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South Indian: thali, dosas?

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  • Deb H. Jan 30, 2001 04:35 PM
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Any recommendations of South Indian restaurants in the area that serve thali, dosas, idli, vada, etc.? I've found that a nearby Indian restaurant (actually inside an *Irish pub* -- Kennedy's Irish Pub & Curry House, 1040 Columbus near Chestnut/Francisco, tel: 415/441-8855) serves specials of traditional masala dosa, idli, and dahi wada with sides of sambar and coconut chutney. The dosas are nice and cripsy at the edges, the idli are freshly steamed, the sambar is subtly tangy with tamarind -- a recommend. Kennedy's is a fun disconnect; the pub section is separate from the restaurant area, but it's all open and the music varies wildly (Billy Holiday one minute, Abba the next).

One caveat: since they do a buffet at lunch, if you order the dosa in the afternoon they'll need extra time to heat up the grill (approx. 25 minutes from time of order to getting the dosa). They warn you when you order that it'll take time, but have always been pretty tickled when I tell them I'll wait. Today I phoned in my lunch order 20 minutes ahead of time, then showed up and had to wait only five minutes for food.

Can anyone recommend other places for dosas, etc.? How about thali meals? I've got fun memories of being served thali on banana leaves at all-you-can-eat places, by waiters who would come by with buckets of rice, big bowls of sambar, chutneys, etc. and ladle out individual servings.

Best,
Deb H.

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  1. Thank you for the report on Curry House...I have been wondering about this place, have walked by and it looks funky/fun. What are idli? There used to be a South Indian in N.B that was good but it closed. Where are your 'fun memories' from? I have not had dosa since L.A.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Anne
      c
      Caitlin McGrath

      Iddli are spongy steamed (I believe) cakes made from lentil flour that you dip into sambar and chutneys; bland on their own, but delicious when they've soaked up the sauces.

      1. re: Anne

        Caitlin writes:
        "Iddli are spongy steamed (I believe) cakes made from lentil flour that you dip into sambar and chutneys; bland on their own, but delicious when they've soaked up the sauces."

        Yes, and there's rice flour mixed in as well, then the whole mixture is fermented with water overnight. Believe this is generally the same dough that's used for vadas & the wrapping of a dosa (correct me if I'm wrong). The natural fermentation gives the thicker, steamed idli a slightly sour taste that's not as obvious in the dosa or vada. That said, I prefer dosas to idlis or vadas. BTW, I've seen idli spelled iddli and iddly -- it's all the same.

        My memories of being served thali on banana leaves are from a trip a while back to South India (Madras, Mysore, Bangalore, Kochi, etc.) and in the Indian area of Singapore. Once the initial confusion of what to do wore off (by watching & imitating), it was a fun, sort of communal way of eating.

        Best,
        Deb H.