Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dosa Factory--Cheap, good dosas in central square

Throw a can of beans and you will hit a Indian restaurant in Cambridge. Nothing wrong with this, its partly what gives Cambridge its flair, but for the most part, all the Indian food is from the same region, specifically, Punjabi, Northern India. Considering the size and scope and diversity of the subcontinent, you can imagine that they roll differently down in the warmer regions. Imagine the differences between deep south delicacies (biscuits and grazy) and New England favorites (baked cod and clam chowder), or Beijing food (dumplings) vs Hong Kong (dim sum). While northern Indian food tends to have more meat (ie chicken, fish), is heavier and creamier, the south is lighter, spicier and more veg.

Ergo, we generally prefer southern Indian food, and envied other cities that had a wider selection. No longer must we travel far distances to get our spice on. Shalimars in their infinite business acumen, saw the strategic necessity to fill this niche, and we are all the beneficiaries. Now, we need to be specific, we're not talking about Shalimar's the restaurant, we're talking about the actual store across the street, and its tiny cafe in the back, called the Dosa Factory. Shalimar's in Central Square is a pretty awesome store in general, offering a vast array of specialty spices, all ready made Indian meals, and an impressive selection of bollywood movies and music.

They've always had a small cafe in the back which served street food (think Panni Puri, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji), but in recent months, they expanded this little shop to include a larger menu and more seating. The menu at the Dosa Factory is heavy on the south Indian foods including dosas, idli and uttapam.

We began with a sweet mango lassi, done just right, which satiated our thirst and prepped our bellies for the gargantuan dosas to come. Our two tantalizing main courses were a uttapam and a masala dosa.

The uttapam was big, round and filling (6.95). Think of it as an Indian pancake with a bit of zing. It was very flavorful especially when dipped in the sambar (tomato soup) and coconut chutney.
The real highlight of the meal was the masala dosa (7.95) and in this area, it exceeded our expectations. Its exactly how we remembered it in Mumbai, with all the punch, character and aroma that we wanted. The honking crepe was completely chowed down.
Dosa Time
Since we went the first time, we have also been back to try the Pav Bhaji (6.95), very good, and the spinach and mozzarella dosa. We recommend the masala dosa if it is your first time.

For the price, quality and convenient location, Dosa Factory is now one of our new favorites.

Dosa Factory
571 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 868-3672

Monday, March 8, 2010

Restaurant Velazquez—Two nights in a row

Bury your feet in the sand – yes, the warm sand – and watch the setting sun drown in the sea. Listen to the moans of the wooden fishing boats, creaking and nudging each other before you, jostling for a free space. El mar is no more than five feet away and you can hear it lapping against the silky sand. This is a good dining experience.

Grab your flip flops and open up your Sol (lime and salt preferred) to Isla de Mujeres. What better place than Velazquez Restaurant, where you can take in the unbeatable sunset and the water, literally at your feet, while feasting on some of the freshest seafood the Palateers have had the joy to consume. After some select Palateers restaurant experiences (always the good ones), we pledge that we will immediately return the next night, in order to relive the magic. We rarely follow through, except for this restaurant.

Velazquez is located on the impossibly thin Isla de Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun. Take care when crossing the street, the retired middle aged Minnesota man, with a lobster colored face and matching round belly driving the golf cart straight at you, is likely inebriated. If you can make it across alive, then you are in for a treat.

Velazquez specializes in the dining delicacies of the deep sea. Fish, shrimp, lobsters, squids and crabs are the prominent categories. You can also take in a sampling of the many fine island beverages, mostly encompassing tequila inspired concoctions and your standard 2 for 1 cervezas. The waitstaff is entertainment to itself as it plays a nightly round of musical chairs, fitting impossibly sized groups of newcomers into ever changing patterns of plastic tables and chairs.

Fills the stomach while you wait
One thing you should prepare for is the long wait for your food. Maybe this is why they supply you with a delicious pre-dinner sampling of crispy tortilla chips and salsa-adorned guacamole, which is inevitably finished long before your dinner arrives. This would also be a fine time to enjoy a margarita, as we did our first night. The heavy-hitting tequila-laden right hook cocktail gave a good buzz and was far superior to the light sugary mojito we had our second night.
Too Sugary Mojitos
Although all the entree options are tempting, the filete of fish meal is inolvidable – unforgettable - and most reasonably priced. Served grilled, with garlic sauce, or fried, this fish meal will leave you wanting to come back a second night. The pescado was fresh and savory, especially when infused with a dash of lime. We enjoyed creating small tacos from the never ending supply of fresh tortillas, and the other side dishes, included a small salad, beans, rice, hot peppers, and five french fries.
If we came back two nights in a row for the same meal, we think you'll enjoy Velazquez for at least one.

Velazquez Restaurant
Isla de Mujeres, Mexico

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cafe Andrade--Taste of Veracruz

A short hop from the bustling circus which is the main drag of Playa Del Carmen, complete with clowns and exotic large beasts (namely over weight Mid-westerners), you will find a welcome respite from the overpriced and irritatingly Americanized comida of the fair that lines the strip.

The best part of Cafe Andrade is that you will be treated how everyone else is treated. None of the silly English pandering and “Almost Free” catcalls from the Mexican carnies lining the streets, trying to pinch away your hard earned pesos. Here, you will be greeted with simple Buenos “time of day” and promptly seated. Your Spanish will get a nice workout, but if in desperation, you can always turn to the English menu.

Cafe Andrade is comida de Veracruz (meaning the place, not the true cross). Veracruz, that lovely gulf of Mexico port town, is well worth a visit if you ever get a chance. But if not, you can get a taste here. The menu has all the classic favorites. Spicy red picadas, green salsa laden gordas and classic menu del dia. But most importantly it has the lechero. Oh, Lechero, how we crave thee. For luchador fans, the Lechero is the nacho libre of coffees. It could easily give a flying suplex to the cappuccino.

We ordered “Dos Lecheros” for a reasonable 24 pesos (about $1.80) a piece. We wanted the menu del dia, but alas, we came to early (fair warning hungry traveler, it only begins at 1:30pm). Instead, we settled for the chilaquiles. This dish could best be described as nachos. A big bowl of fried tortilaa chips, smothered in salsa and cheese. Adorned with strips of chicken and crema. For 60 pesos, it was just okay. Not very inspiring but very filling.

We also got a Torta Malletes (45 pesos). It was a open sandwich covered with refried beans and melted cheese, serve with a very nice spicy salsa.

Torta Malletes
Take advantage of the great 13:1 exchange rate and get a taste of Veracruz en Playa de Carmen.

Cafe Andrade