875 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill
DOSA PLAZA HAS a few branches around Auckland, but it’s the Dominion Rd branch we’re dwelling on here. I do suspect, however, that the menu will be identical, as Dosa Plaza seems to be an inspired Indian take on the phenomenon of McDonald’s.
While the very name of the big Mac makes me feel slightly nauseous, I admit to a fascination with Dosa Plaza that will inevitably see me returning again and again. The thing is, it’s really nothing like that horrendous franchise, except for the fact that the counter is set up like a fast food outfit.
Apparently it’s a hugely successful business in India (and many other territories), and it’s all based on the diverse and sometimes eccentric dosa concoctions of its originator. In fact, there’s a written tract on one wall at Dosa Plaza that asks whether this guy is more of a scientist or a chef, and bangs on about the food and philosophy without ever quite getting around to answering the original question.
Like most nicely priced Indian restaurants, Dosa Plaza is a cheap and cheerful venue that you wouldn’t want to take a first date to. I can report, however, that the lighting isn’t quite as blindingly bright as most affordable Asian cheap eats around Auckland.
I’ve been there a few times when it lacked atmosphere because of low patronage, but on this most recent visit, around 9pm on a Friday night, the place was 90 percent full of happily munching Indian families and young couples, and seemed to take on a warm hue because of it. People do make a difference.
This is primarily a dosa restaurant, and the name does warn, or advertise, this fact. The dosa, for those who have never tried this food staple from south India, is a type of pancake, made with fermented rice batter and black lentils, fried and wrapped round a filling that is most commonly a mix of potatoes and onions, but in the case of the Dosa Plaza… it can contain almost anything, as long as it’s vegetarian!
This time round, I decided instead to order non-dosa items from the display board, and regretted doing so. The Gujarati thali was just okay, with two quite spicy curries (one cauliflower, one paneer), a dhal, raw onion, rice and bread, accompanied by a milky-sweet dish and… heck, don’t ask! The bread was crisp and just right while the curries were enjoyable but not exactly distinguished. The dhal was rather muddy of flavour. With its nondescript white rice, at $12.50 this thali isn’t bad value, but it’s way inferior to that of Sasuma up the road, both in quantity and quality.
Our other main was a paneer dish which, as you can see, offered a few slabs of dried/smoked paneer, a dipping sauce, and otherwise, items pretty similar to that of the thali, minus the rice. The paneer was rather nice, but we both regretted not having opted for dosa instead.
The problem is what to order from the massive menu, which provides a mind-boggling array of choices. There are many, many dosa possibilities – even sweet ones – and on top of that, like quite a few Indian vegetarian eateries, there’s a ‘Chinese Style’ section, and, well… it’s all just too much when you have no idea where to start.
I reckon Dosa Plaza, if it’s going to stick with such a huge menu, could do with some kind of navigational aid for the novice – for instance, a summary that gives the visitor an idea of where to start and how much he or she might want to order to get something approximating a normal meal-size. And how about a page or two of chef’s recommendations, just to get started? You could literally read this menu for hours, and that’s just not convenient.
On previous visits, we did order dosa and found our choices – once again – to be okay, if not staggeringly good. But with dosa, the choice is so great that there could easily be something amazing just waiting in the wings and unknown to the casual visitor.
One thing Dosa Plaza does offer is 100 percent vegetarian convenience food that’s tasty and affordable. On my limited experience there are other local Indian vegetarian restaurants that offer both better food and prices, but nothing can touch Dosa Plaza for either extensive menu options or simply being open when you need it to be. GARY STEEL
875 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill