Anjan and Emily Mitra first opened DOSA in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2005. At the time, it was one of the first restaurants in the Bay Area to offer an elevated take on South Indian fare. Now, more than 10 years later, the husband-and-wife team are about to open their third location, the first outside of San Francisco, in Oakland.
This one, though, is a bit of a different concept than their two San Francisco restaurants. Located on Broadway, dosa by DOSA will be an all-day, counter-service restaurant, where the vibe is more casual, the prices cheaper and the menu geared towards a more on-the-go type crowd, including commuters passing through the area and busy workers on a quick break from work. The restaurant will open on Friday, Dec. 15.
Nosh was invited to a preview party this week, where we got a sneak peek inside and a taste of some of the offerings that will be at dosa by DOSA.
Upon entering the restaurant, our eyes were immediately drawn to the back of the large, open space, where a huge, striking black-and-white photograph of Delhi’s bustling Chandni Chowk, or Moonlight Square market, is pasted on the wall. The claustrophobic scene in the mural provides an interesting backdrop for the modern, somewhat swanky restaurant. High ceilings with suspended pendant lights, clean blonde wood tables, chairs and bars and the white subway tiles in the kitchen give dosa by Dosa a more chill, contemporary Uptown Oakland feel than that of a crowded Indian open-air market, but the juxtaposition makes a lot sense if you’re familiar with DOSA, which has worked to defy expectations about Indian food, including how it is served, what it should cost and how refined it can be.
The bar, where all food and drinks are ordered, takes up the whole right side of the 3,600-square-foot restaurant.
In the morning, guests can get hot and cold beverages, like lassi, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, masala chai and coffee drinks made from beans sourced from Oakland roaster, Mr. Espresso. The breakfast menu is offered until 11 a.m., and includes a variety of dosa, with fillings like eggs, cheese, sausage, tofu or masala potato; two types of Tandoor oven-baked stuffed naan and a couple of comforting soups and porridges, like a South Indian pongal, made with slow-cooked basamati rice and lentils, topped with cashews and raisins.
For lunch and dinner, the menu includes dosas, salads, wraps made with grilled roti, rice bowls and small plates like pavs (Indian sliders), samosa and idli fries, sliced rice and lentil patties that look like French fries, but are much more flavorful. There are several offerings that are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free or nut-free. Prices range from $2-$6.95 for small plates to $6.95 to $13.95 for more substantial dishes.
The open kitchen is a point of pride for the restaurant. A glass window encases part of it right in front of the dosa grill, creating a viewing portal for a mesmerizing show of dosas being expertly prepared. We tried a dosa fresh off the grill, filled with shredded spiced paneer that was so yellow with turmeric, we weren’t sure until we took a bite that it wasn’t scrambled eggs.
We loved the generous amount of spice and heat in many of the curries and sauces we sampled at the preview. One of our favorites was a tandoori chicken, coated in a sauce that had such a ferociously spicy bite that we had to chug a few gulps of our mango cardamom lassi to relieve our burning tongue. The lassi was cooling, and very good.
In terms of adult beverages, bar manager Nora Furst (Lolinda, Delarosa) has created a menu of herbaceous and spice-tinged drinks with Indian flavors, such as the Mon-Chichi, a refreshing, but boozy slush, made with cane juice, lime, pineapple, coconut, green cardamom and vodka. There’s also the Fenugreek Molecule, which has the look and taste of a classic cocktail, but a hint of fenugreek, an herb commonly used in Indian cuisine, takes it to another level. Aside from craft cocktails, dosa by DOSA also has wines and a small selection of beers on tap, including Kingfisher, a lager from India’s most popular brand.
Upon opening on Friday, dosa by DOSA’s hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m, daily.
Want to get the week’s Nosh stories in your inbox? Nosh Weekly is a free weekly email that will keep you up-to-date on all the delicious food, drink and restaurant news in the East Bay. Sign up here.