Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dosa Truck, Los Angeles, Restaurant Review

Indian food roams the LA streets via several different food trucks, and in the case of the Dosa Truck, the best dishes are the Indian-Mexican fusion ones.

7 out of 10 Peppers = Spicy

I should be in charge of naming things. Sure, I write plenty of headlines that I think are pretty clever for articles at my magazine job, I once nicknamed a high school classmate "cowboy" (because he was from Kentucky and for some reason that is the only association I had with the state) and it actually spread and stuck for years (Sorry, Heath!), and I briefly tried to get Nick to call the 5-Freeway the "Panch" (the Bengali word for "five") because I thought it would be cute (he didn't). But I mean it would be great if people would hire me to solely to name random things: movies, inventions, books, etc. I would be so great at it.

And if I got to name the Dosa Truck, I would name it something having to do with amazing Indian fusion food truck cuisine. Because that is where it excels. The Mexican-Indian fusion dishes are amazing. But the dosas aren't very good (Sorry, Dosa Truck!), plus I don't think most folks here, even those familiar with Indian cuisine, actually know what a dosa is. (It's a savory South Indian lentil-rice crepe, generally stuffed with potatoes, in case you were wondering.) And the Dosa Truck doesn't include Sambar, the typical soup/dipping sauce served with dosas. Which is like serving a hot dog without ketchup.


The Dosa Truck roams the streets of LA. The first time I caught it was at an Indian event (the annual Indian Film Festival, if I remember correctly). More recently, it happened to be outside a wine bar in Pasadena, where a dear friend (blogger Rhonda at Shine Beauty Beacon) was throwing a girls' night out party to celebrate her birthday.


Rhonda was so thrilled because she can't eat gluten, and this was the first food truck the bar had partnered with in weeks that wasn't a gluten-fest (i.e., one of the grilled cheese trucks had been there earlier that month), and she had a lot of options. If you want vegan options, the truck has those too. (It doesn't use ghee so there's no dairy there, and it was very willing to take custom orders.)

So...I don't know if the food truck purposely has a "secret menu" (a la In-N-Out Burger) or if the employees simply forgot to post one or more of the menu boards this particular night, but I found that the best dishes were the ones that were not on the posted menu. But here's what I would order, in order (Did I mention Rhonda's friends were amazing and let me sample all of their food? This is why I love girls' night out. Wine and so much food):

One of the girls asked the employee taking food orders what her favorite dish was, and she responded that it's the Chicken Tostada. I definitely agree. It's fried roti topped with an assortment of sauteed veggies and chicken in Indian seasonings.  

Masala Fries were on the menu, but AHH for Sweet Potato Masala Fries. WHICH NO ONE SHOULD KEEP FROM ME! One of the girls somehow found out that sweet potatoes were on the truck and got these amazing bites of deliciousness.

Here are the standard Masala Fries. Despite the fact that I don't generally like non-sweet potatoes, I have to hand it to the Dosa Truck that the chunky tomato sauce was really delicious, and the fries' spice level was perfect.

I believe this was the "Tandoori Chicken Tacos" order, although it clearly looks like a quesadilla. But regardless, it was great and all of the Mex-Indian fusion dishes are great options.

The one traditional Indian item that I thought was perfect was the Mango Lassi. It was $4, so not cheap, but it's the most delicious lassi I've had to date. It tasted like it incorporated the flavors of rose, cardamom, and pistachio in with the mango and the yogurt.

These were the Samosas. They were crispy and well-flavored. I appreciated that they were served with two chutneys.

This was my actual order. The Goa Goodness, AKA spinach-mushroom-cheese dosa. It had a good mix of flavors but the dosa itself was soggy. And I couldn't blame that on the sambar since there wasn't any. In the Dosa Truck's defense, one of the girls got this dosa as a custom order without cheese (substituting caramelized onions instead) and hers wasn't soggy.

And here's the most traditional dosa, what the Dosa Truck has dubbed its Mumbai Madness. It's stuffed with curried potatoes. It's OK, but if you really want a good dosa, I'd recommend Annapurna Cuisine in Culver City.

I hope to catch this truck again in my excursions around LA. And next time, I'll know to order.

Dosa Truck, Los Angeles (location varies), dosatruck[at]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mini Indian-Seasoned Eggplant Pizzas with Mushrooms

You won't have to cut the crusts off this pizza, as the eggplant base makes it dough-free and fabulous.

2 ~1/4-in. round eggplant slices
~1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 slices provolone cheese
~1 tsp. garlic powder
~1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 whole mushrooms

You'll Also Need:
a toaster oven


1. Take each eggplant round and cross-hatch it. Rub in about 1/2 tsp. garlic powder into each round.
2. Place the seasoned eggplant on the toaster oven tray, preferably on top of a wire rack so the heat can get all around. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes.
3. Spread about 1/2 Tbs. tomato paste over each baked eggplant round.
4. Sprinkle the cumin seeds on top.
5. Top with a slice of provolone each.
6. Tear up the mushrooms and place the pieces on top of the cheese. Bake for about 7 more minutes.

Makes 2 mini-eggplant pizzas.

The AHH Factor: I have my share of vices when it comes to eating healthy. Fried chicken from KFC, even though I usually feel sick to my stomach after I eat it. Custard-y desserts, especially if they are lying around the house. Cheese is my Achilles' heel.

But I do have a lot of things going for me that help me maintain a healthy weight. I love almost all vegetables (eggplant is one of my all-time favorites). I go from ravenous to full in about five bites. And I hate almost all carbs.

Bread? Only if covered with the aforementioned cheese (even then I will probably find a way to separate the cheese from the bread). Potatoes? Only if they are sweet potatoes, thank you very much. Rice? I'm burnt out after eating in every day as a kid. I don't even really like pie crust. I'd much rather just have the filling.

So, like most people, I love a good pizza (or even a bad pizza), but I like everything about it except for the crust. So with this recipe, I've found a way to eliminate it entirely. Try it with all of your favorite pizza toppings. If you love eggplant like I do, you will find this the easiest and tastiest pizza "dough" around.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chakra Indian Cuisine, Beverly HIlls, Restaurant Review

With superb cuisine, customer service, and atmosphere, Chakra Indian Cuisine is an amazing Indian food option in Beverly Hills.

10 out of 10 Peppers = Extra Spicy

The first time I ate at Chakra Indian Cuisine, the restaurant seemed as sparkly as the engagement ring that had been slipped onto my ring finger only a few hours before. After a private proposal, Nick sought a festive Indian restaurant to tell his family (who had flown in from Alaska for the occasion, his mom being privy to his plans) and decided on this reputed spot in Beverly Hills. It truly was the perfect venue. At the end of our meal, our server even emerged with a complimentary strawberry-festooned miniature cake with chocolate cursive lettering spelling "congratulations" on the white plate. Customer service is alive, well, and chocolate-coated (at least when you dine in Beverly Hills).

That was more than two and a half years ago, and Nick and I hadn't walked in the restaurant's red-carpeted entrance since. While the restaurant is lovely, delicious, and friendly, it is also out of our usual price range. However, we are plotting for a future in which our dining-out price range increases, and when Nick took a step toward that plan (and more importantly, toward being a better teacher) by passing his National Board Certification, we agreed, together as a married couple this time, that Chakra would be the perfect place to celebrate.


Tied-back curtains decorate the space from the entry to the VIP room and to my personal favorite, the semi-private cabanas for two. The cabanas feature roomy curved velvet sofas, a table just large enough for an assortment of family-style entrees, and a romantic feel. I also love the water feature that separates the host stand from the dining area. Valet parking is free. It's been said that the space is fit for a king, well the King of Pop at least, as Michael Jackson frequented it. (That alone is probably reason enough for Nick to love any restaurant.)


The food is primarily traditional North Indian cuisine, done superbly. There are a few adventurous dishes here and there, but the most adventurous aspect is the cocktail menu.

I ordered a Peacock Martini, which tasted like raspberries. The restaurant also has cocktails named after the seven chakras. Will a blend of Captain Morgan, passion fruit rum, and mango unblock your second chakra? I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to find out.

Since we were going all out, we opted for the Chef's Special Menu, a seven-course dinner for two for $75. This is a great way to impress a date, and a starving date at that. (We wound up with take-home bags.)

 The Papadum came with an assortment of chutneys in a lovely display.

The mushroom samosa in the Samosa Trio was brilliant. Not being a potato fan (the typical samosa filling), I am eager to make these at home.

Like everything else, the presentation of the Malai Chicken was terrific. Don't they say you eat with your eyes before you eat with your mouth? Your eyes will be very happy.

Some of the menu was set and some of it we got to pick, and I was impressed when our attentive server mentioned that we might want to switch our order from both the chicken tikka masala and the paneer masala because both came in the same flavored curry. (We switched the chicken to Tandoori Chicken. The other option would have been to switch the paneer to the daal of the day.)

When I initially looked at the Chef's Special, I thought pick one of the four entree categories (seafood, meat, poultry, and vegetarian), but on closer inspection, I realized we got to sample them all. How indulgent. We opted for the Shrimp Korma (over the fish curry) from the seafood choices.

The Lamb Ragan Ghosh was a perfectly cooked New Zealand lamb cooked in "passionate" Kashmir spices.

The Paneer Butter Masala had a delicious curry sauce. If you like chicken tikka masala, then give this dish a whirl. Paneer is a delicate quick Indian cheese.

It was served with aromatic saffron rice.
For bread, we had a choice of Naan (shown, available in garlic, butter, or plain), Paratha, or Roti.

And, unlike lots of dinners for two, we didn't have to split one dessert, we got to split two! The tri-colored Kulfi was my favorite, boasting the colors of the Indian flag with its mango and pistachio layers. We also enjoyed a Mango and Kashmir Apple Tart, served with vanilla ice cream.

The Chef's Special Menu was an amazing way to try a variety of the dishes available at Chakra. But I don't think you can  go wrong, whatever you order. Whether you have a special occasion with a lover, are trying to turn a first date into a lover, or want to impress your parents or in-laws, Chakra is an amazing place to make some memories.

Chakra Indian Cuisine, 151 South Doheny Drive  Beverly Hills, CA 90211. (310) 246-3999.

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