“I love that I can try everything and not have to worry,” announced my vegetarian dining companion as she began making her way around a platter of assorted appetizers that had recently arrived at our table.
We were at Dosa Place located in the Tops-anchored plaza across from UB South. Her carefree attitude stemmed from the fact that the South Indian restaurant is one hundred percent vegetarian (and vegan friendly), so there was no chance of biting into anything meat-laden, despite not knowing the full ingredient list of the appetizers presented. For a vegetarian who often has to make a lot of compromises (and has taken her fair share of risky bites) when dining out with carnivorous friends, the peace of mind was welcome.
Not that I, the meat-eater at the table, had anything to complain about. That Indian cuisine derives so much of its character and appeal from the proper handling, manipulation, blending, and balance of spices renders whatever flavor depth meat would impart during the cooking process unmissed.
Take the aforementioned assorted appetizer platter. A steamed lentil and rice flour cake known as iddly was an appropriate canvas for the accompanying sambar, a sweet-and-sour, brothy condiment. Bonda, a tennis ball of fried smashed potato and onions, was superbly seasoned. And while a savory lentil doughnut spiked with onions and chilies was denser and drier than, say, your favorite sour cream-glazed variety, its shortcomings were more than made up for by the presence of crisp onion and chickpea flour fritters called pakoda. This onion ring-lover wished there were more than two to the order.
A plain dosa was also a satisfying nosh. Described as an Indian-style crepe, it was delicately and pleasantly crisp, presumably from the addition of rice flour, and lacey at the edges. As a vehicle for more sambar and two iterations of coconut chutney—one sweet and one deliciously spicy—it worked well. A fiery mysore masala dosa came filled with the same potato and onion mixture as the bonda from the appetizer platter, and made for a heartier dish than its plain dosa counterpart.
Despite its name, Dosa Place also serves rice dishes; utthappam, which eat more like giant pancakes than pizzas, despite the description on the menu; and traditional paneer, chickpea, potato, cauliflower, eggplant, and spinach curries. The chana masala we had was served medium-spicy as ordered and was deeply flavorful. Sautéed fresh curry leaves in the dish were an unexpected and welcome touch. Wholly distinct from curry powder, which is a blend of ground spices that varies in composition from producer to producer and cook to cook, curry leaves lend a fresh, citrusy component to richly spiced dishes. Their presence was, to me, indicative of the care the kitchen put into my meal.
That same level of care was evident in the front of the house, where a man I will assume was the owner oversaw the entire operation with a dedication that left me wishing every restauranteur was as invested in the quality of my dining experience. UB students, a gaggle of whom were enjoying dinner when we left, are fortunate to have a solid, affordable dine-in, takeout, and lunch buffet option that accommodates restricted diets just a stone’s throw from campus.