Dosa Hut keeps things spicy and savory when it serves up authentic Indian cuisine on Lee Highway. The lamb is tender, the sauces are rich, and numerous vegetarian options fill out the menu for the meat-conscious among us.
The main space for the restaurant is a simple affair. The lighting is kept relatively low, and the seating is spacious. I visited the restaurant late on a Thursday evening with a colleague, so it was sparsely populated. I've been during the weekend at peak hours and it gets considerably more busy, but never so crowded that wait times have become an issue.
› Where: Dosa Hut, 6940 Lee Highway
› Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closes every day from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
› Price range: $8 -$14, depending on the entree.
› Alcohol: Yes
› Phone: 423-648-5069
There are a few Indian touches that you won't find at other restaurants. For example, after the meal, next to the typical offering of toothpicks is a bowl of raw fennel seeds, which are traditionally chewed as a palate cleanser after an Indian meal.
The menu was expansive, but broken up simply. Categories include vegetarian, bread, goat, lamb, dosa, fish and soup. Many of the options were different meat or vegetarian dishes cooked in similar sauces and spices, such as vindaloo, curry and tikka masala.
More unique options are peppered throughout the menu, though, especially among the vegetarian options. The flavors of chili, cardamom, cilantro, fennel and turmeric fill the air every time a dish comes out from the kitchen.
The restaurant's specialty is right in their name: dosa. Dosa is a thin, wide, crepe-style pancake made from a fermented batter and filled with stuffings such as chutney or potatoes flavored in various ways. Although I opted for a lamb dish, I'll have to try the dosa when I go back, which will likely be soon given how tasty the food is and how reasonable the prices are.
The beer list was small and had a few domestic classics such as Budweiser and Coors, while also featuring selections like Taj and Kingfisher, two popular Indian brews.
While we opted for water with our meal, in the middle of dinner I had to order a mango lassi, a creamy, iced beverage made from yogurt and mango puree. Notice I said "had to" not "wanted to." The spice from my meal demanded it, and I crumbled under the heat I so bravely (and stupidly) thought I could conquer.
I ordered Lamb Rogan Josh, a staple of the Kashmiri region of India. It's flavored with green and black cardamom, cinnamon and a variable amount of spicy chili. When the waitress asked how spicy I'd like my dish, I answered "pretty spicy" with the confidence of someone who didn't know what they were getting into. Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of spicy food, and the dish was absolutely delicious, but Dosa Hut doesn't fool around with "pretty spicy."
The creamy, soothing sensation of the mango lassi I ordered helped me soldier past the wall of fire raging in my mouth, as did the batura, a fluffy, fried bread made of flour, yogurt and butter, which had a slightly more savory and sweeter flavor than naan.
Speaking of batura, I have to gush. I've never gotten emotional about bread before. I like dark rye and sourdough and don't get much more complex than that. Bread is bread, and I've never paid it much mind.
The batura, though. Wow.
You know the temptation to simply gorge yourself on tortillas and the salsa at Mexcian restaurants that have a good, homemade salsa? We got an order of batura, and my friend grabbed some from the buffet, and I can safely say that temptation was 10 times worse than any chips and salsa I've ever had.
Who would have thought fried bread was so delicious? It was fluffy and textured, mildly sweet and immensely satisfying. I attribute walking out of Dosa Hut without scorch marks on my tongue just as much to this amazing bread as to the mango lassi I enjoyed.
Bread aside, the food was delicious and filling. Despite my lamb's gratuitous heat, it never detracted from how tasty the meal was, and the spice was more of a thrill ride than anything. I ordered a Rasam cocktail soup to start, which is a thin broth flavored with tomatoes, chilies and tamarind.
My friend, a vegetarian, enjoyed a spinach curry and a spiced potato dish from the buffet that were also quite good, in addition to the overwhelming amount of bread we both ate.
We were served quickly, and our food came out without much of a wait.
Dosa Hut isn't a new restaurant, but it definitely warrants a visit, especially if you're a spice fiend. The waitress assured me, though, that the heat of their dishes always can be toned down for the most delicate of palates.
Even if the heat does get turned up too high, there's plenty of yogurt-based sides and drinks that can calm the most raging fire.
If you're a vegetarian, I'd say Dosa Hut is especially worth a look, considering the wide and varied array of vegetarian-friendly options it serves.
Contact Shane Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6506.