Monday, April 02, 2012

Dinner @ Dosa - Fillmore

I've yet to find Indian food in San Francisco that I really like.  I guess I haven't tried too hard, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere that people really love.  Which is sad, because I do really love the spicing in Indian food and paneer can be sooooo delicious!  Amber had been the only place in the city I've actually returned to, but after our last experience there, I'm really not intending to go back any day soon.  And they are opening a new Amber Dhara in the city soon, but our experience at the one down in Palo Alto was fairly mediocre, so I don't have all that high of hopes.  Do you have an indian place you recommend?

Anyway.  I had been to Dosa in the Mission years ago, and got ... the dosa.  I remember it not being particularly memorable.
 Kerala Chicken: Boneless, chiles, cilantro, mint, grated coconut, tomatoes, cauliflower & spices, with rice.
But a couple week's ago I attended a cooking demo at Macy's by the owner and executive chef Anjan Mitra, where he made the Kerala Chicken.  It was really delicious.  The spices in this dish were incredible.  The chicken was moist.  The veggies lightened it up a bit.  The curry and rice ... so good!  During the demo the chef talked about how they start every day by grinding up the spices fresh.  The demo was about 2 hours long and almost the entire first hour was devoted to the spices!  I was quite impressed and added Dosa to my list.

And then at Thursday's Taste of the Nation event, we got to try the Hyderabadi Shammi Kebabs (minced lamb, cardamom, peppercorns, ginger, fennel & lentils, pan fried with mint raita).  While I didn't love them, the spicing was again really impressive, the best spicing of the night, by far.  So I bumped Dosa up even higher on my list!

When Sunday night rolled around, the night that many places I want to go to are closed, I was happy to see that Dosa was open.  Seemed like a good time to try it out!  We went to the Fillmore location, since at the demo the chef talked about how the Valencia and Fillmore locations were quite different due to the sizes of the kitchens and overall restaurants, and how they could do a lot more at the Fillmore location.

The restaurant was really lovely.  High ceilings, large windows, very modern.  It seemed like it belonged more in SOMA.

Service was pretty bad.  Not horrible, but there were a bunch of little issues, and a general lack of attention being paid to us.  It seemed like whenever we needed something, it took a while to flag someone down.  A few of the more notable issues: beer was ordered, it was never delivered.  Our plates/utensils were not changed out between apps and mains, even though our plates were soaked in all sorts of sauces.  No serving utensils given for appetizers.  Dishes were just plunked down in front of us with no explantations.  Completed dishes were not cleared when they were finished, more food arrived with no space to put it.  But strangely plates and utensils were taken away very quickly from people who had maybe stopped eating.  Long wait for dessert menus, long wait for bill to be picked up.  I asked for some leftovers to be packed up, specifying that I wanted things separate (the rice and the curry, so that they'd keep a little better), but instead everything came as one, not only with my rice and curry not separate, but with the fish from another dish mixed in too.  Our waitress was really weird.  I had noted in the reservation that it was a birthday celebration, and absolutely nothing was done to acknowledge this.

I went expecting some good spicing and flavors.  Unfortunately, the food just wasn't very good.  This was really disappointing after enjoying the dishes at the two recent events.  And the food for the most part certainly wasn't at the price point, no matter how lovely the restaurant itself was.  I was also surprised by how oily everything was.  I'm used to indian food feeling fairly heavy from all of the coconut milk or cream in the curries, but I wasn't really expecting so much oil.  Meh.  Crossed off the list.  Still searching for good indian food ...
Complimentary papadum.
These were oily and salty.  Not much other flavor beyond the oil, which didn't have a fresh taste.  Not served with any dipping sauce.  Disappointing, but I appreciate the complimentary snack.
Dahi Vada:  Lentil dumplings topped with cool Straus organic yogurt, piped with tamarind & mint, mildly spiced. $9.
This looked amazing.  Under all the pretty sauce was a single big lentil patty.  "lentil dumplings" said the menu, so this wasn't quite what we were expecting.  This was a dish that Yelpers had all raved about.  I rather expect that they just found it pretty.  Sigh.  I've seriously gotta stop trusting the Yelpers!

The lentil dumpling was mushy and didn't have much flavor.  No one really wanted it.  The yogurt was refreshing and the tamarind and mint swirled in did create some nice flavors, we used up this sauce with some bread and that was kinda nice.

Would not order again.
Lotus Stem Day Boat Scallops: Cilantro, chiles, mustard, maple sauce, w/ fried lotus stems. $12.
We asked how many scallops came in this dish and were told three.  We expressed happiness at this answer since three of us were planning to share it.  We got ... two.  Service--.

Turns out, we wouldn't have wanted a third anyway.  These scallops were not good.  Way overcooked.  The scallops were incredibly chewy. Fishy. Stringy. Completely flavorless. I really wish I hadn't kept trying this and had just stopped after one bad bite.

The fried lotus chip was really greasy and oily, and again, had a stale oil flavor that was unpleasant.

The green sauce (cilantro based?) didn't have much flavor and seemed really oily.

The red sauce however was creamy and delicious.  I used it for bread and everything in sight.  And then just ate it by the spoonful.  I would have licked it up, but the plate was taken away from me :)

It is unfortunate how bad these scallops were, as I do love seared scallops and that sauce was so delicious.  And for $12 it seemed like a good value.
Bhatura: Oversized, soft, puffy wheat bread. $5.
Whoops, forgot to take a photo of this thing when it arrived.  It was too insane for me to focus and remember to photograph!  You can't tell from this, but it was massive!  Huge!  A giant puff of bread!

I had read about this from the Yelpers who all said to get it.  It was something sorta like a fried dough you'd get at a state fair, but really thin and not covered in powdered sugar.  It was served with tamarind and mint-cilantro chutneys.  It was hot, but quickly lost its heat once we punctured and deflated it.

We had intended for this to come with our entrees to have to dip into the curry, but it arrived after the appetizers and long before the mains.  We dipped it into the chutneys it came with, but I didn't find those combinations particularly interesting.  It also just seemed weird to dip something so heavy and fried into such light sauces.  It went better with the sauces left from our appetizers, but I really would have preferred it with my curry.

Interesting to try, but I probably wouldn't order again.  Again, too fried with bad oil taste.
South Indian Moons: Chef’s selection of five different uttapams.  $13.50.
I didn't get a bite of this, but the person who ordered it devoured it in record time.  I'm not sure if he loved it or was just hungry.
Mango Prawns: Karnataka-style, green mango pulp, tomatoes, chiles, mustard seeds.  $17.  Coconut rice side $3.
This was my favorite dish.  5 prawns, 3 chunks of mango, in sauce.

I liked the sauce in this quite a bit, it was really flavorful and decently spicy.  I guess I'm mixing up my north and south indian cuisine by wanting this, but I really wanted some naan or something to dip into it.  It was fine with the rice, but I really wanted something bready to get even more sauce!

The prawns were fine, not particularly noteworthy.  The mango was soft and sweet, but the 3 little chunks felt a little insufficient.

They recommended that we order coconut rice to go with it.  I see why you'd want rice, but the sauce did overpower the rice completely and I wasn't able to enjoy the coconut flavor in it.  Regular rice would have been fine.
Green Mango & Paneer Dosa: Shredded paneer (unaged farmer’s cheese), green mango, spicy achaar (relish) & spices.  Served with fresh coconut & tomato chutneys and sambar.  $11.
The dosa again failed to impressed me.  Filled with panner and mango, both of which I really enjoy, but didn't really work here.  The paneer was just kinda there and the mango was pretty flavorless.  And again, more oily and fried that I was expecting, with the same stale oil taste!

The tomato and coconut chutneys were both pretty tasty, definitely needed to dip the dosa into to get some flavors.

Maybe I just don't like dosas.
Fish Moilee: Sustainably-caught, pan-sautéed in a moilee (coconut) sauce w/ spices, served with curry leaf rice, vegetable poriyal. $29.
This was really disappointing.  We joked about not knowing what sort of fish it was.  It was some sort of white fish, kinda overcooked.  Not offensive, but it offered nothing.

It was served on top of really mushy rice.  The rice was green with some sort of spices, but the flavors weren't particularly interesting. And the rice was really, really mushy and pretty gross.

Also alongside of it was the vegetable poriyal.  This was some sauteed veggies.  Pretty flavorless cubes of assorted vegetables, carrots and asparagus maybe?  And then there were some random, underripe, not good tomatoes.

The sauce was the highlight, but it didn't have the flavor complexity I was expecting.  And it was pretty oily.

Really, really not worth remotely close to $29.  Would not order again.
Passion Fruit Custard: Cool and fragrant, thinly topped with coconut tapioca. $9.
I was really looking forward to dessert.  I love puddings, custards, tapioca.  I'm excited for berry and stone fruit season to arrive to transition into eating a lot of crisps/crumbles/pies/etc, so I've been trying to get my fill of pudding style desserts before that happens!

Anyway, this was gross.  It looked pretty unappetizing, with the coconut sauce spilling all over the place and a random inedible garnish on top, but I still had high hopes.

The coconut tapioca layer was particularly bad.  The tapioca balls were a horrible mushy texture.  There was no coconut flavor.  It was just goopy.

The passion fruit custard part was definitely more of a pudding than a custard, fairly runny and not a great consistency.  It had a passion fruit flavor, but just tasted really fake.

There were also some slices of mango on top, the best part of the dish.  And some sort of cookie.

Definitely wouldn't order again.  Another dish where I wanted to like it so badly that I kept trying it, but really, really didn't want anything to do with it.  Luckily, my favorite frozen yogurt place was down the street, so we went there to get more dessert aftwards.
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