Dosa do-si-do

Posted by Anita on 03.16.06 10:17 AM

Dosa logoDon’t underestimate how hard it is to get a table at Dosa: Kathy, Neil, Cameron and I tried to walk in and eat here a couple of weeks ago, and gave up. Trying to work within the system, we gathered up 2 more friends — Dosa takes reservations for groups of 5 or more — and emailed early the next week to get a table. After 3 days without a response, I called and left voicemail. A very sweet woman called me back and apologized for the problem, and found us a table at the time we wanted.

Needless to say, my expectations ran pretty high after all of this rigamarole. Largely, I think they were met. The food is interesting, tasty, flavorful without being incendiary, and thoughtfully presented. Service was crisp but a little stand-offish, and our server was very helful when it came time to figure out what (and how much) to order — once we asked.

I was really pleased with how reasonable the prices were. For less than $45 per person, including tax and tip, we had 2 bottles of wine and a handful of beers, plus a ton of food. Our order included a refreshing chickpea salad, a pair of appetizers — crispy-spicy potato croquets and lush lentil dumplings — three dosai (paneer, egg, and rava masala), and two of the curries: a deeply spiced Tamil lamb, and a prawn coconut masala… oh, and a giant bathura. Each dosa came with its own bowl of sambar, plus two smooth chutneys: a gingery coconut one and a spicy tomato version. Needless to say, we didn’t have room for dessert, although I was tempted by the cardamom ice cream.

On the downside: The tables are awfully close together, the noise level is out of hand, the decor is warm but a tad bit stark — some art on the walls would help. Worst of all, the hordes of drooling, hovering patrons (staring daggers while you try to enjoy dinner) is really, really annoying. The hosts were letting people hang out in the dining area, not just the bar, and I found that extremely inappropriate.

If I could make a reservation for a party of 2 or 4, or better yet, walk in on a weeknight with a reasonable expectation of a table becoming available within the space of a leisurely cocktail, I’d become a regular. But given the hassle factor, I can’t imagine it being more than an occasional thing. I hope that once things calm down a bit, the owners might consider opening at least a few tables to reservations, while leaving the majority open for walk-ins.

995 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

restaurants, The Mission
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