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May 21, 2013 06:22 AM

Southern Vegetarian Indian?

Yes, yes, I admit I watched "Gordon Ramsay's Best Restaurant" on Netflix, and now, based on one of the finalist's cuisine, I want southern indian food. As in, food mainly from the Gujarat or Kerela region--as in vegetarian, as in no tikka this or rogan josh that. I had heard of a place in Columbia Heights called Nala Pak, but it seems it's closed. The closest I can find is Everest on Grand, which is not exactly hitting the mark.
Any gems anywhere in the Twin Cities?

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  1. Doas King. It's way the hell towards Blaine, but it's worth it. I don't know specifically what region it is, but it's all vegetarian. The staff is really friendly if a bit unpolished. 3 of us tried to order the 3-person 5 course meal once, but were talked down to the 2-person, and it was still plenty of food.

    Dosa's are giant crepes with a filling. Think "Indian-style burrito". Eaten with the hands generally. Some are comically big.

    I love the kofta "meat"balls. I want to be buried in that sauce. Gobi Manchurian also rules. - warning: music starts playing, the controls are at the very bottom of the page.

    Another hole in the wall is India Cafe in Richfield. I don't think they are region-specific, but had plenty of vegetarian options.

    Gordon Ramsay rules. No apologies necessary.

    1. I thought I heard that Bombay Bistro in DT Mpls offers South Indian at one side of their restaurant, and N Indian at the other. Though I could be mistaken ...

      1. I've been to India Cafe in Richfield and prefer Surabhi in Bloomington. It's also spicier.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mn_praline

          For what it's worth, my Sri Lankan girlfriend went to Dosa King last night, and prefers India Cafe.

          Will have to check out Surabhi.

        2. now I am not a local, but a search says, these places have what you are looking for:
          - Malabari Kitchen:
          - Annapurna Bhavan: 4920 Central Ave NE

          Also, a tiny little thing to clarify:

          Gujarat is not part of South India. It's Central or Western Indian at best. This is from both, an entho-cultural point of view as well as geographical. It is also 99% vegetarian, which is a lot more than South India, which has a substantial amount of seafood and meat (even beef) in the diet.

          South India is (loosely) defined by the 4 southern states. Their cuisines have a vast array of non-vegetarian dishes (especially Andhra cuisine) and lentils and rice are the foundations.
          Gujarati food is a lot blander/simpler. You won't find any Sambar or Idli or Dosa here. What you will find is Dhokla, Dal, Baati & Churma. The cuisine is based on grains, root veggies and grains.

          1. Has Dosa King changed owners? Is there more than one Dosa King? Did we go to the wrong one (all the way up Central in Spring Lake Park)? I ask because we had a very not-good lunch there today. Yes, it was the buffet but it didn't suggest good possibilities at dinner either.

            13 Replies
            1. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

              I thought Dosa King was quite good when it first opened, but either they changed owners or just went downhill. The last two times I went--both over a year ago--the food was below mediocre and the service was incompetent to a distracting extent (both visits were for dinner so no buffet).

              This unfortunately seems to be a pattern with local Indian restaurants. Bawarchi is already there on the service front although I've had mostly good food there.

              For vegetarian South Asian food, although it's not Indian, House of Curry has been excellent both times I've been. I wish it were closer to Minneapolis.

              ETA: There is indeed only one Dosa King.

              1. re: vadouvan

                Where were you with a warning when I was asking for recommendations?

                Anyway, I feel I should bill you for my meal. Where should I send the receipt?

                1. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

                  Sorry! I almost posted something there, but I hadn't been to Dosa King in so long and other people were recommending it. I also don't like a couple of almost-universally praised local Indian places (Gandhi Mahal and Gorkha Palace), so I figure maybe I'm either too picky or just idiosyncratic when it comes to Indian restaurants.

                  Looking at the other thread, I agree with the recommendations of India Spice House (good but definitely not excellent) and Copper Pot, although I've only been to the latter once.

                  On a semi-related note, have you checked out Heather Jansz' (AKA Curry Diva--which I feel silly typing) food? She cooks every Monday at the Highland Grill and does other events periodically. Her food is Sri Lankan. I don't know whether it's authentic, but I've tried it at Highland two or three times and it was pretty good, though I definitely prefer House of Curry.

                  Maybe we can call it even if that winds up being a good suggestion. . . .

                  1. re: vadouvan

                    Heather Jansz Monday night offering at Highland Grill are very good. I think she specializes in a sub-section of Sri Lankan cooking that is Ayurvedic. She still makes staples like curry and sambols, but some of the stuff is a bit different than what most Sri Lankans in the area might prepare at home.

              2. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

                Don't hold your breath for good dosa here. Bawarchi is the best. Dosa King was good when it first opened, as was Nalapak, and India Cafe about eight years ago. India Cafe has changed hands at least twice and the last time I went I ordered rava dosa and they put some cilantro and onions in a regular dosa and tried to pass it off as rava dosa.

                1. re: kuan

                  We ate at Nalapak before it closed some years ago. I thought it was average then but compared to what we ate at Dosa King today it was world-class.

                  I've no idea who was in the kitchen but the only people in the front of the house were two non-Indian women who didn't seem to know anything about the food. They couldn't even tell that the food in the (not very substantial) buffet was mislabeled--a cabbage poriyal was marked as "lemon rice" and there wasn't even any lemon rice on offer. At least, I hope nothing there was supposed to be lemon rice as the only rice dish (with no label) was, as far as I could tell, a veg biryani. The iddlies were cold, the dosas were soggy, the coconut chutney barely tasted of coconut. These are fundamental items for a restaurant that bills itself "Dosa King"--nothing was actively nasty or inedible but it was all very far short of being good.

                  Not one of us got up to get seconds of anything. Perhaps if we'd been charged $6/head we'd have been okay with it. But we paid close to $15/head. I don't know if I can muster up the energy to write a full review but if I can it'll be up on the blog in a few days.

                  1. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

                    Actually, I meant Udupi which was what it was named before it got sold and became Nalapak. Udupi was under 10 bucks and it was way better than Nalapak. But it doesn't matter anyway they're both gone.

                    1. re: kuan

                      Udupi, Bombay II Deli, Pak Zam Zam, and especially the halwa puri at South Asian Foods . . . The Twin Cities' Indian and Pakistani restaurant scene has really gone downhill.

                      Are there other hidden gems like House of Curry in the outer suburbs? My fantasy is that Falafel King and First Wok in Calhoun Village close and are replaced by outposts of House of Curry and Satay 2 Go.

                    2. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

                      Have you tried the refrigerated dosa mix from the various Indian grocers?

                      1. re: kuan

                        No. But in any case, you can't really make restaurant-style dosas* at home--you need very different equipment. Home-style dosas are usually much smaller and in a very different style (softer).

                        Anyway, to make up for the Dosa King disappointment I've been staring at pictures of this lovely meal in Delhi:

                        *By which I mean the very large, very crispy dosas that one generally goes to South Indian/Udupi restaurants for.

                        1. re: kuan

                          I've been using refrigerated dosa batter from India Bazaar in Plymouth. I can get a fairly crisp dosa, by thinning the batter,but am limited by the size of my non-stick fry pan. Need to get working on sambar too.

                          Hate to keep pimping Bawarchi, but i thought their Dosas are pretty good.

                          1. re: steamer

                            It feels a little odd to me to eat dosas at a restaurant that doesn't specialize in them, but that's my problem. Given how much better their idlis and vadas were to the sad versions at Dosa King, I can readily believe Bawarchi makes much better dosas too. I'll give one a try on our next trip but I'm not sure when that will be.

                    3. re: My_Annoying_Opinions

                      And here, in case you're interested, is a more detailed description of our meal at Dosa King: