Slightly more than a handful of us walked in on a chilly Sunday, around midday, in search of a unique brunch experience. We sauntered into a deserted restaurant and had to find our own seats as there was no one to usher us in. There was a distinct air of disorganization in the restaurant as we then had to ask for the menu. This, after a member of the staff had finally acknowledged our presence and had been hovering around for a few minutes. It seemed they had just opened, although we were arriving two hours after the posted opening time.
There are no obvious halal signs posted in the restaurant but a quick conversation with the server, and later on with the owner, confirmed that all meats served are halal and the chicken is even free range. The menu boasts South Indian and Sri Lankan specialties, many of which were new to us. The server patiently responded to our questions as he served water at the table. The service by now had improved and the restaurant seemed to have “woken up”. We proceeded to order, reorder and modify our order for what seemed like an age. It was an exercise in patience for our waiter, but he did persevere. The order consisted of Masala Vada, Idly with Sambar and Appam as appetizers and entrees which included 3 different types of dosas and a few Sri Lankan dishes. We also ordered some masala chai (spiced tea) as a pre-appetizer.
The ginger infused milk tea had a calming effect on the group as everyone settled in after the ordering frenzy. The decor is a mix of tasteful pictures and artifacts from Sri Lanka and India, and a gaudy arch of artificial flowers over the main entrance further emphasized by the thin translucent curtains. It does have charm and one can see how it could have an ambience in a dimly lit setting. However, fluorescent lights prevail.
The food didn’t take long to arrive. Masala Vada, the first appetizer, resembles a patty. Consisting of chick pea flour, whole chick peas and flavoured with bay leaf and onions among other exotic spices, this deep fried patty was full of texture and flavour. The accompanying coconut and red chilli chutney are quite good and the red chutney ensures that the dish leaves you tingling.
The next two dishes were plain Appam and Egg Appam. Appam is best described as a hybrid between a pancake and a crepe made from rice flour. It has a unique soft and spongy texture and tangy taste to it. Add some coconut chutney and this dish melts in the mouth. The addition of a runny sunnyside up egg was unremarkable and in fact took away from the dish.
Idly with Sambar was the last of the appetizers. This looks like a compact Appam and is a steamed rice cake. It was topped with spicy coconut flakes for texture, and came with a coconut chutney and lentil curry for dipping and flavour. It was very good and but also very spicy!
The mains followed swiftly and before we knew it our table was over loaded with an assortment of dishes. The beautifully served Dosas were definitely the highlight dish in terms of aesthetics. The rolled, rice flour crepe served on a shiny silver platter was accompanied by the red chutney and lentil curry. The crepes are stuffed with an assortment of fillings. We ordered the Masala Dosa, the Minced Chicken Dosa and the Palak Paneer Dosa. The Masala Dosa is stuffed with diced potato, cooked in tomato with an assortment of indian spices including turmeric and garam masala. The Palak Paneer Dosa comprises of cubes of cottage cheese (paneer) and spinach, while the Chicken Dosa is filled with a stir fry of chicken, peas, onions and chillis. The crepe itself is very good. Combine this with the stuffing, a dip in the red chutney and lentil curry and its phenomenal. The best one was the simplest one which is also the classic – Masala Dosa. The others are also quite good.
The Sri Lankan Chicken Curry was next. It was served with rice and garnished with cilantro which made for a pretty dish. Unfortunately, the chicken was very tough and not at all enjoyable. When we did mention it, the owner did bring out another version of the same dish but with boneless chicken. The gesture was definitely a testament to the improving service throughout the meal.
The last two dishes we sampled were String Hopper and Lamb Kothu. String Hopper are vermicelli noodles assembled in the shape of a patty accompanied with Sri Lankan Lamb Curry. The curry overwhelmed the noodles but the lamb was soft and succulent. The recurring theme of poorly cut meat was present here too.
The Lamb Kothu is a melange of mutton, egg, vegetables, chillis, shredded corn flour roti and a wedge of lime. We squeezed some lime juice over the dish and dug in. The taste of the lamb accentuated by caramelized onions and hot chillis made this my favourite dish.
We also sampled some above average mango lassi and were treated to some friendly banter by the owner. She has quite the story, but only inquire if you aren’t in a hurry.
Canada Dosa Corner occupies a unique place Calgary’s ever diversifying culinary scene. There are definitely some excellent dishes on offer which you may not find elsewhere. The dosas are amazing and the Sri Lankan dishes a treat. An improvement in the service and some delicate decorative changes could make this place an icon in the South East. If you feel like something new, try this place.