Brunch is easily San Francisco's favorite meal. And if you're looking for something different than the standard fare, Dosa on Valencia has the South Indian answer to your prayers. For starters, there's often no wait; you can sit right down and order a spicy Bloody Mary Curry, say, or a non-alcoholic beverage like the stunning South Indian Monsoon. The latter arrives looking like a tropical sunset: yellow fading to orange fading to purple, accented with bright green mint leaves. Stir it up and you'll taste citrus, mango, and pomegranate with soda to temper the sweetness, and a light kick of ginger.
In addition to the complimentary bowl of crisp pappadum, you can order a starter, each large enough for two. Try the chaat: Papdi Chaat, with crisp crackers, mango, avocado, mashed potato, yogurt and chutney; or Bhel Puri, puffed rice and chickpea noodles with root vegetables and chutney. For a light dish that balances heat and cool, order the mung and kale salad, the mung beans shaped into a timbale with bits of chopped kale. While the citrus-cumin dressing brings on the spice, respite comes from sweet orange segments, lentil sprouts, and half-moons of watermelon radish.
Eggs appear in several guises: with cheese or lamb added, formed into a frittata, sunny-side up or over easy on a pancake-like (savory) uttapam. One stellar option is the Egg Poriyal Dosa, in which the rice-lentil dosa is rolled around a filling of scrambled eggs. The plate arrives brimming with food: three generous pieces of dosa encasing soft, buttery eggs; pale green coconut chutney and rich red tomato chutney; a bowl of sambar, the mild South Indian lentil soup.
The South Indian Thali is a good choice if you'd like to try a bit of everything. A circle of silver bowls covers the large platter, each containing a vegetarian offering: rasam (spicy tomato-based broth), sambar, pickled vegetables, cool raita, idli (a steamed rice dumpling), coconut milk curry with vegetables, okra curry, lemon rice, steamed beets. In the center of the plate is a pappadum, a folded dosa, and white rice. This is a perfect dish to share with a friend, although the garlicky raita is so good you may need to order more. You even get dessert: rasmalai, a not-too-sweet cheese patty blended with cream, cardamom, and rosewater.
While brunch at Dosa isn't exactly cheap, it's no more expensive than a plate of eggs Benedict at your local hipster café, and far more of an adventure.