For years now, we’ve bemoaned the lack of a single South Indian restaurant in Brooklyn. Sure, you’ll find plenty of places serving saucy, Northern-style Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Korma and Saag Paneer, but not a one featuring the unique, largely vegetarian fare associated with the Southern region, like Dosas (crepe-like pancakes), Idlis (steamed rice cakes) and Vada Pav (lentil donuts).
The borough’s South Indian situation got a little bit better when a score of dedicated stands finally popped up at Smorgasburg the likes of Bombay Sandwich Co. (featuring fillings like channa masala), Parantha Alley (whole wheat roti wraps), Potpuri (showcasing pan puri, a street snack of spiced potato), and Dosa Royale (focused on thick, savory crepes). But still, it’s hard to schedule ones cravings around the seasonal, weekend food fair, satiating them only on alternate Saturdays throughout the summer.
That’s why we’re thrilled that the best of those transient pop-ups, Dosa Royale, actually opened as Brooklyn’s first South Indian brick-and-mortar in January, in a sunny, 70-seat space on bustling Court Street in Carroll Gardens. Owned by husband and wife team Thiru and Heather Rajamani (who also run Fort Greene’s rustic Italian spot, Dino), the much-expanded menu now draws inspiration from each Southern state; Anhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Choose from an array of traditional street snacks, Samosas yes, but also Idly, Vada, and Vendakai Poriyal, a mélange of chopped okra, mung beans, curry leaves, coconut and chili. Pliant breads, like fat, fried Poori, wheat-based Chappathi and flaky Paratha, layered with the clarified butter called ghee, are perfect for sopping up fragrant Chennai Curries, like Lamb with Onion Gravy or Fish with Tomato Tamarind.
But as the name would suggest, the massive, fermented rice and black lentil crepes known as Dosas are the true heart of the restaurant, served with an assortment of Sambar and housemade Chutneys. You can order them plain, or stuffed with classic Curried Potato, Spinach and Paneer Cheese, Mixed Veggies like carrot, cabbage and string bean, or cumin and coriander-rubbed Red Onion. They also come as a Set (three small Dosas), or as the $18 Dosa Royale, an eye-popping pancake literally large enough to feed a family. You can add an egg onto any Dosa for an extra pop of protein, or up the spice quotient with a handful of green chilies or a sprinkle of gunpowder, a seriously fiery blend of spices.
And now that Dosa Royale has its liquor license, they’ve stocked their bar with the requisite selection of cutely named tipples, like Pondicherry Punch (rum, velvet falernum, hibiscus tea), The Raja (tequila, kalamansi juice, honey), and the Kovai Express (rye, sweet vermouth and cardamom bitters). Because as excited as we are to finally have regular access to traditional, South Indian fare, it just wouldn’t be Brooklyn if we couldn’t pair our Idlis and Uttapams with expertly mixed, house-infused syrup-based cocktails as well.