I'm only thinking about your own good, dear readers. In these tough economic times, you'll find South Indian restaurants to be very reasonably priced, but filling and satisfying to the extreme. And healthy! All vegetarian! But so good, that it's one of DH's all-time favorite cuisines, and that's saying something, because as I've mentioned several times before, that boy loves his meat. It'll take a little getting used to if you've never been - the smells will seem a bit strange and overwhelming (food and incense), the menu a little daunting (never fear, just ask your friendly waiter for help), and they usually don't serve alcohol. But who would want a beer when you can have some sweet lassi?
Let me take you inside my favorite South Indian restaurant and walk you through a typical lunch/dinner for us. The place is called House of Dosas and it's located in Hicksville, NY. They are open every single day, even holidays, and DH and I go there at least once or twice a month (if not more). The service is great and pretty zippy. Meals for us there have been completely satisfying every time, without fail. Now that's a rare find, huh?
We typically start off with our two favorite appetizers: the mini-idly with sambar and the paneer pakoras. Idlis are these little steamed rice balls that you dip in the hot, flavorful, spicy soup-like thing called sambar. They come with little coconut chutneys that you can also dip them into. Paneer pakoras are small slabs of indian cheese, dipped in chickpea batter and fried, sprinkled with chaat masala accompanied by a sweet tamarind dip and the ubiquitous coconut chutneys. These are so damn good that I could eat 50 of them, but then it wouldn't be a very healthy meal, would it?
Paneer pakoras - so addictive!
You have oodles of choice for your main course; vegetarian curries with freshly-made rotis or fluffy puris; different types of rice dishes; or a variety of uthappam (savory pancakes). But this is after all, the House of Dosas, so do yourself a favor and order a dosa already! DH always orders the Cheese Mysore Masala Dosa - a crepe made from rice flour, lined with a spicy masala and melted cheese, and stuffed with a potato mixture. My current favorite is the Onion Rava Masala Dosa - a semolina crepe, extra crispy, dotted with caramelized onions and filled with the same potato mixture. Break into the middle of the crepe and work your way outwards, scooping up the potato mixture with the crepe, and dip it in the accompanying sambar and chutneys. Behold!
Cheese Mysore Masala Dosa - not for the faint-hearted because it's pretty spicy!
My Onion Rava Masala Dosa - less spicy but I love the extra crispy texture!
If that is all you eat at this restaurant and walk out, you will be a happy camper. But I highly recommend that you don't leave without the proverbial icing on the cake - the dessert. A dimunitive portion of their warm home-made badam (almond) halwa, made with ghee and speckled with saffron, topped off with a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream - pure genius! If that doesn't rock your boat, then at least try a sip of their masala tea or masala coffee. You may never feel the same way about your regular morning caffeine fix.
Warm badam halwa with vanilla ice-cream - the one thing DH and I never share!
So will you find your nearest South Indian dosa place and go now? The next time you're in Long Island, definitely try out this one. I recommend it without hesitation. It's not only popular amongst the local desi community (always a good sign), but also greatly frequented by regulars from all communities and walks of life (an even better sign).