Tuesday, January 6, 2009

India, translated well and badly

San Francisco has a wonderful mixture of ethnic cuisines, and my friend Donna, who has lived in the city for almost three decades, loves to eat in the Mission district, where she says the scene is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of different restaurants. We settled on Dosa, and its incredibly varied menu was a delight. The appetizer of chickpea dumplings with tamarind, yogurt and cilantro sauces danced a Maypole on our tongues. Donna ordered a salad, and it was delivered with incredibly fresh mixed greens, tossed with a slightly sweet dressing and topped with an orchid. Nice! My calamari dish was spicy but not too searing and it came with a half-plate of greens as well. We shared an entree of five thick pancakes, each a different flavor; my favorite was the one with bright green peas. It was served with four sauces, each changing the flavor of the pancakes ever so slightly.

This was such a stunning contrast to the meal I had on Saturday in Walnut Creek, a rather pretensious little suburb in the East Bay. I chose Bread of India on the basis of it having won, four years running, Best of the East Bay from Diablo magazine. All I can say after my meal there was they must have paid someone off big time. My chicken shish keebab appetizer was so rubbery it could have been used as suitcase wheels, while the herbed naan had the tiniest bit of sliced basil on top of it and was charred on the bottom. I don't mean just a little toasty; I had to peel the black off in order to eat it. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. It was all I could do not to warn off those diners who hadn't ordered yet; I could only hope my choices had been bad ones and the rest were OK.

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