Dosa: Vivid Indian Dishes in San Francisco’s Mission District [CLOSED]

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Restaurant Sign San Francisco

Dosa's logo references the round shape of their signature dish: a rice and lentil flour crepe.

This sleek sign signaled our arrival at Emily and Anjan Mitra’s Mission District Indian restaurant, Dosa, named for the crepe-like semolina delicacy. The contemporary space boasts vivid orange walls. An attractive crowd of young people stand two-deep at the U-shaped bar to wait for tables, which are so close together, they’re practically stacked. There are no reservations, so pack patience. And bring earplugs; it can get loud. Still, all things considered, it’s worth enduring these obstacles to eat at Dosa.

Indian Food San Francisco

Complimentary shards of pappadam – lentil flatbread – seemed to taste better than normal. Meaning they were warm, and not bone dry. I asked our waitress what was up. She said pappadam are freshly fried. That’ll help anything.

Indian Drink San Francisco

I drank a mango lassi ($4), tangy from yogurt and not overly sweet.

Since our waitress said the tasting menu was loaded with the best dishes from chef Senthil Kumar’s regular menu, my father and I decided to go all in. Happily, “all in” is reasonable at Dosa, $35 per person for a choice of four courses.

I. Starter

Indian Food San Francisco

Chennai Chicken, named for India’s fourth largest city (fka Madras) featured boneless, white meat chicken strips marinated in Straus Family Creamery organic yogurt and spiced with cilantro, coriander, cumin and curry leaves. The chicken was delicately fried and plated with mixed greens.

Indian Food San Francisco

Cochin Calamari, named for a port in the Indian state of Kerala, was sautéed until tender with sumptuous, spicy coconut milk sauce, served with more pesky mixed greens.

II. Mini Dosa

Indian Food San Francisco

Chatni Masala Dosa, Dosa’s signature crepe, was filled with creamy, spiced Indian potatoes, onions, cashews and the baby eggplant chutney called “baingan.”

Indian Food San Francisco

Paneer Dosa was triangular, filled with spiced, grilled farmer’s cheese.

Each dosa comes with coconut and tomato chutneys, and the spicy lentil soup called “sambar.” The chutneys were especially good when paired with the Paneer Dosa.

III. South Indian Curry

Indian Food San Francisco

Tamil Lamb Curry, named for the southernmost Indian state – Tamil Nadu – combined chunks of “natural” lamb “steeped” in a sauce of fennel, tomatoes, poppy seeds, caramelized onions and a spice blend, served with Basmati rice and raita made with Straus organic yogurt.

Straus Family Creamery has supplied the key ingredient in several legendary Bay Area foods, including Cowgirl Creamery cheese and the soft-serve ice cream at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur. Add this tangy yogurt to the list.

Indian Food San Francisco

Prawn Masala featured prawns submerged in a sauce made from red chilies, tamarind, ginger, red onions and coconut milk. The subtly-sweet orange sauce balanced good bite from the other ingredients.

Indian Food San Francisco

My father is a fan of Indian breads, so even thought it wasn’t included in our tasting, he ordered Poori ($4.50), two puffy orbs of greasy fried bread made from whole grain durum wheat (aatta).

IV. Dessert

Indian Dessert San Francisco

Gulab Jamoon is a fairly common Indian dessert – two doughnut hole-like creations, bathed in a warm, cardamom flavored sugar syrup. Dosa prepares a respectable version.

Indian Dessert San Francisco

Rasmalai involved two sweet cheese patties in a cool, sweet cream, flavored with rose, cardamom & crushed pistachios. When I ordered this dessert, our waitress said, “Nice.” Nice for her, maybe. I’d compare Rasmalai to eating a cold sponge made from cheese. No, I didn’t finish it.

The final dessert aside, I enjoyed Dosa. Next time, I’d probably stick to the main menu. I’m all for trying a variety of dishes, but I’d prefer larger portions of the more interesting dishes. I’d also make sure that we don’t receive a banquette, where we were forced to endure cackling women.

Note: Parking in the Mission District can be a hassle, but there’s a reasonable garage around the corner, east on 21st Street.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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