Madras Dosa House – Vancouver, BC

Madras Dosa House
5656 Fraser St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 327-1233

Recently my daughter told me that her favourite cuisine is South Indian vegetarian…this is after many years of sushi as here top choice when dining out. A couple of years ago, I had taken her to the Vancouver location of Saravanaa Bhavan – a restaurant chain hailing from the city of Chennai that specializes in the cuisine of Tamil Nadu. She was smitten. She always asks if we can dine there whenever we are nearby and she held here birthday party with her friends there recently. (She and a number of her friends are verging on vegetarianism). I am only too happy to oblige her.

Being a carnivore, I find Indian vegetarian food to be the only meatless food that truly satisfies me. Unlike the typical “beans and tofu” vegetarian cuisines endemic to this city, I truly do not miss meat at all when I eat this food. Also, I had traveled through that part of India a couple of decades ago and fell in love with the cuisine and had always wanted to explore it first hand. With impetus, I am now in the midst of exploring this cuisine with my daughter by learning to cook it. I would like her to grow up knowing that vegetarianism can actually be a delicious lifestyle. I have stocked my kitchen with the requisite pantry items – luckily all very easy to find here in Vancouver. I already had a number of great cookbooks (I’m a bit of a cookbook hound), and there is no shortage of websites from which you can learn this cuisine.

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Dosa (on Valencia) – San Francisco, CA

Dosa on Valencia
995 Valencia (@ 21 St)
San Francisco, CA
(415) 642-3672

It took a long time for me to come around on South Indian food. It was one of those things that I didn’t have a lot of exposure to growing up – most cuisine where I grew up, of the South Asian variety, was usually Northern Indian, or Pakistani. Then, even when given the opportunity to be exposed to food from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and other South Indian cultures, I eschewed them for more meat-based cuisines. I was, after all, an unapologetic carnivore. Vegetarian food was to be avoided at all costs!

Times change, as thankfully have my opinions. Once I managed to try South Indian food, i was hooked. Fantastic flavours with lots of balance, heat, and texture. Even though they do have meat dishes, for the most part, I usually stick with the vegetarian. And of all the South Indian vegetarian dishes, my favorite is the Dosa.

The namesake restaurant, Dosa on Valencia (used to distinguish from their new outpost on Filmore), is one of several South Indian restaurants that have cropped up in The Mission over the past few years. Serving a wide variety of South Indian dishes, they don’t represent one specific cuisine, but a broad representation of many cuisines from South India.

The restaurant itself is actually fairly intriguing. They have been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand three of four years they’ve been in business – Michelin’s award for good value. The decor is upscale casual, and they have an interesting and diverse beverage menu – not your average South Indian eatery.

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Southern Spice – Calgary, AB

Southern Spice
102, 4655, 54th Avenue NE
(Corner of 54 Ave and Castleridge Blvd)
Calgary, AB  T3J 3Z4
Open 7 days a weekSouthern Spice on Urbanspoon

September 2008 re-visit post here

Original post below:

When Anapurna shut their doors for renovations, Dosa lovers all around Calgary lamented the fact that there was a distinct lack of South Indian food available in Calgary. Vegetarians especially, lamented the loss of a tasty option. While places like MySore Palace offered some South Indian dishes, “nobody did it like Anapurna”. Once Anapurna re-opened to tepid reviews and outright disappointment,  South Indian became a cuisine of the past in Calgary.  Something that would likely fade slowly from the public consciousness.

One afternoon, I found myself in the nether regions of the NE – searching for a bakery i’d heard about that baked fresh Kabuli Naan – an Afghani specialty. While the NE areas of Castleridge and Falconridge are renown for their Indian food, there are a variety of gastronomical treats and treasures among its many warehouses and strip-malls. From streets that wind in a nonsensical manner, to a street-naming convention that fails to follow Calgary’s grid system, most “non-locals” have difficulty navigating the streets. In fact, even with a possible address and some sparse directions, i still found myself turned around and lost.

Signage - Southern Spice Weaving in and out of neighbourhoods, I happened across a warehouse complex that, theoretically, should have been the location of my bakery. However, what was there, instead, was a small portable sign stating “Southern Spice – under new management”. A restaurant focusing on South Indian Cuisine.  Hungry, and lamenting the loss of something resembling a good dosa, i decided to give it a try.

The space itself is clean and tidy. At 1:30pm on a Tuesday, it was empty, with the exception of one server, and a table occupied by a couple quietly talking over a hyderabaad biryani. The finishings were simple – this would not be confused with the Taj Mahal stylings of Nirvana just down the street, but in most places, clean is already luxury enough.

I was given a menu to peruse. At first glance, it seemed like an extensive menu – primarily Chettinad Cuisine, but there were some Andhra-based dishes as well. I guess this is what they meant by “multi-cuisine” in the restaurant title. Prices were like a timewarp; pre-inflationary Calgary prices that made me giddy like a school girl. Dosas from $5.95 to $8.95, Thali from $10.95 – $12.95, and lassi for $2.95. If the quality was good, they had a convert.  Service was patient, friendly and cooly efficient – a refreshing change.

I ordered a simple Madras Masala Dosa ($6.95) and an order of Appalam ($1.95). 2 minutes later, piping hot appalam came out, with a slick coating of grease, fresh from the fryer. They were crispy, and fragrant, and i was starving, so they were gone in 60 seconds. For the price, they were good. Madras Masala Dosa

5 minutes after that, a humongous, crisp, fresh dosa was brought out. Served with Sambar and assorted Chutney’s, the platter took up half the table. I immediately tore into dosa, at first biting into crisp, fresh “crepe” – made of lentils and rice flour. Next, i happened upon the well-seasoned filling: potato curry, and madras masala. It was warm, well spiced, and tasted great. Combined with a great Sambar, and two chutneys (one tomato, one coconut, the tomato one rocks) this was a truly satisfying experience. The flavours were authentic – the food served piping hot – and the value indisputable. I would even go so far as to say this is better than Anapurna was before they closed for renovations. This is a classically good South Indian Restaurant.

In a day and age where complaints regarding food, service, and quality are commonplace, Southern Spice stands out for me as a bastion of excellent ethnic food. They provide honest food with authentic flavours, and do so at a price that begs you to run, not walk, to the maze that is Castleridge to try them out.


I have since been back to Southern Spice several times. Some relevant pieces of information that may be of interest to you: Wednesdays is Madras Masala Dosa day – $5. They are not busy at lunch, but i’ve been informed they are busy in the evenings. They have a buffet on weekends. Their Idly are very good – soft, tender, with a great tang. The chicken dosa was average (what was i thinking!?), their lamb dishes was excellently spiced, tender, and well prepared. Food has always been delivered quickly, efficiently. There has been no drop off in quality in subsequent visits. This is worth your time.

Southern Spice on Urbanspoon