Yesterday I reported on a brief stop at Surati Farsan Mart in Artesia to eat paani puri and chaat. After that tasty start I made my second stop: at Chennai Dosa Corner for, well, a dosa.
Chennai Dosa Corner has been open for about eight years (so the gent at the counter told me). It is now one of several South Indian specialists open on and off Pioneer Boulevard. Back in the day if you wanted a good dosa in L.A County you had to go to Udupi Palace further up Pioneer Blvd. (Well, Paru’s in Hollywood was also quite good but didn’t have quite the same ambience for the immigrant nostalgist; nor did Sunset Blvd. have a branch of the State Bank of India right at the freeway exit.) My local informants tell me that Udupi Palace is still the gold standard in Artesia, and as an immigrant nostalgist of the old school it would have been my first choice except for one problem: yes, no outdoor seating. Thus Chennai Dosa Corner just a little bit up the road. Here’s how it went.
But first I should say that it’s not really the case that I felt a pressing need to eat a dosa in Los Angeles. The Twin Cities now has—as I’ve recorded many times before—a large number of very good to excellent South Indian specialists that can ably fill that need. But I was in Artesia after a long time and even if it was raining, and even if Surati Farsan Mart’s outdoor seating was excellent, I wanted to check out more of the scene. And I felt reasonably sure that Chennai Dosa Corner would give me a good dosa.
After all, the Indian food scene in the US has improved immeasurably in the last decade and a half as waves of new white collar arrivals to various metros around the country have brought more and more specialist grocery stores and restaurants with them. And as the Twin Cities Indian food renaissance indicates, a large part of this improvement has been in the broad South Indian section of the market, as that is the part of India from which most of the new arrivals seem to have come. And so if the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul now have a string of high quality South Indian restaurant the odds seemed good that any place that has lasted in Artesia would be pretty good too. Especially when they’ve got “dosa” right in their name.
Now I don’t want to over-extrapolate from one small meal at one restaurant but I’ve had many better South Indian meals in the Twin Cities than I had at Chennai Dosa Corner. I started with a plate of idlis, three to the order and served, as you expect, with sambar and coconut chutney and also a tomato-onion chutney. The idlis and sambar were just about acceptable; the coconut chutney was sad; the tomato-onion chutney was very tasty though. I hoped for better with the rava dosa which was served with the same accompaniments. But the dosa was no better than acceptable either. It wasn’t just me who felt this way: a trio who split the available outdoor seating with me weren’t terribly excited about their dosas either (they were visiting from the Bay Area and India). Maybe there’s better stuff elsewhere on the menu?
About that outdoor seating. It’s not fancy like Surati Farsan Mart’s. Chennai Dosa Corner is in a strip mall. While others in that strip mall—which for some reason is divided into two separately named plazas even though it’s just one strip mall—had elaborate tented seating in the parking lot, Chennai Dosa Corner had put out two small tables under the overhang outside the restaurant. I’d arrived at 11.45—very early for lunch when you’re dealing with Indians—and the restaurant was mostly empty and I had no trouble grabbing a table outside. At the time it was two small tables jammed together and I had no problem separating out the second for the aforementioned trio who arrived well after me, by which time the interior had begun to fill up. They passed on sitting inside, by the way, because it did not fill the cautious with confidence. The gent at the counter did not have a mask on; and most of the growing number of customers showing up to wait for tables for large groups etc. seemed to also be behaving as though masks were now optional in restaurants whether eating at a table or not. I can only hope that with omicron cresting better practices have prevailed.
This attitude, by the way, seemed to also be in effect at the venerable Ambala Sweets & Snacks—in the second plaza in the same strip. I walked over after my meal was done in the hope of some more nostalgia-servicing but found a few too many people standing around to make their orders at the counter who either had their masks off their noses or off their faces completely.
For a look at Chennai Dosa Corner and what I ate there launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for price and to see what’s coming next.
With tax and tip the total came to just about $20. I should clarify that while I was not enthusiastic about my meal it’s not that it was bad; it was just not as good as I was hoping it might be.
Well, I’m not giving up on South Indian food in Artesia. On our next trip I hope to make it inside Udupi Palace and I might give one of the newer places a try too. I am particularly intrigued by Podi Dosa down the road—it appears to be an Andhra specialist. If you are a regular visitor to Artesia and can weigh in on the current South Indian scene there—including whether my experience of Chennai Dosa is an outlier—please do so.
Next up in restaurant reports: the first Minnesota review of 2022. We’ll be back to Los Angeles reports next weekend with another visit to Gardena, this time for ramen.