Struck by a humble South Indian restaurant

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name
Dosa’s corner
Site
110-8248 Fraser Street, Vancouver
Telephone
604-324-3672
Price
Appetizers, $ 2.99 to $ 8.50; sector, $ 4.95 to $ 11.95
Food
South India
Rating system
casual dinner
Additional information
Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (noon on weekends) from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. reservations only for large groups; take out available.

Dosa Corner might be a humble hole in the wall, but it feels exotic. Sitting at a heavy dark wood table, we watch a parade of women slide down the parking lot, hot pink and yellow sarees fluttering in the wind. They make their way to an adjacent banquet hall, which lends a flashy opulence to this otherwise run down mall with its blazing chandeliers on the balcony.

Inside the clean, ceramic-tiled restaurant, a man dines solo with spoons of rice at his fingertips while a mischievous young boy peeks under his mother’s arm and makes faces. On the television screen, a soap-opera seductress with long crimson talons kisses her reluctant suitor. “But it’s so easy to love,” plead the subtitles.

Indeed. Dosa Corner won me over.

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This South Indian take is a rarity – not just here in Vancouver’s Sunset-Punjabi Market, but across the Lower Mainland, where most restaurants specialize in northern tikka, tandoori and chaat cuisines. India.

Owned by Selvam Mariappan, originally from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, Dosa Corner celebrated its first anniversary this week. Before moving to Vancouver, the friendly owner ran a similar restaurant in Surrey called Dosa Grill for seven years.

“It’s spicy,” the waiter gently warns when we order a Mysore masala dosa. Just the way we like it.

Dosas are massive pancakes made from fermented rice dough and lentils. They are toasted until golden and crisp on one side, slightly spongy on the other. They are either rolled in a long tube or folded like a giant napkin around meat and vegetable fillings. (Contrary to popular perception, not all South Indians are vegetarians.)

Masalas are basic, freshly roasted and ground spice blends that vary by region. Dosa Corner uses a blend of southern-style pepper, cardamom, cumin, fennel and cilantro to fry the garnish of chopped onions and boiled potatoes.

Because this masala dosa is typical of Mysore, a town southwest of Bangalore, one side of the pancake is coated with a thick paste of red chili with coconut and ginger. It is folded (just like the spinach masala dosa) because the dough is too heavy and wet to roll.

We dig and tear, dipping the pieces in freshly grated coconut and spicy tomato chutneys served as an accompaniment. Dosas are also served with sambar, a watery lentil stew. Compared to chutneys, this one tastes a bit bland. If you order a dosa in combo, it comes with an idli (steamed rice cake) and a vada (savory donut).

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The dosa is not that spicy. It’s not as spicy as Pepper Fried Chicken, which has a hot bite. French fries (which refers to the roasted black pepper that the chicken is rubbed with, not the cooking method) is often served as semi-dry chunks to snack on as a pub snack. Here it comes in a creamy sauce sprinkled with fresh green curry leaves, ginger, garlic, tomato, translucent onions and a glorious touch of cracked black pepper. Basmati rice, soaked in water before boiling, is perfectly loose and chewy. Naan bread doesn’t have the bubbled char that comes from a tandoori oven (tandoori are only used in the north), but it is deliciously smooth with butter ghee.

Another must-try dish is biryani, a slow-cooked pot of rice. In the south, the meat is slowly simmered in a spicy sauce before adding the rice. We had goat. (The owner highly recommends the lamb.) It comes out of the oven after 40 minutes. The rice sparkles with butter. And while the dish is already very chewy, there is an extra sauce on the side, a dark and aromatic brown sauce deeply infused with cinnamon, bay leaf, fennel seeds, onions and ginger.

Dosa Corner also offers a children’s menu and a small selection of beers and wines. Although the lonely waitress is warm and lovely, she is visibly overworked.

In a corner, a man snaps his fingers to get her attention. Another customer comes back from his car waving his take-out bag. “Is there rice in there?”

We? We don’t mind dwelling on a scattered mess of dirty plates. We’re too busy fainting.


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