Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fun Playing With Dosai at Taj India Palace

It started out as one of those days where the realities of our poor economy slapped me in the face. For no good reason, I don't venture north of my office, to the intersection of Richmond Road and Wilson Mills Road, that often. I don't think I've been to Richmond Mall since sometime last summer. But today, that was my destination. A necklace that my husband had gotten for me at Alvin's Jeweler's in Solon needed repair. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I drove up to that store and found it gone. The nearest functional Alvin's store would be at Richmond Mall, so today, off to Richmond Mall I went.

As I drove up Richmond Road, I got myself all in the mood for some Indian food from Saffron, a stand in the Richmond Mall food court. Or, I should say, formerly a stand in the former food court. I was distressed to see that not only was Saffron gone - it had (probably briefly) been a sandwich shop of some kind before the space went empty. There were other vacancies also. How sad! There was not one vendor remaining in that food court that had any food that made me remotely hungry. Even the hot dog pretzels at Auntie Anne's Pretzels looked dried out and stale. And it was not just the food choices - there are so many empty stores and kiosks that it felt like a ghost town!

So - how to satiate my hunger for Indian flavors? I knew that an Indian restaurant had occupied the same front in the Hilltop Plaza across the street for about the last 14 years. It would periodically change owners, and the food would never be very good. The last owners (Madras Cafe?) only offered buffet for lunch, and since I'm not much of a buffet kinda gal, I hadn't been back in a long time.

A really long time - since according to the Ohio Secretary of State's records, the current owner, Mohammed Miah, has had the place since mid-2007. I walked in - Mr. Miah is both the front of the house and the server - I picked up a take out menu, which looked promising, and asked if I could order off the menu. He said yes and I said - I'll take a seat!

The interior of the restaurant is a bit dingy - it hasn't changed much in the 14 or so years that it's been there. Mr. Miah didn't seem like a happy or enthusiastic camper. Truthfully, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Then, I looked around, and I noticed a number of Asian-Indian customers - always a good sign in an ethnic restaurant. A couple of young Indian women came in and conversed with Mr. Miah and another staff person in their native language (I couldn't tell which language it was) - and I began to get the feeling that I was in good hands.

Service was terribly slow, in part because the same person checking finished customers out was also taking orders and bringing drinks. And there is no fancy POS system here - handwritten tickets are carried back into the kitchen.

This, however, gave me lots of time to peruse the menu. And this menu deserves a little time and attention. While it starts with the Northern Indian cuisine we are accustomed to seeing in Indian restaurants, this menu also has a considerable South Indian menu, including Dosai, Uthappam, Bhath and Uppuma. I haven't had a Dosai since I left Montclair New Jersey almost 14 years ago!

When my iced tea finally arrived - I was surprised to see a lime floating in it instead of a lemon. The tea was nicely flavored, and I really liked the effect of the lime.

I ordered soup and dosai - the soup arrived first.

Tomato Soup

The soup arrived piping hot, studded with bits of garlic and just the right amount of cilantro leaf. While garlic and cilantro could easily overpower a tomato soup - this one was lip-smackingly good.

Special Rava Masala Dosai

The pancake or crepe here is made from rice flour and "cream of wheat", and filled with curried potato and onion. The filling is punctuated delightfully with whole toasted spices and lentils.

The skin of the crepe was delightfully crispy on the ends and outside, but soft and springy inside and not a bit greasy.

Onion/Chili Condiment

This was delicious; not as spicy as I'd like, but with a mild, flavorful heat.

Coconut Condiment

I'm not sure what this is called - I believe it had a yogurt base, with a lot of dessciated coconut in it and spices. It brought a refreshing coolness against the chili in the other condiment, and the spices in the Dosai filling itself. Most lovely.

I suceeded in finishing my soup, but I could only manage half of the Dosai. Lunch tomorrow!

Taj India Palace has a full liquor license and a table card with beer and wine selections; I don't know if they actually serve liquor (the license was on the wall by the check out and I didn't see a bar). The sunny front room could easily accomodate private parties.

I didn't look at the buffet, nor did I ask the price, but those who selected it seemed to be enjoying it.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing with soup and doasi for lunch at Taj India Palace and expect to be back to explore more of the menu.

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  1. Alvin's Jewelers in Solon closed in January. Sorry to hear about the food court at Richmond Mall, but you made a good choice going to Taj India Palace. I enjoyed my meal there with friends several months ago.

  2. I was bummed to see Saffron close. It wasn't great, but it did the job when we would find ourselves at the mall. I figured things were bad when they started to sell gyros and on our last visit, they were the only thing we saw the other customers buying. People suck! I will try Taj India Palace. You've never mislead me before.

  3. @ bonnjill - you can tell that I don't shop much!

    @ Spicehound - make sure to order off of the menu - I can't speak for the buffet (but I don't think you're a buffet kinda guy anyway).

  4. Nancy, love the photos! You were wondering about the coconut condiment (the traditional accompaniment to dosa is sambhar and coconut chutney): the basic version uses fresh coconut ground with green chilies and seasoned with mustard and curry leaves.

  5. Anu - thank you for filling in the blanks! I didn't see or taste any chili, mustard or curry leaf in the coconut dip (and I don't think it was fresh coconut), though there were whole toasted spices - I think coriander seeds.

  6. @Anu again - just finished the leftovers for lunch - there was a dried red chili hiding in the coconut chutney.

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  8. this is the reasons why I love to go at Indian Restaurant for these foods.

    Love the pancake!