With its inclusive menu and DeWitt location, Dosa Grill is a welcome addition to area Indian restaurants
Be prepared for the heady aroma of Indian spices permeating the air as you enter Dosa Grill, the home of, as the menu states, “Fine Indian Cuisine.” The restaurant that opened in early October at 4467 E. Genesee St., DeWitt, is quite a departure from the essence of dill pickle, garlic and corned beef that hung in the air when Pickles Kosher Deli formerly occupied the space.
Owner Raj Kumar refurbished the interior of the small storefront into a simple, one-room operation, unadorned save for a smattering of Indian wall art. Booths on either side flank a group of tables in the center section, adding up to seating for 70. In the kitchen, there is a chef for Northern Indian cuisine, and one for Southern Indian cuisine, plus a third who prepares the various Indian breads made in a special clay oven called a tandoor.
An all-you-can-eat buffet lunch of two dozen items stands against the inner wall that divides the dining area from the kitchen. The buffet is available Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and as a brunch buffet on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. The food, plus the reasonable price of $7.95, has already proved to be a favorite as evidenced by the full house on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
Many customers who hankered for Indian cuisine had to drive to The Raj Grill in Utica, or India House and Sahota Place, both in Liverpool. Now they can eat close to home, notes Lawrence Fernandes, who oversees the DeWitt Dosa Grill. Kumar also owns the Utica location plus another in Clinton. The headquarters of this 15-venue dynasty sits in New Jersey, and are all managed by members of the Kumar family.
Fernandes adds that the restaurant is popular because it serves both Northern and Southern Indian cuisine, the latter of which is not often found in other local Indian eateries. It’s no accident, in fact, that the DeWitt operation has been dubbed “Dosa Grill.” A dosa is a fermented crepe, or pancake, made from rice and lentils ground together, and that the ratio is very important to a successful dish, according to Fernandes.
Once ground, the combination is ladled in small amounts onto a flat, hot, greased griddle-like apparatus, into a thin circle and fried until golden brown. The end product is filled with any variety of items before being rolled into a long cylinder, about 20 inches, and served, draped across a metal plate, with condiments. Like a gyro, dosa is eaten out of hand, but the uninitiated can use utensils.
Dosa is a staple of Southern Indian cuisine, going back as far as the sixth century A.D., which can be a small meal in itself or served as an appetizer or accompaniment to the main meal. The DeWitt restaurant features six versions ranging in price from $3.99 for three pieces filled with rice and lentil patties, to mysore dosa topped with a layer of hot chutney and stuffed with potato masala for $6.95; masala is an Indian spice mixture.
While dosa is its signature dish, the eatery offers plenty more to eat. The menu is divided into four appetizers, seven special street-style appetizers, five soups, two salads, five tandoori clay oven specials and five biryanis (rice specialties). Because of the large Hindu population in India, it is not surprising that there are 12 vegetarian dishes prominently listed. A little out of the ordinary, there are four Indo- Chinese cuisine dishes on the menu. Chicken highlights nine varied dishes; there are four lamb entrees and two goat specials; and fish and shrimp are featured in seven entrees.
Under the tandoori bread listing, an amazing 11 breads are also available. For beverages, add mango juice to tea, coffee and soft drinks, three yoghurt (their spelling) drinks, and Indian wine and beer. Four desserts include fruit custard, plus cheese balls, either fried or sweetened with milk rose water and nuts. For the Western palate, there is vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or to really complement Indian fare, there is mango kulfi, an authentic Indian ice cream made with pistachios and fresh fruits. Another version of this is the Pista kulki. Rounding out the menu are four condiments, raitha, mango chutni, pappad and pickle–important additions to enhance various dishes.
In keeping with Muslim and Hindu religious observances, the list of 98 items on the Dosa Grill menu includes no beef or pork dishes.
The Dosa Grill’s lunch buffet is a good way to sample dishes from the menu, especially for anyone not familiar with Indian cuisine. Chicken tikka masala is a favorite, combining tender pieces of white meat chicken in a mild tomato sauce, flavored with special spices. Similar tikka masala dishes are offered on the dinner menu, utilizing grilled fish, shrimp, lamb or goat. A vegetable biryani is also on the buffet. Basmanti rice is cooked with fresh vegetables, cashew nuts, almonds and golden raisins.
On the dinner menu, minar special biryani blends saffron rice cooked with boneless pieces of chicken, cubed lamb, shrimp, and the aforementioned nuts and raisins, priced at $14.95. Shrimp biryani, shrimp or fish tikka masala, plus shrimp tandoori, share the most expensive item on the menu honor, coming in at $14.95. Tandoori dishes, among the Northern Indian specialties, are prepared in a tearshaped clay oven and traditionally cooked at high temperatures. It is a moderately hot dish, combining cayenne pepper with a variety of red chili powders, which impart a fiery red hue and taste.
This is just a descriptive sampling of the many exotic and appetizing dishes awaiting you at the Dosa Grill. If Indian food is a new experience for you this is the place to start. Indians who live in Central New York and Westerners who have embraced the Indian table have given Raj Dosa Grille rave reviews, especially for its Southern cuisine. The restaurant is still waiting for its license to serve Indian wine and beer.
Aside from the aforementioned lunches and brunches, dinner is served at Dosa Grill on Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays, 4:30 to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Takeout and catering available; dial 445-5555 or 445-5559 for details.