: “Does French-Japanese Fusion Work Watered Down?”


Hungry Dog said...

I've been meaning to try Dosa for awhile now...I have a friend who always talks it up. The menu sounds interesting although your waiter doesn't sound that great. Nice review!

Cookie said...

We've been to Dosa a few times when we lived in Pac Heights. It's a great place! I especially remember liking the fried cheese cubes in my salad!

foodhoe said...

The dosa is my favorite dish too, I love that crispy paper thin crepe! The new location looks beautiful, I still haven't been. I think Mr. K would like it.