Restau­rant Re­view Pa­per Dosa

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Alex Heard

Judg­ing by my un­sci­en­tific method of walk­ing in­side and look­ing around, Pa­per Dosa has been drawing en­thu­si­as­tic crowds from the mo­ment it opened in March. This may have some­thing to do with the restau­rant’s ori­gins as a cater­ing and pop-up busi­ness, which is a good way to build a fan base. Chef Paulraj Karup­pasamy and his wife and part­ner Nel­lie Tis­chler had been serv­ing south In­dian food in the Santa Fe area since early 2014 — many peo­ple caught their pop-up act at Café Fina, on Old Las Ve­gas High­way — when they an­nounced last fall that they were set­ting an­chor in a space at Plaza Si­enna, next door to Maria’s New Mex­i­can Kitchen. I started hear­ing good things about Pa­per Dosa right away from my in­for­mal net­work of restau­rant buffs. Two re­cent vis­its con­firmed that they were right.

Pretty much ev­ery­thing about the place is click­ing, start­ing with the bright, mod­ern in­te­rior, which is roomy enough not to seem crowded but lively enough to feel like part of a fun ur­ban scene. (On that note, be pre­pared for some noise — the hard-edged decor doesn’t do much to muf­fle the sound of a few dozen gab­bing din­ers.) You can eat at one of sev­eral sim­ple wooden ta­bles that are ar­rayed to the left and right of the en­trance, at a wide L-shaped bar that dom­i­nates the room (with an open kitchen be­hind it), or in an en­closed spot to the far right, des­ig­nated for groups. With the help of friendly, knowl­edge­able servers, you can also con­sume plenty of good food at a rel­a­tively low price. We or­dered a lot. Still, the to­tals were barely north of what you’d pay for, say, a sin­gle porter­house steak at one of Santa Fe’s high-end restau­rants.

Of course, Pa­per Dosa has a pric­ing ad­van­tage, since the ma­jor­ity of what’s served here is veg­e­tar­ian. The menu’s stars are dosas, ut­ta­pams, and cur­ries. Dosas are thin, crispy crepes that are a sta­ple in south In­dia. They’re made from var­i­ous recipes; the ones at Pa­per Dosa start with a bat­ter that con­tains fer­mented rice, lentils, and ghee. (If you’re ve­gan, you can ask them to leave the ghee out.) The re­sult looks like a tra­di­tional Euro­pean crepe, but it’s crispier, with more fla­vor com­ing through once you start cut­ting and crunch­ing. The menu of­fers dif­fer­ent sa­vory fill­ings, six of which are veg­e­tar­ian and one, lamb keema, that will please car­ni­vores.

We tried two dosas: the clas­sic masala and a three-cheese one. Both were ex­cel­lent. The masala dosa was flipped over like an omelet — a huge one — and filled with a yummy mix fea­tur­ing coarsely mashed pota­toes, onions, cashews, and spices. The three-cheese dosa was folded — the end prod­uct looks like a big flat­tened crepe bur­rito — and con­tained a de­li­cious blend of melted moz­zarella, fon­tina, and ched­dar. Both were served with side ramekins of sam­bar (In­dian-style veg­etable stew), co­conut chut­ney, and tomato chut­ney.

This meal started with one of the best sal­ads I’ve had in months — but­ter let­tuce, goat cheese, mango, radishes, and wal­nuts — and ended with a sea­sonal veg­etable curry dish that was am­ple and rich. No­tably, though, it wasn’t too spicy. The heat level at Pa­per Dosa is gen­er­ally milder than at many other In­dian restau­rants.

Dur­ing a sec­ond visit, we started with two ap­pe­tiz­ers, dahi vada and chile and onion pakora, and both were mem­o­rable. The dahi vada con­sists of a lentil frit­ter that’s served in a bowl un­der a thick layer of spicy yo­gurt sauce, mint chut­ney, and tamarind sauce. The menu de­scribes the dish as a “beau­ti­ful dis­play,” and it was in­deed: del­i­cate lines of the two col­or­ful sauces were laid on the yo­gurt in a Spiro­graph pat­tern. The onion pakora, also known as “south In­dian onion rings,” was lightly bat­tered, fried just right, and served with an egg­plant chut­ney that had a de­li­cious kick.

Dur­ing both trips, we tried the ut­ta­pam, which is de­scribed as a south In­dian pan­cake but which has a tex­ture more like a thin, rough-crust pizza. Th­ese are not as large or as fill­ing as the dosas, and a good one to try is the pa­neer (cheese) and peas. I also or­dered one meat dish (chet­ti­nad lamb) and a dessert (ras­malai) that didn’t suit me as well. The lamb was too pep­pery and just a touch over­cooked. The dessert was mainly sweet, spiced rice. That isn’t how it’s de­scribed on the menu, which says the main in­gre­di­ents are “fresh farmer’s cheese soaked in sweet cream.” But those are mi­nor com­plaints. Santa Feans are lucky to have this ex­cit­ing new restau­rant on the scene.

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