Dasaprakash delivers delights to Santa Clara
DON’T MISS RANGE OF DISHES FROM POPULAR SOUTHERN INDIAN CHAIN
BY SHEILA HIMMEL
When made well, a masala dosa tastes as good as it sounds (mah-SAH-lah DOH-sah). If the Das family with its chain of southern Indian hotels and restaurants has its way, the stuffed crepes will be downed like burritos in Silicon Valley.
Already, the family has done Santa Clara a great favor by putting a bright orange face on their Dasaprakash restaurant sign at the rickety Mariposa Gardens Center. The restaurant, in a former bike shop, opened in May. Dasaprakash is just two doors from legendary Stan’s Donut Shop, though it is hard to imagine patronizing both businesses in one trip.
Although Dasaprakash is completely vegetarian, you won’t leave hungry. You won’t even see much of the vegetables. They’re either tucked into potatoes and folded into thin, lentil-rice pancakes (dosas), deep-fried in lentil fritters (pakodas), or mushed into patties of steamed and buttered rice (iddlies). All of it is a joy.
Madhu Das, the youngest son, sets a high standard for food and ambience at the Santa Clara restaurant. (Angelenos may be familiar with Dasaprakash in Cerritos and Santa Monica.) Das has employed vaastu shastra, an age-old Indian philosophy similar to feng shui, in the interior design. “We have the kitchen in the right place,” he says. Also, a calming stone trough in front. An unusual degree of care has been taken in the decor by Dasaprakash’s architect, Sat Gang, a patron of the family’s Santa Monica restaurant. Gang works for the design firm AkarStudio, which has produced a lot of restaurants and upscale shops, like Kenneth Cole in San Francisco.
Polished dark wood covers the floor. The 90-seat dining room feels bigger than it is, with mirrors on one wall. On the other wall are comfortable booths. At the back, do not miss the colorful Kathakali dance masks from the state of Kerala. The four papier-mâché masks represent four dance characters: the all-knowing, the enforcer, the villain, the consort. See if you can guess who’s who.
Also unusual, there is no lunch buffet. Das regarded the room as not big enough for buffet. Now, whether you regard the Indian lunch buffet as efficient or annoying, here’s an alternative.
The dinner menu is a lot bigger than lunch, with intrigues like Cream of Wheat crepes (rava dosai) and many more pancakes. If you try to order from the dinner menu at lunch, you will be told, sure, have whatever you want from the dinner menu. As long as it’s also on the lunch menu.
The very popular South Indian thali is $9 at lunch, $11 at dinner. This is a combination plate of 10 dishes, none of them dosas, and dessert.
The following choices are all $10:
No. 1, the Dasaprakash Special, offers two little doughnuts called medhu vadai, made of black lentils. Dip them in the bowl of sambhar, a jaunty yellow-lentil stew. (More than 20 varieties of lentils are used in Indian cooking, all of them an improvement on the sludgy gray ones often seen elsewhere.) Two iddlies, comforting steamed rice cakes shaped like seashells, and the wonderful signature masala dosa are also good dipped in sambhar. Or in fresh cilantro, coconut or tamarind chutney.
No. 5, the Andhra Heat, gives you the chance to try pesseret, a chance you should always take. This is a pancake of another flavor, texture and shape altogether. Some people are put off by the slight bitterness, but I found it delicious. Green chile and ginger, shiny on top, but softer and thicker than the dosa, the pesseret is bent into sharp corners. So it has crispy edges and a chewy interior. This pesseret comes with one conjeevaram iddly, a sweet-hot confection stuffed with serrano chiles, coconut, yogurt, black mustard seeds and cashews. Also: one onion uppuma, a deconstructed iddly of steamed Cream of Wheat with spices.
No. 6, the Kerala Harvest, also gives you a masala dosa, an iddly and a sad mush of green beans in coconut sauce called pongal avial. The beans’ individuality has been lost in cooking.
Very crunchy cashew-covered lentil fritters called pakodas ($4.75) began the feast. They would have been more appealing warm. Desserts include many flavors of ice cream and pudding, and sweets called halwa that are nutty and rich.
You can see why Stan’s would be out of the question.
Contact Sheila Himmel at email@example.com or (408) 920-5926. Fax (408) 271-3786.
Dasaprakash *** 1/2
Atmosphere: Upscale South Indian bistro is a terrific house of pancakes. Vegetarian with rich possibilities.
Where: 2636 Homestead Road (in Mariposa Gardens Center across from Santa Clara Central Library), Santa Clara
Information: (408) 246-8292
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays
Parking: Large lot in front
Et cetera: Beer and wine. Wheelchair access. AE, DC, MC, V
Restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously. The Mercury News pays for all meals.