Image courtesy of Taste of India
It was getting late and I was starving. How many “I-struck-restaurant-gold” stories start like this? Quite a few, at least in my world of poor scheduling and profound indecisiveness.
It was getting late and I was starving and I wanted Indian food. I had just moved to South Side, and lo and behold, there was Taste of India with its little sign proclaiming “Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays: Southern Indian specials.” Lo and behold once more, it was Thursday.
Southern India — encompassing the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala — is the birthplace of some of the most inventive, flavorful street food in the world. Breads made from chickpea, lentil and rice flours are either fried or steamed and served alongside chutneys, pickles and sambar, a lentil soup. Taste of India serves idlis (steamed palm-sized breads made with steamed, fermented lentil and rice flour), uttapam (thicker fried bread patties, also made with fermented lentil and rice flours) and dosas (massive, ultra-thin, crispy lentil or chickpea flour pancakes sometimes stuffed with potato or cheese). The spicy, slightly sweet sambar that accompanies the breads can be eaten by itself; florets of cauliflower and soup-soaked potato bulk up the tamarind stock. A mint-green pot of savory coconut chutney rounds out each plate. It’s perfection.
The question: How many dosas can I eat in one sitting? Why do I feel shame that the answer is one? (I’m a competitive eater.) At Taste of India, the things are massive, and masterfully cooked; I’ve often had my hopes dashed before me when ordering dosas at other spots. Too flimsy, too soggy, too stingy with the filling. Masala dosas should wrap their extra-crispy, sourdough-flavored arms around a steaming mass of chili-spiked potato, and that’s how they come out at Taste of India. I’ll go all in and say that it’s my absolute favorite Indian restaurant in the city. Beyond the South Indian specialties, they do careful preparations of classics like Tandoori meats, vindaloos and killer vegetarian mains in which the texture and taste of the vegetable are kept intact. I get a little bummed when I’m served a bhindi masala that’s just a bowl of defrosted, over-spiced okra mash. This is not that.
If you want a quick sampling of what they do best, head to Taste of India at lunchtime and hit the buffet, but don’t forget to pencil in a South Indian night. A nice bonus: No wheat-induced bread comas accompany idlis, uttapam or dosas.
Taste of India is located at 9930 Midlothian Turnpike; 323-5999