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DINE a dozen!

It's variety galore at the dosa festival at Hotel Dee Cee Manor


THE DOOR leading into Hotel Dee Cee Manor's lobby-level restaurant is decorated with yards of bright green plastic leaves, even brighter flowers and a tiny kolu pedestal. The hotel is hosting Dosa Sangamam, an eat-all-you-can dosa festival over the next two weeks. There are more than 25 varieties of dosa to choose from, each one more creative than the last.

Inside the restaurant and you know that they're celebrating a dosa festival — the walls are covered with woven palm leaves and hung with plates painted with village scenes to give the place a rustic look. Good effort, but the plastic dosas pinned to the walls are a little upsetting. Little white bowls of coloured paper masquerading as chutney (that tend to drop off the wall occasionally) complete the dosa motif.

Once the food arrives, you tend to stop looking at the over-decorated walls and focus on the crispy creations that are served with coconut, coriander and onion chutney. Pessaratu is an Andhra special — the batter is a mixture of moong dal, onions, green chilly and ginger. It is served with a spoonful of upuma, the slightly grainy taste of the dosa goes well with the smooth upuma. Dosa Dakshin arrives next, topped with a rich, coconuty kurma full of carrots, beans and peas. The keerai dosa is Popeye's dream come true, bursting with health and fresh, green spinach; it's a little bland but has an interesting taste.

There's a whole line-up of the traditional rice, rava, onion, pepper and ghee dosas, adai and uthappam but surprisingly no masala dosa. The festival's highpoint is supposed to be the diet dosas, made of ragi, wheat and corn. The wheat dosa is made from healthy whole-wheat flour but unfortunately, it's swimming in oil. It may not help if you're watching your weight, but it's definitely worth indulging in, as it has got a nice chewy taste. The ragi dosa is wonderfully crisp and paper-thin.

The more unusual-sounding varieties are in the non-vegetarian section — dosas with prawn masala, chicken and lamb masala. The dhaba dosa, better known as egg dosa and the khati roll dosa (with a tandoori chicken and shredded vegetable filling) are the non-veg section's specials, say the hotel staff. Take a drive along a French highway with Dosa Corniche (cottage cheese and potato) and then come straight back to Tamil Nadu with Dosa Tamil Arasu, which is filled with a curry that is flavoured with coconut milk.

Dessert is again a dosa affair — coconut dosa, chocolate dosa (inspired by crepes one assumes), pazhacharu dosa, chakkapazham dosa and tutti-frutti dosa. We tried the tutti-frutti and chocolate creations. The verdict: there's a reason why people don't combine chocolate and dosa. The chocolate is slathered on the inside of a perfectly fried dosa but the oil from the dosa and the chocolate just don't make for a compatible combination. The tutti-frutti is not much better — the artificially sweet, stringy taste of the tutti-frutti spoils the taste of the dosa.

But, skip the sweet dosas and the festival gets three stars out of five for creativity, taste, perfectly crisp dosas and absolutely lovely chutneys.

The dosa festival is on till May 23, 3 p.m. to 12 p.m. at Hotel Dee Cee Manor, 90, G. N. Chetty Road, T. Nagar, ph: 28158833, 28158899.

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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