Five Dosas in Five Days

dosa croppedAs missions go, it was a delicious one: Five dosas in five days. I happen to love dosas—crispy Indian crepes with savory fillings—and I was thrilled when Dosateria by Café Spice opened inside Whole Foods Market Tribeca. But was I at risk of enjoying too much of a good thing? Of overdosa-ing?

dosateria counter cropDAY ONE
I had been to Dosateria when it opened, of course, so I approached the restaurant—right in the middle of the store, next to the sushi counter—with little trepidation. Before I even looked up at the menu, a smiling staffer with a clipboard asked if she could help. As someone who prides himself on his ability to decide quickly, especially if people are waiting behind me. I quickly ordered Signature dosa #1, a.k.a. The Classic. How can you go wrong with anything called The Classic? It sure beat a recent suburban visit to Chili’s, when I found myself ordering The Oldtimer.

The staffer wrote down my order and my name, handed me a copy, and I paid at the counter. (FYI: You can buy up to five items of Whole Foods merchandise at the Dosateria counter as long as none require weighing.) If you’re dining in, you take a seat at the counter and they’ll bring you your meal, a glass of water, and utensils.

dosateria dosaDosas qualify as comfort food, and The Classic is even more so. It’s filled with smashed turmeric potatoes and served with green chili coconut chutney and a cup of sambar, a spicy vegetable soup. On a freezing day, The Classic was heaven: The potatoes were warming and filling, neither bland nor too spicy. I had also chosen the regular dosa batter (instead of the whole wheat); dosas, if you’ve never had one, are a bit tangy—like sourdough bread—because they’re made from white rice and lentils that have been ground and fermented. My dad, who lives for sourdough and complains that no one outside of California does it right, still rapturously recalls his first dosa, which he had while visiting here about 10 years ago.

When I left, I asked whether next time I could substitute a different chutney. I happen to love all chutneys, and I want to try as many as possible. The answer was yes.

Dosateria menu entreesDAY TWO
This time, I looked at the Dosateria menu online first (click to enlarge). I don’t suppose I needed to, given that I was having breakfast, and there are only three items on the breakfast menu (served all day). I went for the Breakfast Dosa, and not just because it was #1. It sounded perfect: “Filled with egg, sautéed spinach, spiced hash browns, and Jack cheese, served with your choice of chutney.” Tomato mustard chutney, in my case.

IMG_3352At first, I thought they had forgotten the egg, but I had simply overlooked it: The egg is beaten, then poured all over the dosa batter, so it’s practically cooked into it. I wondered if this wasn’t a new way to get kids to eat eggs. The whole Dosateria menu is kid-friendly, I should mention: 1) Who doesn’t like what its essentially a big pancake? 2) There’s a kids’ menu of cone-shaped dosas—see the photo above—with simpler fillings. 3) In the middle of a supermarket, your child’s behavior won’t offend anyone.

I have long struggled with how to eat dosas. Dosateria workers’ T-shirts say “Eat with your hands” on the back, but because dosas are so big and crispy, they’re not as structurally sound as, say, a burrito. Cutting off pieces, however, just isn’t quite as gratifying—but then I’m the kind of person who would always prefer to skip the knife and fork. My advice is to slice the dosa in half, then pick up one half at a time, eating from the cut end.

dosateria bombay frankieDAY 3
I had lunch plans with a friend, so I asked if he’d like to join me at Dosateria. (“Sure,” he replied. “I’ll come to south Tribeca for you!” Northwest Tribecans can be such snobs.) He’s a vegetarian, so I knew he’d have plenty of choices. He ordered the Jai Ho dosa (spinach, vegetable medley, and Jack cheese), while I went a little rogue, building my own Bombay Frankie—a flatbread wrap—with coconut shrimp, spinach, and wasabi avocado chutney. I also got a mango lassi. Lassis are yogurt-based drinks, and Dosateria has various flavors in its refrigerated case. I’d suggest that you check the ingredients, because you may not enjoy the cardamom kick of the mango lassi as much as I did.

Whole Foods can get a bit manic at lunchtime, but the Dosateria counter feels removed from the hubbub—we had no trouble having a nice, long conversation. You could also take your order upstairs or to the counter along the Warren Street windows—Dosateria packages to-go dosas in pizza boxes. The Bombay Frankie, because it’s more compact, would travel particularly well.

They say don’t go shopping when you’re hungry, but sometimes the act of shopping makes you hungry—in which case, like me, you might end ordering more food than you’ll possibly need.

Dosateria dealdosateria boxDosateria has a new special: On weekdays after 3 p.m. and all day on weekends, order two Signature dosas and you’ll get a third for free. Consequently, Adam and I had a dosa binge for an early dinner. I brought home the Bollywood Chicken (chili chicken meatballs, roasted onions, queso fresco, and avocado, with wasabi avocado chutney); the Om Shanti n’ Egg (Jack cheese, fried eggs, fire-roasted red peppers, and avocado, with tomato mustard chutney); and the Good Karma (whole-grain dosa with stir-fried tofu masala and fire-roasted red peppers, with green chili coconut chutney). The chicken meatballs (or koftas) were a delight, moist and delicious, and that dosa could have possibly fed two it was so overstuffed. The Om Shanti had that flat-fried egg thing going on again, which I have come to love. But the tofu dosa was the real surprise: It was the most assertively spicy dosa so far. The whole grain crepe was more substantial than the regular kind, and it reminded me that next time my niece comes to New York City I need to bring her to Dosateria, because regular dosas are gluten-free.

Because one dosa was free, the meal cost just $22.76—and we were stuffed. Also, the dosas traveled remarkably well. I live on Broadway, and not only were the dosas still hot (on a chilly night), they were still crispy, too.

IMG_3391DAY 5
For my final dosa day, I ordered the Asparagus Uttapam, which is close enough to a dosa that I figured it was acceptable. An uttapam is a dosa that’s left unfolded, with toppings scattered atop the uncrispy side as if it were a pizza. After I ordered, the staff realized they were out of asparagus, so they suggested I try the Breakfast Uttapam instead. It involved egg—this time fried separately and cut into pieces—Jack cheese, red peppers, and roasted onions, with tomato mustard chutney. (As I was eating my lunch, I saw that they went and bought some asparagus, which I was happy to see because hello! We were in a supermarket!) The uttapam crepe was thicker than in a dosa, so the meal felt heftier. I treated it like a pizza, cutting it into triangular slices and folding them in half. You don’t have to tell me twice to eat with my hands.

I also picked up two potato samosas, packaged in a plastic cup in the refrigerated case. I’m not above eating something cold, but fried food wants to be hot, so I took them home and stuck them in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. They were really good, with a zesty spiciness that snuck up on me. Two of those and an apple and that’s lunch.

The one item I didn’t manage to try was a Biryani Bowl, which are bowls of white or brown basmati rice with the same fillings and chutneys you can get in a dosa. Then again, I don’t have lunch plans today….

Dosateria by Café Spice is inside Whole Foods Tribeca, 270 Greenwich St.; 212-349-6555 (ask for Dosateria); It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

all the raj dosaSponsored by Dosateria by Café Spice.


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