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Dishes at Paper Dosa are warming and flavorful

SANTA FE, N.M. — Although this is one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Fe, I have never have tried the food that gives it its name.

A paper dosa is a very thin crepe of fermented rice and lentil batter. It always looks scary to me: longer than a forearm and rolled to fit around one.

I’ve seen many people enjoying them, dipping pieces in chutneys or sauces. It’s undoubtedly good if other items on the menu are any measure of what to expect. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tasted here.

So it was a delight to introduce the restaurant to a friend. We chattered and shared our dishes through the evening, aided by a knowledgeable waiter who offered advice and paced the dishes just right. Also, we never felt pressured to leave as our talk kept us sitting there some time after we finished the food.

We both ordered from the tasting menu, which offers three slightly smaller courses of some items on the main menu ($35). For starters, I went for the mango salad, while my friend chose the chile onion pakora. The pakora is essentially onion rings, but flash-fried with jalapeños in a spiced rice flour, served with an eggplant chutney. The thin batter around the onions (strands, not rings) had an earthier taste than the usual wheat flour, as well as a slow, satisfying afterburn. We gave it two thumbs up.

The mango salad consisted of fresh, nicely ripe mango chunks lightly sprinkled with chile dust. Accompanying it was goat cheese, toasted walnuts and thin slices of watermelon radish over lettuces. The sweet cilantro dressing provided a cool contrast to the pakora.

The second course was uttapam, a pancake made of the dosa batter, but with additional ingredients cooked into it. My friend opted for sunchokes, while I chose the mushroom medley. We happily dipped bites of the uttapam into tomato and coconut chutneys. The dish also came with a cup of sambar, a spicy vegetable soup.

I should mention that the spices in this cuisine are mostly warm and flavorful, rather than hot, enhancing rather than overwhelming the food.

After the first two courses, we enjoyed the third (along with much of it to take home), which featured curries. My friend chose a traditional Bangalore chicken curry, with fresh garam masala, tomatoes, bell peppers and coconut milk. It was somewhat more savory than my sweeter and fruitier choice, the prawn moilee in a yellow coconut curry with fenugreek, ginger, garlic and additional spices. The prawns were generous in both size and quantity. Perfectly cooked Basmati rice was served on the side.

We passed on dessert, but several choices are on the menu, including popsicles!

Paper Dosa offers beer and wine, but my friend decided on the spicy ginger soda ($5), while I enjoyed an herbal iced tea ($2).

This is a popular spot – the restaurant quickly filled during our Tuesday night visit – but reservations are available for parties of six or more.