Passage to Indian? The F Train!: Dosa Royale

01/15/2014 4:00 AM |

Photos by Austin Mcallister

Dosa Royale
316 Court Street, South Brooklyn

This place could do for South Indian cuisine what Pok Pok did for Thai food—that is, make real-deal ethnic fare totally accessible to those residents of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill that are too lazy to leave Brooklyn. We’ve trekked to hole-in-the-wall dosa joints on Long Island and in Murray Hill, where the travel-worthy food was illuminated by unflattering fluorescent lights, but Dosa Royale—much like Pok Pok—provides a date-night setting: exposed brick, low lighting, and painted tin ceilings. Our server greeted us with a passionate description of dosas (savory crepes made from a batter of finely ground lentils and rice) and thalis (samplings of vegetables, curries, soup, lentils, chutneys, yogurt and sweets served in little steel bowls, alongside rice and rolled flatbread). And at the table beside us, a man from the kitchen with a small swipe of red powder on the center of his forehead presented one of those thalis, quietly announced the contents of its 10 tiny silver bowls in Indian-accented English, and dashed back into the kitchen. We ordered one for ourselves.

In any good thali, the flavors of each little cup are huge. Ours included meltingly smoky-sweet bites of eggplant, bracingly spicy pickled vegetables with a hint of metallic tang, exceptionally creamy yogurt, a soupy tamarind-tomato rasam with just a touch of heat, and rice pudding laced with coconut and cardamom. Of the 10 dosas available—some stuffed with spinach and paneer, another as big as the table and meant to serve four—we opted for the rava masala dosa, a crispy semolina crepe filled with soft, fragrant curried potatoes. We added an egg to the filling to make it richer and wished we’d gone for the spice add-on, too. Ours didn’t pack any heat, but every dosa can get a shot of gunpowder, mysore or chopped green chilis for varying intensities. Dosa Royale also offers fish, lamb, vegetable and chicken curries, as well as an array of street food-inspired appetizers like ulunthu vada, fried lentils that are shaped like mini-donuts and served with a creamy-spicy coconut chutney that makes you want to lick the dipping bowl.

As far as drinks, there are Kingfishers, Sixpoints and cocktails with a South Indian spin. The Raja is a margarita with kalamansi juice instead of the traditional lime, and the Madurai Sour combines bourbon and lemon with tamarind and rose water. On the non-alcoholic side, the interesting black sesame fizz tastes like seltzer and lime with a swirl of tahini, but the creamy, cooling and sweet mango lassi, sprinkled with crushed pistachios, is
hard to beat.