“ Chennai Dosa South Indian Restaurant „
A few weeks ago a few of us from work decided to go out for a meal. A friend suggested visiting the newly opened Chennai Dosa in Reading town centre. Chennai Dosa is a restaurant that specialises in South Indian cuisine, particularly from the region around Kerala. This differs somewhat from the food available in most Indian restaurants in the UK, which is why we were keen to try this out. The restaurant is part of a chain that has several branches located in the UK, details of which are available on their website; www.chennaidosa.com.
I'd already visited one of the London restaurants a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed my meal so I for one was very excited about visiting again! It may be worth noting that two of the restaurants in London specialise in purely vegetarian food whilst the remaining offer a mixture of veg and non-veg options. The meat options at the Reading restaurant use halal meat, which I was pleased to note because as a muslim this is an important requirement for me. The rest of this review focuses on our experience of the Reading restaurant.
The restaurant is located in the town centre on Kings Road. It has several bus routes running past it and is within walking distance of Reading mainline station. I decided to drive there. There is no dedicated car park at the restaurant but there is parking available at the Oracle shopping centre or Queens Road which are both a short walking distance away though you do have to pay to park there.
**Getting Seated and Ordering**
We visited the restaurant on a Friday evening and as one would expect it was fairly busy. As we had a party of about 15 people we had pre-booked and the staff at the restaurant were expecting us. When we arrived we were asked to wait a couple of minutes at the entrance whilst the staff rearranged the tables to accommodate our large group. Once we were seated a waitress came and handed each of us a menu and gave us some time to ponder over our choices. After a few minutes the waitress came back and took our drinks orders. There are the usual soft drink choices as well as beer but as I was in an Indian restaurant I thought I should opt for something a bit more traditional and went for the mango lassi - a sweet yoghurt and mango drink which is absolutely divine!
The menu itself has an array of mouthwatering dishes and it was really difficult to make a choice! The waitress did pop over a couple of times to ask if we were ready but we kept having to ask for more time as we were so spoilt for choice! I have to say the waitress was very patient and we were not made to feel like we had to rush. One downside for the menu for me was the fact that it just listed each dish, often with its traditional name, which often leaves you none the wiser as to what the dish is! The menu, in my opinion, could have been improved with a short description of each dish. I must point out though that the waitress was most helpful in this respect and was able to answer any questions we had about the dishes and it was nice to see that the waiting staff were knowledgeable about the food being served.
We all decided to skip starters and head straight for the main courses. After much deliberation I decided to order an Onion Rava Chicken Masala Dosa. For those that are unfamiliar with South Indian cuisine, a dosa is a thin crepe made from rice flour and black lentils. It can be eaten on it's own or with various dips but often is filled with potatoes, paneer (Indian cheese), chicken or mutton. It is served almost like a wrap with the filling inside. Our orders arrived fairly quickly. In the meantime we decided to order a few popadums to munch on while we waited. These arrived almost immediately with a yogurt and mint chutney as an accompaniment.
When our meals arrived there was much oohing and aahing as we were surprised at just how generous the portions were. My dosa was served in a large silver tray which was split into portions which contained different accompaniments. The dosa took up the bulk of the tray and this was accompanied by Sambar which is a lentil and vegetable curry and a selection of three chutneys - coconut, mint and coriander and spicy chilli. The food arrived piping hot and smelt absolutely delicious. There was a little bit of waiting around for some of the other dishes to arrive but I think this was to be expected as we were quite a large group.
After waiting patiently for a couple of minutes we were able to tuck in! The dosa is supposed to be eaten with your hands - no knives and forks here! Incidently there is a small sink at the side of the restaurant for customers to wash their hands before eating. Taking my first bite I noticed how light and crisp the dosa itself was. Inside the dosa, the chicken curry was a dry one so that there was little gravy - this was ideal as the gravy would have just soaked the dosa and ruined it's light, airy texture. The curry itself was bursting with flavour. It was spicy but not so much that it kills your taste buds. It was also quite aromatic and I could taste cloves and cinnamon in there, which was absolutely lovely. The chutneys accompanying the dosa were lovely - the coconut one was particularly cooling and the mint and coriander one just danced on my taste buds and brought a lot of freshness to the dish.
I did brave the red chilli dip but found it a bit too hot for my liking. As I mentioned the dosa is also accompanied by a lentil and vegetable curry called Sambar and this was absolutely delicious. I am a big fan of lentil curry and this one was packed with flavour and had an interesting texture due to the vegetables that had been blended into it which made it slightly thicker than a normal lentil curry. Often, when I have visited Indian restaurants I have found that the food can be quite oily and greasy but I was pleased to note that this was not the case here. I polished off the lot with no problem. The portion size was just right and I was left feeling satisfied and not overly stuffed.
After finishing we continued to chat amongst ourselves and we did not feel pressurised to leave or to order desserts. When we were ready we called the waitress over who cleared away our plates and asked if we would like dessert or coffee. Although I did have room for some I decided not to opt for one. Like many Indian restaurants there wasn't the greatest range of desserts - it was a choice of ice-cream, kulfi (which is an Indian ice-cream) or a Gulab Jaman (small fried dough balls in sugar syrup).
I must also point out just how reasonably priced the food here is. My Chicken dosa cost just £4.25 and many of the vegetarian options were even cheaper! My friends just could not believe the prices. The food is much tastier than a lot of the fast food offerings and probably much healthier too!
I found the restaurant to be tastefully designed with wooden tables and chairs. It was quite light and airy and there was gentle Indian music playing in the background. I would still desribe it as cafe style rather than restaurant style though. To one side there was a partially open kitchen where you could see the chefs at work. It was nice to see that the restaurant was filled with people from a variety of cultures, including a lot of people from the South Indian community. This I think is a good sign of how good and authentic the food at this restaurant is.
Overall we had a lovely time at Chennai Dosa. We were made to feel welcome and the staff were very polite and helpful. The food was very tasty and reasonably priced.
The portion sizes were just right and I left the restaurant feeling very satisfied. In fact, just writing this review has made my mouth water and my tummy rumble so I'm contemplating heading out for a dosa with my mum and sister tonight! This restaurant comes with a high recommendation from me!