As promised, I want to write a couple of posts about my brief stopover in New York on my way back from Spain. I met up with my wife, N, who had been studying at Columbia Teachers College for the summer. After a month of Spanish food, I craved something, anything, not made with olive oil.
As is often the case when we're in New York, I especially craved Indian flavors, in particular South Indian snacks like dosas, idli and sambar. For those of you unfamiliar with the amazing snack foods of South India, here's a quick primer. First, they are all vegetarian. Second, most of the dishes originate from versions of the same batter, which is made from a type of lentil, urad dal, and sometimes rice that are soaked, ground and fermented overnight in a process similar to making sour dough. The batter can be shaped into dumplings and steamed (called idli, sometimes spelled iddly), shaped into doughnuts (vada/vadai) or balls (bonda) and fried, made into thick pancakes (oothapam) or large thin pancakes (dosa/dosai). In restaurants, all are usually accompanied by coconut chutney and a bowl of spicy sambar, a stew of toor dal (another type of lentils, sometimes called pigeon peas) and vegetables.
To get our fix of South Indian food, we headed to Murray Hill (dubbed "Curry Hill" by the locals for its abundance of Indian eateries), around Lexington and the high 20s. It was a Monday, so a lot of places were unfortunately closed. We noticed a lot of Indians eating in Dosa Hutt (102 Lexington Ave. at 28th St.), which may or may not be the second location of the well-known South Indian restaurant of the same name in Flushing, Queens. Regardless, everything we ate here was perfectly prepared, although considerably tamer than what I have had in India. My butter dosa (cooked in butter instead of oil) was so tangy and crisp yet tender that we ordered a second one.
Coincidentally, a week later in the Bay Area, on our return trip home from Tassajara Hot Springs, we stopped over at Dasaprakash (2636 Homestead Rd., Santa Clara) to get another fix of the delectable dosas. Dasaprakash is, in our opinion, the best South Indian restaurant in the San Francisco/San Jose area and belongs on our Short List. How did they compare? We were split on this one. I preferred Dasaprakash, because the flavors were more authentically spicy--incendiary would be more apt. N, who for some odd reason prefers that her food not scorch her taste buds and bring tears to her eyes, liked Dosa Hutt a bit better, but agrees that Dasaprakash is more authentic.
Here's an insider's tip about Dasaprakash (notice how I put it on the second page, because I am hesitant to reveal it): try to go on a Thursday night so that you can order the housemade amritakala, the most amazing Indian dessert I have ever tasted. Sadly, we went on a Wednesday and it has been years since I have had the good fortune to eat it, so I can't give a description that would do it justice. Even if you do not usually like Indian desserts, I am willing to wager that you will like this buttery confection.