As I scurried down Broadway on a recent Friday night searching for my dining destination, dosa by DOSA, I nearly walked right past it. With large glass windows, exposed red brick, lofty open ceilings and a clean, modern vibe, the building at the corner of 23rd Street and Broadway blends in with the rest of the Hive complex in Uptown Oakland.
Inside the industrial-chic space, the chatter of patrons, bustle of table runners and long line of eager eaters mirrored the busyness of the city outside, as well as the boisterous Indian markets that inspired the restaurant’s design. From Anjan and Emily Mitra, owners of San Francisco’s elevated Indian restaurant DOSA, this fast-casual little sister brings all of the flavors of its namesake mainstay with none of the pretense.
As my dining partner had yet to arrive and because I can be an indecisive eater, I immediately grabbed a menu to look over as I got myself situated at a table. I chose a seat at one of the simple, sleek tables in the back, where only plexiglass separated me from a bright, efficient kitchen. A good second option would have been to pull up a stool at the counter-side bar, where you can order boozy adult slushies or uniquely spiced craft cocktails, like the tequila-based Chickpea Sour ($11) or gin or vodka-based Dirty Chutney Martini ($11).
The lunch/dinner menu at dosa by DOSA features a selection of salads, small plates, street wraps, rice bowls and dosas. By the time my friend arrived, I had already selected some starters, but was still on the fence about a main entree. The counter-service concept means you order all at once and pay in advance, so it’s best to have made some choices before it’s your turn at the till.
We started with a few street food-inspired small plates. The masala-laced tandoori lamb kebabs ($7.95) and juicy chunks of spicy tandoori chicken ($6.95) both came in five pieces and were each served with cilantro-mint chutney and creamy yogurt raita that cut the heat of the dishes. We also tried the cheese-stuffed naan ($5.50) and idli fries ($4.95), which are rice and lentil patties that are sliced and fried to crunchy perfection. The fries were spicy from the roasted chiles in the seasoning, and their light, crispy texture was satisfying, but not satiating.
That onslaught of appetizers set me up with high expectations for what was to follow — one of the eatery’s namesake dosas. The restaurant offers 10 types of the large savory rice and lentil crepes, which are substantially stuffed with a variety of fillings, from butter chicken to habanero mango, and served with coconut and tomato chutneys and a subtle but spicy sambar dipping soup. We went with the traditional masala potato-stuffed dosa ($8.50), which was served on a plastic tray covered with a sheet of newspaper, tying into the street market vibe of the restaurant. For an additional 50 cents, you can add a little luxury to the dish with truffle oil.
Orders at dosa by DOSA come out as they’re ready and not all at once, which means they’re hot and fresh, but can also lend for gaps of time between dishes. Within the window of waiting between our idli fries and the eventual arrival of our dosa, my partner and I had a couple of beverages to enjoy between dishes. We sipped on sweet and spicy shikanji lemonade ($4.95), made with fresh lemon, sparkling water, cardamom and hibiscus before deciding to take it up a notch with a dangerously dreamy Monchichi ($8), a vodka and coconut-based slushie that looks like a tiki drink and tastes like a piña colada.
We wrapped up our meal with a creamy bowl of cardamom kheer ($2.95), a vegan tapioca pudding with saffron, coconut milk and toasted slivered almonds, and a decadent slab of hazelnut fudge ($2.95), which was a little on the rich side, but perfect for a sweet tooth.
One of the few places in Uptown to serve breakfast all week long, dosa by DOSA is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Reservations can be made for groups of 10 more and you can order online for expedited service.