Here is another place in the Mission that I have passed many times on previous visits to the city and always wondered about. Our attendance here was occasioned by a split-second change of heart on our way to somewhere else and the road not previously chosen "has made all the difference."
Around the world South Indian menus are quite standardized and the main differences have to do with the quality of ingredients or subtleties in the layering and marrying of spice flavors. In fact almost all of the chefs in these places worldwide come from a single village, Udupi in Karnataka State in India. This place offered improvisations on the idiom of South Indian cuisine that I have not seen anywhere else. Unlike the rather gimmicky inventiveness of some San Francisco eateries, the improvisations here are, for the most part, from within the genre, marrying a traditional form to a local ingredient. A case in point is the uttapam made with stinging nettles and other vegetables. Delicious! There are several fillings for dosas that I have never seen before. The most tantalizing one, which we did not sample, was the spicy mung bean filling.
We started dinner with a beautifully pureed beet soup with roasted cumin garnished with little hearts of creme fraiche and sort of vegie burger slider that was all Indian (except for the bun). Next came a standard masala dosa as my dinner partner had never tried one and wanted to start with the usual fare. It was beautifully made. The sambar accompanying it was pleasingly thick which helped more of it to adhere to the dosa when dipped. The next marvel was a complex and very toothsome kofta, a sort of minced vegetable "meatball" in a wonderful savory gravy that is usually a North Indian offering, with mushrooms, apricots, cashews and many other ingredients. This was accompanied by coconut rice and was outstanding. (I notice that South Indian places often do North Indian dishes better than you find them in the North!) Our dessert was a mango-saffron halwa that came warm and sweet but with a little bite of acidity from the mango and the subtlety of saffron. It was a memorable Indian meal and I will go back for more!
We came to dinner early (5:30 PM) and did not need a reservation, but clearly for a more conventional dinner time arrival, a reservation would be a good idea, even on a week night. Service was friendly and knowledgeable, which is important for restaurants that are often introducing a new cuisine to patrons. The array of desserts was generous; of 6 or 7 only two were Indian. Given the lovely treatment of the halwa one would hope that the chefs would put more effort into improvising Indian.
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