Dosa Place, Santa Clara report w/ pics
I ended up getting 6 other people to try this with me, I'm the lone chowhound this time. There were a few tables filled on Wed. night. I've seen it busier on the weekends.
Idly (3 pcs) $3.69 - steamed rice & lentil patties served w/ chutney & sambar. Pretty good.
Ginger masala dosa $6.29 - I can't remember if I tried it.
DP Special rava masala dosa -chef's specialty $7.49 - pretty good from the tiny piece I tried.
Kothamalli dosa - $6.29-grounded cilantro mixed w/ specialty spices spreaded over dosa. Hubby liked it fine.
Spinach dosa $6.79 - just some spinach mixed into plain dosa. Just ok, not crispy enough for me. If you want masala (potato mixture) it's an extra .99c Worth the extra cost though.
Mango lassi $2.49 - pretty thick & not too sweet. Good.
We ordered many dishes & our subtotal was $74.55 + 6.15 tax = 80.70 + 11.18 gratuity of 15% = $91.88/7. Hubby & my total was $18 including tip/tax. They take credit cards, though we paid cash.
Worth it to try once.
Separate bathrooms in the back.
There's a location in Fremont: 41043 Fremont Blvd, Fremont 94538
& a Dublin location opening soon (not sure when).
2665 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051
Dosa Place is delightful.
There I was, in Santa Clara at lunchtime and on my way to have a big bowl of naengmyeon, and thinking, 'that's not really what I want right now, is it?'
And I saw Dosa Place, of which I had never heard. So I tried it. It is bright, cheery, and the tables are very clearly numbered.
After going through the long, long menu for a while -- the server twice came by to see if I was ready -- here's what I chose:
Kanjipuram idly, $4.99. Evidently this is a Tamil Nadu way of making idli, with some spices already in the steamed lenticular wonder that is an idli. This dish is marked as 'new' on the menu, which specifies that they are available only Friday-Sunday.
I can't compare these to Dosa Place's regular idli, but I can compare them to idli I've had elsewhere here in the Bay Area and prepared by southern cooks in Mumbai. They were richer tasting, maybe with oil in the batter, and very pretty with their bright yellow sheen and nuts studding the surface, and a delicate, almost pasty texture. I don't know if they were cooked less than usual (certainly less than any other idli I have had). If so, then bravo: I like my idli rare.
The sourness was pronounced -- idli batter needs to be fermented at least overnight. The spicing within the idli, except for the nuts, was simple and subtle, and it disappeared largely when I started dipping into the chutney.
Karuvepillai dosa. $6.29. All the dosas that I saw served at Dosa Place were a golden color, a shine suggesting delectablility, and a nice set of sambal and chutney dishes on top. I asked the server to help me decide between this and the Kothamalli dosa, but I gave it away by admitting that I love curry leaves (Murraya koenigii).
Karuvepillai dosa is described as having "Grounded Curry Leaves mixed with specialty spices". The leaf mixture blends into the dosa, so you aren't slammed with curry leaf flavor, but it is distinctive enough to come through all of the chutneys and wasn't overwhelmed by the sambal.
Sambal was the best I've had, just thick enough that I would describe it as 'like a light pea soup' rather than 'like a broth'. Also, my two bowls were both full of carrots and drumstick (Moringa oleifera), which I happen to adore for both its flavor and its fibrous texture that reminds me of fresh sugar cane or even of chewing on your chopsticks.
The three chutneys were coconut (lightly sweet but more strikingly well spiced); a tomato one with chilies (I have had this kind of chutney often and it tastes to me like what you'd get at a Heinz/McIlhenny wedding if they hired the right caterer). The last chutney was a ginger one that easily won my affection: long on ginger flavor, a little spiciness, and not too sweet.
Incidentally, both the idli (an appetizer) and the dosa (a main) came with the same three chutneys and sambal. Not so good for you if you're a reader who wants to know about the restaurant, but good for me because all three were good chutneys and the sambal was, I thought, outstanding.
The menu really is long. The Web site for the restaurant seems to have languished, or I'd link to it. Like at other south Indian restaurants, there are plenty of vada, pakoda, and other snacklets. Dosa Place has some of them listed as available only in the evenings -- especially fried ones (perhaps the vada are pre-fried). I have never had fried idli, and I can't wait for my next visit to discover them.
There are menu sections for rice, bread, "LowCal", dosas, and utappham. 35 dosa variations. 8 uthappam. A few of the specialties are weekend-only. Also, there is a short section listed as "Indo Chinese ... evenings only" -- there have been a couple recent discussions on this board of Indo-Chinese places in the Bay Area, so this might be of interest.
Many of you will be asking, "so is it as good as Saravana Bhavan?" I ask myself that, too. I think the answer is no, but it's good, there are lots of choices I've never seen anywhere (is Karuvepillai dosa common anywhere in the Bay Area? Can anyone even name another restaurant that makes it?)
The prices are higher than the prices at Spice Hut, but the quality seems likewise higher.
I would definitely bring a first-time south-Indian-food eater to Dosa Place, even if they are squeamish. The presentations are beautiful, the restaurant is upbeat and neither pretentious nor intimidating, and the food is diverse -- how could you go wrong with a plain- or butter dosa?
re: David Sloo
You take a bite-size piece of dosa with your fingers, dip in a chutney, eat it. When the dosa has some potato filling, it's mostly in the center of the dosa, the sides have no filling. So in order to have filling + dough in every bite, you can start eating from the center of the dosa instead of the sides (not sure if this is very clear... it's a detail anyway).
For the idli, I prefer to eat it with a spoon due to the texture, but I guess you could eat it with your fingers too.