On the evening of Monkeypalooza 2010, we decided to go to House of Dosas [1391 Kingsway, Vancouver, (604) 875-1283] for dinner. We already had French crepes earlier in the day, now it was time for Indian crepes. We were planning on visiting a couple of “Monk’s” friends who bought a condo in the King Edward Village development, so geographically, it was perfect. I’ve never had a dosa before and had heard good things about this place through “Godfather” and a couple of food bloggers.
When we arrived, there was quite a line up coming out the front door. I did not realize that it was $5.99 Dosa Monday and it was a bit of a zoo in there. I’m not very patient when it comes to waiting for a table, but it’s compounded exponentially when you have a little one in tow. “Monk” seemed fine about waiting it out, so we waited patiently until it was our turn and they had a table ready. It was quite hectic in there with two servers and a busser trying to deal with take out orders, as well as seating, serving and billing everyone. Eventually, we were sat, though the table was still filthy and we were given no menus. After a thorough wipe down with one of “Jazzy’s” baby wipes, I borrowed a menu from an adjacent table and decided on what to eat. After 10 more minutes, I flagged down a flustered server and ordered a lamb vindaloo dosa, a chicken paratha dosa, roti with beef gravy, a Kingfisher beer and a mango lassi for “Monk”.
Let me preface this review by stating that I am no Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan food expert. In fact, I know very little about this cuisine, I rarely know what I am eating, but am intrigued by the flavors, spices and techniques associated with this food. My good experiences with Indian food tends to be at the higher end with restaurants like Vij’s (Vancouver), Mantra(Boston), Zaika (London) and Tabla (NYC). I ate my share of chicken tikka masala when I was living in London and have recently started checking out some Indian places on Scott Road in Surrey. We will occasionally go to small Indian restaurants and partake in standard offerings like butter chicken, tandoori, vindaloo and fresh naan. It’s a rare treat for us and since “Monk’s” tolerance for spice and legumes has a rather low threshold, dining at Indian restaurant is not always the easiest option.
After a few minutes, our drinks arrived. I quickly ran to the bathroom to wash my hands and I swear it looked like a war zone in there. The toilet was flooding, the bathroom was gross, garbage was strewn everywhere and the whole service area looked like my worse nightmare. I tried to contain myself, sat back down and took a long pull from my beer. The Kingfisher (India’s favorite beer) was ice-cold, delicious and really took the edge off. I took a sip of “Monk’s” mango lassi and I thought it was really tasty, rich and smooth. The roti with beef gravy arrived and we tucked in hungrily. “Godfather” suggested I order it and since I am a big fan of other culture’s roti (particularly roti canai) I thought I’d give it a chance. I didn’t think much of it. It was passable, but the roti was folded into itself and it looked like we had an end piece rolled together with scrap dough. The layers of the roti were not very distinct and the flavor of the dough was very bland. The beef gravy was bland as well, but it was not a terrible thing to eat. Our dosas arrived a few minutes later and I thought they looked really appetizing. The dosas were about two feet long, beautifully golden and rolled in the middle was the lamb and chicken curries. They were both served with a coconut chutney, carrot coriander chutney and a small bowl of sambar. I broke into mine and tasted the dosa plain and exclaimed how amazing it was. I have never tasted anything like it before; the dosa had a hint of sourness (fermented lentils), had a great texture and was a tasty vehicle for all the other components. The lamb vindaloo was fine, nothing outstanding about it in any way, but the dosa was really the star of the show. I tried different bites, with different combinations of chutney and sambar and I really enjoyed the dosa experience. The chicken paratha was fine as well, though there was much more potato than chicken.
Issue and concerns; the restaurant was a heated, chaotic madhouse when we first walked in. The bathrooms and service areas were atrocious. I watched some of the employees work and hygiene did not seem like “it was high on their list of priorities”. That being said, I spoke to the owner and she seemed extremely friendly, forthcoming and congenial. The food was very tasty and a very interesting meal was had by me and “Monk”. Even though I was distraught by the “current state of the union”, I think I will return in the future on a different night of the week, pray they clean it up and look forward to trying some other items. Call me brave, but those dosas really tasted good.
On my chef’s night out scale, House of Dosas receives 2.5/5 SOB (slices of bacon).