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Dosa on Fillmore

Double the Dosa

There’s a hoppin’ new Dosa location recently opened on Fillmore in Japantown. And not only is the new location ideal for delicious pre-movie (or pre-Fillmore) eats, but the actual setting itself is large and lovely with high ceilings, a full bar with creative cocktails, and interior touches that meld Indian aesthetics with innovative urban design indicative of its Bay Area setting.

If you’re already a fan of owner Emily and Anjan Mitra’s South Indian cuisine found at the Dosa on Valencia, you’ll find all your favorites -- and then some -- at the new location. The menu includes Executive Chef Senthil Kumar’s great tasting menu, a half-page selection of dosas, as well as an expanded offering of meat and fish entrees. Also, the new location is open late and they’re offering a daily brunch/lunch menu.

Despite a Monday night and only being opened for a few months, on our first visit we found the dining room packed. Fortunately, the space -- with its airy floor-to-ceiling windows and a small loft-like area in the back -- is large enough to hold many diners. And the huge bar invites an exploration of their many cocktail offerings (we enjoyed the playful cricket-inspired names for a few of the cocktails, such as the “Batsman” and the “Bowler” with ingredients such as the tempting “hell flower” or the “spanked curry leaf”).

For our meal, we ordered a few starters, a soup, a dosa and an entrée to share. First, the Bhel Puri -- a salad made with crunchy green mango, chick peas, crispy puffed rice, potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro and onion and a combination of spicy and sweet chutneys ($8). The flavors are surprising combinations of tart and sweet with a bit of a crispy texture -- delicious.

We weren’t as taken with our other starter, the Dahi Vada ($9), though this may have been more of a matter of taste. A bowl with lentil dumplings hidden within layers of tart Strauss yogurt, tamarind and mint, this dish looked like a pretty seven-layer dip and was considered a tad heavy to one diner, though another loved the cool, refreshing flavors and felt it offered a nice balance to other spicier dishes.

Which brings us to the much-loved, and very flavorful, Rasam “Fire Broth” ($4). Served in a cup, and meant for sipping (similar to a miso soup), this broth is vegan and incredibly rich and satisfying -- a great start to a meal. The spice of the Rasam definitely acted as a lovely counterbalance to the cool yogurt in the Dahi Vada.

We also ordered the Chutney Masala dosa ($11). But first, for the uninitiated, a little background on Dosa’s namesake dish: the dosa itself is traditionally considered chaat, or Indian street food (so if you’re into spicy down-home cooking, this is your dish). Comprised of a large crisp crepe and filled with vegetables, chutney, nuts and spices, the dosa is typically served with sambar, or a spicy “dipping-soup,” made with lentils and vegetables. And, um, dosas are HUGE and very filling.

Our Chutney Masala dosa arrived steaming hot and draped luxuriously over our platter with a few sides of chutney. Inside were spiced vegetables and a fine layer of baby eggplant. Our sambar had flavors similar to the Rasam broth, except it was chunkier and maybe a tad sweeter. Piping hot and seductive, we couldn’t get enough of the sambar and we loved the open invitation to sop our soup using our crispy dosa.

For our entrée we tried the Kerala Fish Moilee served with a side of coconut rice ($26). The fish arrived in large chunks dressed with the coconut sauce, made with coriander, cumin, mustard seeds and fresh chiles. The fish and sauce were delicious, and perfectly prepared, but definitely rich and the fish looked slightly drowned by the creamy sauce.

Indian sweets might be an acquired taste -- they’re known to give you a quick toothache. Nevertheless, for dessert we tried the Gulab Jamoon ($5) -- a few “milk-dough” balls served in a cardamom-flavored syrup. Fans of cardamom, we found this dish unusual, tasty and, yes, very sweet.

We were surprised to find that though Dosa’s setting made us feel fancy, they actually offer a pretty malleable dining experience -- upscale, lunch, late night -- and it was even a great setting for a recession-friendly meal that left our tastebuds whistling and our pocketbook full. The new Dosa on Fillmore is a great addition to the neighborhood and a major coup for all Dosa denizens.

Southern Indian

Reservations needed? Yes.