Lots of people out there are looking for a vegetarian restaurant, and here's a good one. Palace of Dosas specializes in vegetarian south Indian food.
It's a smallish place -- the dining room at the rear is minimally decorated but bright and comfortable. And that dining room was nicely crowded at Sunday lunch. Some of the menu listings were unfamiliar to us -- most of the Indian food in this area comes from the northern part of the subcontinent, and you won't find samosas or, obviously, any meat here.
That was a minor problem. There are sketchy explanations on the Palace printed menu and some pictures, too, which were helpful. But when it came to servers, there was a language gap.
So we took a few chances and weren't sorry that we did.
The menu is definitely extensive. Much of it is, indeed, devoted to dosas. A dosa, often served as breakfast food, is a very large crepe -- at least 12 inches in diameter -- usually made from rice and lentil flour. This is wrapped around various fillings that often involve potatoes -- wonderfully spiced potatoes. The Palace menu lists eight different kinds of standard dosas.
In a separate section are four different "spicy dosas." And in yet another section there are rava dosas, made at least partially with wheat flour. As far as I know, this is the only restaurant in the area to serve these dosas, and most customers will want to try at least one.
We tried a Masala Dosa ($7.95), the outer crepe rolled around lightly stuffed potatoes and onions -- most enjoyable. And we also ate, with reservations, that same filling in a Rava Masala Dosa ($9.95). In this case, the crisp crepe was too salty for our tastes.
But there's lots more to enjoy at the Palace. For a first course, we ordered an assorted appetizer platter ($5.95) -- enough for two. The large, round metal tray -- metal is typical of southern India tableware -- held Iddly (steamed lentil and rice cakes), Alu Bonda (fried potato fritters), Bajii (fried onion, coated in chick pea batter) and Vadai (picture a doughnut made from lentil flour).
All were accompanied by Coconut Chutney and Sambar, a soupy vegetable stew, both of them spicy. But we needed every bit of that spiciness to add oomph.
Wonderful breads, of course, are also available. We tried Poori, the puffed fried bread served with those terrific spiced potatoes, and Chappati, flat bread, topped with butter.
We also tried a couple of curries. Eggplant Curry ($8.95) was mild and fresh tasting, perfect for Chappati mopping. But, to me, Palak Paneer ($9.95) was the star of the show. Paneer is cubed, pressed fresh cheese. It almost resembles tofu and, served as it was at the Palace, it was heartily spiced. Spinach was included, too.
For the dessert, I drank a refreshing iced yogurt drink, Mango Lassi ($2.95), which has always been a favorite. And we tried some Gulab Gamun ($3.55) -- gulab are always described as "milk balls." They are little spheres, all right. But the spheres are really cakelike (lots of dairy in the dough), deep fried and soaked in syrup. These Gulab were pleasantly, not overwhelmingly sweet.
What else can you eat here? Well, next time I'm going to try the Utthappan, lentil floor pancakes with various toppings, and I'm going for the Thali, an assortment of dishes again served on the metal tray ($9.95).
At lunch, a mini-Thali is offered for $6.95. And if you have any children in tow, they might be interested in the Vegetable Cheeseburger ($4.95). Accompany with french fries ($2.55), and they'll feel right at home.
PALACE OF DOSAS
3 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: 656 Millersport Highway, Amherst (834-1800). A vegetarian menu in this restaurant that specializes in southern Indian food. The kids can even have a Vegetable Cheeseburger. No beer or wine at the present time. Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Palak Paneer
NEEDS WORK: Rava Dosa
PRICE RANGE: Dosas from $6.95. Vegetable curries from $7.95.
HOURS: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Dinner, 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the lot.
RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.