What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Family Meal Deal"? Some sort of high-fat, high-salt junk food "treat", no doubt, marketed by fast food companies as every mother's dream "night off." For the record, this mother's idea of a night off is cocktails at Madame Brussels and associated debauchery, not a bloody variety bucket. However, I could be tempted with Dosa Hut's "Family Biryani Meal Deal," a mammoth pot of biryani proudly advertised on this little restaurant's front window. McDonalds, watch your back!
Dosa Hut, bolted on to the end of West Footscray's Barkly Village, have a staggering menu of South Indian treats. Choose from idli (UFO-shaped rice flour cakes), vada (crispy lentil flour doughnuts), or dosa (huge, paper-thin crepes made from fermented rice & lentil flours). If you are used to the familiar equation, Indian = butter chicken and rogan josh, it might come as a bit of a shock to find no curries on the menu at all!
Masala dosa is one of my favourite foods of all time. The dosa is paper-thin and crispy, yet pliable enough to form a long cigar shape. Dosa Hut has a plethora of fillings - choose from egg, lamb, cheese, or even chocolate! To decipher the menu, "kal" dosa is one that is somewhat softer than normal, "podi" has a spicy powder, and "rava" is made from semolina. "Masala dosa" means that the dosa will conceal a dry-style potato curry, spiced with curry leaves, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.
Masala Combo, $9.95
Concealed within the folded dosa, Dosa Hut's potato curry was excellent, heavy on the delicious ghee and bursting with fresh spice flavours. It also came with a vada or lentil doughnut, which I usually avoid as in my experience they have a poor unhealthy-to-delicious ratio. This one was really good though, springy inside and crispy outside, perfect for mopping up the creamy coconut chutney. The little tower on the right is upma, a kind of savoury, wet, couscous-type dish mixed with whole spices and tomato. Unfortunately, Dosa Hut let itself down on the sambar, the spicy, thin soup that is so beloved in South India. This version was too watery and lacked punch.
Goat biryani, $9.50
I normally avoid biryani, as it often tastes to me like nothing more than gluggy, oily fried rice. Not so Dosa Hut's version. Each impossibly long grain of basmati rice was separate and stained a multitude of hues from spices and saffron. Within the pyramid of biryani lay nuggets of excellent, tender goat, redolent with cardamom. It came with very thin, so-so raita and an interesting peanut sauce. Be warned, though - it is chilli-hot and probably not great for kids.
So, fellow parents, when nothing seems to be going right and you want a night (or goddamit, a whole day) off, take the family to Dosa Hut. They won't care if you make a mess, and if you have guiltily left the kids in the care of the one-eyed babysitter (the TV) all afternoon, you can assuage some guilt by combining craft time with dinner time:
604 Barkly St, West Footscray (map)
Phone: 9687 0171
Hours: 11am-11pm, 7 days