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Chennai Dosas: Midday buffet bonanza

A Mysore masala dosa sits atop an uttapam

A Mysore masala dosa sits atop an uttapam with onion, chilies and peas at Chennai Dosas in Hicksville. Credit: Newsday / Joan Reminick

Chennai Dosas announces its presence with only a makeshift banner draped in its window, underneath the sign of its predecessor, Dosa Diner in Hicksville.  Bear this in mind when seeking out this Southern Indian vegetarian restaurant, which looks as though it might be a genuine dining destination.

A recent afternoon buffet lunch, at $8.95 a person, was more than just a bargain; it was a standout. Iddly, or steamed lentil doughnuts, were lighter than any I’d had in a long time. Dip one in a bowl of spicy sambar soup, and you’re living large. Also on the buffet table was a version of palak paneer — spinach with house-made cheese —  rich and wickedly spicy. Also, a dish you won’t find on the regular menu — beetroot and carrots — which had me going back for seconds.

With all this you get a dosa or uttapam that's made to order. My lunch companion went for the Mysore masala dosa, a light lentil crepe filled with a spicy mashed potato and onion mixture. I opted for the pancake version known as an uttapam, this one made with onions, chilies and peas. It turned out to be a stellar combination of flavors and textures, the creamy potatoes mixed into the foamy-light batter, the sprightly pop of peas followed by a one-two punch from the chilies.

Sometimes, a buffet can be a tired affair. Not the case here.

Chennai Dosas is at 128 Broadway, Hicksville, 516-681-5151.

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