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Aug 16, 2011 08:32 PM

Advice on Best Dosa and Idli near Palo Alto

Any suggestions? Would love to find a place where they actually ferment the dosa batter first...

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  1. I would give Darbar on Lytton a try. They don't get a lot of love on CH, but the food is very solid. They do have dosas and idli. They claim on the menu that the idli batter is fermented; but I haven't tried those items there.

    1. Sunnyvale has a wealth of excellent southern Indian restaurants. My favorite dosa is at Madras Cafe - to me it has the best fermented taste - while my favorite rava dosa is at Madura. Both do well with idli as well. Saravana Bhavan is another favorite of many on the board; I need to get back there and see how they are doing now compared to my two favorites. All are easy to get to, a bit east of 85.


      Saravana Bhavan USA
      1305 S Mary Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

      Madras Cafe
      1177 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

      Madura Indian Cuisine
      1635 Hollenbeck Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

      2 Replies
      1. re: mdg

        This is the excellent list if you're up to travelling from PA to SV. I very much like the dipping sauce for dosas at Mayuri, will echo the thumbs-up for the Rava Dosas at Madura, and say I wasn't that impressed by Saravana Bhavan but only hit them once.

        2230 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050

        1. re: mdg

          Saravana Bhavan on Mary was always good. But, a few years back they dramatically raised their prices and we didn't return. Don't know if they may have reverted.

          Only other issue is that you are confronted with some religious posters at the entrance. Those elicited some negative comments from some of the Indians in my dining group.

          Depending on your definition of near, I would also suggest Woodlands in Newark. I enjoyed the flavors. I believe they are part of a large chain. It's been a few years since I last visited and saw some recent negativity on Yelp. Could be they are going through a rough patch.

        2. 't'was a while ago that we tried it, but the south Indian vegetarian food was good at Annapoorna in San Mateo on El Camino Real. Very good dosai, don't believe we tried the idly. Has anyone been there more recently ?

          2299 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94403

          10 Replies
          1. re: moto

            I think they are gone or at least renamed to Dakshin. Dakshin serves meat... I haven't tried it (it was completely empty when I've walked past it).

            If you are in PA, you should really just drive to Sunnyvale for Indian... we do from RWC.

            1. re: lrealml

              thanks for all the tips - I will try Sunnyvale tomorrow or Friday - went to Darbar but they do not offer idli or dosa at lunch :(

              1. re: takuhead

                Of course, there is always Udupi Palace with a location in Sunnyvale. They've been specializing in dosa (and uthappam for years now).

                1. re: takuhead

                  When does Darbar serve dosa and idlis? My understanding is that South Indians eat them as breakfast foods.

                  1. re: jman1

                    only at dinner - which is a bit odd....but they don't offer breakfast here...
                    jman1 - how is Udupi Palace for dosa? do they have idli? I am most interested in the rice/lentil dosa since I can't eat the rava dosa (gluten).

                    1. re: takuhead

                      We like Madras, but also like Madura a lot. My son and I have Celiac and can eat there. Anapoorna in San Mateo said they added flour to their dosa, but not to idli. Also, you can buy dosa and idli batter at most Indian grocers (or make it yourself). Anyway, I cook it in my waffle maker when I am too lazy, and my kids devour it. I have a pic on my blog of it. Yummy gluten free goodnes.

                      1. re: jsaimd

                        Thanks! I also make these too - actually I teach workshops on fermentation in Palo Alto so I teach how to make fermented dosas and chutneys as well as a other fermented foods/beverages - But I was curious to see so other variations such as the idli...once the dosa batter is prepared - it can last up to a week in the fridge - but it takes a couple of days to get it ready - first soaking than blending/fermenting - I use the idli rice for the dosa batter for the most part....the batter that i have seem in stores doesn't seem to indicate whether it has been fermented....

                        1. re: takuhead

                          Like I said, Annapoorna is gone... I don't know how to mark it closed on CH.

                          You should try Saravana Bhavan; I went there for lunch in June with my friend (who is Indian and vegetarian). She goes there all the time. The dosas were very good, and I did not think they were overpriced ($7-8 I think).

                      2. re: takuhead

                        You can view the menu here:


                        Probably not the best, but a large range; looks like it includes the items you want.

                    2. re: takuhead

                      Nuts! I'm sorry. Lunch is the buffet -- I wish you would mentioned lunch vs dinner. Most places with buffets don't have dosas, since they really do need to be cooked to order. Now I'm wondering if P2I has idli on their buffet. Go to sunnyvale....

                2. Dosa/Idli update - Kids and I went to Madura today in Sunnyvale - tried the Ghee Dosa - how could you go wrong with fat and dosa? Yummy - also ordered some mini idlys and plain dosa - both came with lots of dipping sides - sambar, coconut chutney (I think) and a cilantro/mint (mine is better IMO)

                  Wish I had seen the paneer dosa earlier - we missed that - and there are a few that are only offered at dinner - like the garlic dosa.

                  Dosas were great - paper thin and hot - also tried the raita and soup of the day - a mushroom - that was really good. I was also given a complimentary sample of the filtered coffee - delish!

                  overall a good meal - thanks for the advice...will explore some of the others soon

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: takuhead

                    Yet another update - went to Madras in Sunnyvale on Friday - ordered mini idly and two dosas - one ghee and one cheese and one filtered coffee - I love trying coffee at various ethnic places
                    Idly's were similar to those served at Maduras - very fresh and just the right amount of moisture/air ratio - sambal was not as good as Madura - I also thought the chutneys at Madura were better - Dosas were similar - both very thin and huge! I think Maduras was slightly better - texture was not quite as crispy - also the service was nicer at Maduras - I prefer eating off of real plates versus paper and drinking out of glass or cups rather than styrofoam - sorry coffee/water just doesn't taste as good in these IMO

                    Tonight = went to Darbar for dinner - had to order both dosa and idly - definitely not as good as the two places in Sunnyvale....but than this is not what they are making all the time - so that might account for it....acceptable but won't start a craving for it from this location

                    Kids and husband still preferred mine over all tried so far - but they may be slightly biased :)
                    still fun to try new places - and will try a few more down south next week...

                    1. re: takuhead

                      Interesting - thanks for these reports! So you didn't find Madura's dosa to have less of a fermented flavor than Madras Cafe's? I may have to give Madura's regular dosas another try then.

                      I agree about the service and the chutneys, though I do prefer Madras Cafe's sambal. Madura's service is really above most other Sunnyvale Indian places. Peacock in Mountain View (very close to Sunnyvale) also has excellent food and better-than-average service, though I've never tried the dosas there.


                      Peacock Indian Cuisine
                      867 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                      1. re: mdg

                        i didn't find either tasted particularly fermented but I would have to say Madura had the most tang...from what I could get from both Madura and Madras - they don't ferment the batter other than soaking it - I guess at the amounts they are making - it would be hard to do the soak and than the fermenting....Most restaurants - so I am told - don't have the time to do that - and even most recipes just have you ferment for a few hours - I find fermenting the batter for at least 24 hours is the minimum for some good tang with relying on adding yeast - and 48 hours is even better - the batter will almost triple! Workshop folks are always excited to see their batter grow :)
                        I don't think the chutneys are fermented at all which is why they are not quite as compelling as homemade fermented versions IMO

                        But it has been fun to venture out and sample around - can't wait to try some new ones next week - may have to go solo since kids are back in school :(