The dosa is a crisp and crumbly crepe that, when rolled, appears like an edible scroll. A delicious southern Indian staple made from rice and crushed lentils, and with a golden hue, it’s a perfect accompaniment to spiced potatoes.
Alas, why is it so hard to come across in Melbourne? In Indian restaurants across the city there’s a distinct lack of dosa on the menus. There's always a selection of pakoras, samosas, naan and roti. There's bound to be a tandoori platter and a butter chicken. But dosa is hard to find.
This is partly because dosa hails from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu that’s known for its liberal use of spices; they like it hot! Most of the Indian eateries in Melbourne have a northern Indian influence, so dosa is often left out.
You see the task of preparing dosa is also quite laborious and involves soaking daal and boiled rice and grinding the two into a fine paste. This paste has to ferment for up to six hours before it turns into a batter, ready for frying. The amount of work involved in preparing dosa makes it fit for a queen.
So to satiate a royal hunger for dosa, we’ve found three places around Melbourne where the crispy crepe is made.
On Church Street in Brighton is Indian Palace, a restaurant that fuses traditional southern Indian flavours with contemporary dining. Generous in space, it has two levels: the ground floor is pulsating with life, while upstairs offers a more intimate setting. It is simply furnished with white chairs and tablecloths, but the walls are covered with etchings of elephants in different shades. The waitstaff are gracious and attentive and you will be made to feel like a distinguished guest.
Most importantly, you will find dosa here for a reasonable price. The dosa at Indian Palace are cooked to perfection with a slight sour taste and spongy centre. They are light and crispy and swim in a fragrant sambhar (lentil broth).
131 Church Street Brighton
Madras Banyan Tree
A few suburbs away, lies Madras Banyan Tree, a restaurant specialising in authentic southern Indian fare. The walls feature oil paintings by classical Indian painter Ravi Varma and candles flicker on tables, creating a warm ambience. Dishes are served with a heady rush of spices and the best part is that the menu offers an extensive choice of dosas, including simple dosa served with roasted butter and topped with cheese. Other options include dosa served with chilli, hot mysore chutney and stuffed with spiced potatoes and dosa roasted with butter and stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes.
Service can be a tad slow, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, but it is all worth the wait.
Madras Banyan Tree
924 Nepean Highway, Hampton East
Sun midday–3pm and 6pm-10pm
If you prefer a more informal setting, head over to the The Dosa Hut on Barkly Street in West Footscray. This low-key eatery caters for 15 people maximum, but doesn’t feel cramped. Bollywood music dances in your ears and the service is friendly and efficient. Dosas are served on thalis and you can opt for a range of fillings from egg or lamb to chicken or chocolate. Your dosa can be stuffed to its greatest potential and there’s even an option for something called the big, bigger, better dosa, which is an arm’s length.
Prices are cheap, with a standard dosa costing around $7.50. Although the dosas here are anything but standard; they are bursting with flavour and accompanied by aromatic chutneys. Dosa Hut is a great spot for a quick, filling snack.
604 Barkly Street, West Footscray