Dosa Overdose

26 Apr

Gerry took us to Jersey City in the summer of 2006 where we discovered an Indian enclave not too far from the Journal Square Path station.

Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House
809 Newark Avenue
Jersey City.

No clogged tunnel, backed up bridge, construction-littered turnpike or potholed parkway ever deters Gerry from his choice of destination for our intrepid group. We now suspect that the tougher it is to get to, the more attractive the choice is to Gerry—the food is secondary. He has taken us on the Saw Mill Parkway for Southern barbecue in Valhalla, over the George Washington Bridge for Korean in Fort Lee, on the New England Thruway to Portchester for Guatemalan, and in a legendary schlep, through the Battery Tunnel, over the BQE, and onto the Belt Parkway for overpriced Turkish food in Sheepshead Bay. So when Gerry announced his choice; a vegetarian Indian restaurant in the heart of industrial darkness in downtown Jersey City, no one was really surprised.

  After too many fume-inhaling experiences sitting in Holland tunnel traffic, driving was not an option for me. I called Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House, our destination, and was told that the restaurant was a five-minute walk from the Journal Square PATH station. Zio wisely joined me and after circling Journal Square trying to find our bearings, waiting for Zio’s GPS navigation system to talk to him and get us to 809 Newark Avenue, Zio commented that there was something surreal about where we were. Could it be the monotonous din of skateboards hitting concrete? The sight of glorious movie houses silently shuttered? The glassy look in the eyes of those emerging from the PATH? We didn’t really know. Finally, instead of waiting for Zio’s toy to work in the circuit-congested air of Jersey City, we broke down and asked someone on the street for directions. On Newark Street we saw a sign for a Dosa Hut and walked toward it. Soon we were in the middle of Jersey City’s Little India with dosa huts everywhere, Indian grocery stores, sweet shops and video stores. Who knew?

 Waiting outside Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House was Eugene, a scowl on his already dour face. Before we could even greet him, he began a tirade against Gerry for his ill-advised choice. Making him sit in traffic for hours. No place to park. And no GPS navigation system to help him out. What was he thinking? The cafeteria-like restaurant was bustling with business; Indian families lining up to place orders. We found table # 11 and took a look at the menu that featured South Indian vegetarian dishes; the centerpiece being the dosa, a long, torpedo-like thinly fried bread stuffed with a variety of different vegetables. Gerry called; according to his GPS navigation system, he was .9 miles from the restaurant. But he wasn’t moving. He was stuck behind a motorcycle convoy. Mike from Yonkers called, he was on the New Jersey Turnpike, but he wasn’t moving either; stuck in traffic from an accident with “fatalities.” There was not much we three could do at Sri Ganesh’s but begin to eat.

The Dosa: Does size matter?

 Eugene ordered a channa onion-chili masala dosa. While we waited, we helped ourselves to complimentary yellow lentil soup that immediately brought on a chili-induced sweat. Our table number was called and Eugene retrieved the two-foot long dosa which came with coconut chutney and another condiment called sambhar. We took apart the dosa easily, pausing only to wipe the perspiration from our foreheads. Gerry called again; he was still .9 miles away. I went up and ordered a cheese and mixed vegetable “uttapam delight,” kind of an Indian foccaccia, a bread filled with chilis, cheese, and onions, accompanied as well by coconut chutney and sambhar. To try to quell the fire in our mouths, I also ordered a vegetable biryani, known at Sri Ganesh’s as a “rice-delight.”

Chili doughnuts, also known as “masala vada.”

Gerry arrived in time to scarf down a few of the remaining pieces of the uttapam delight while deftly ignoring Eugene’s incessant complaints. It wasn’t long before he caught up with the rest of us and with the addition of a masala vada, a fried savory donut stuffed, yes, with chilis and onions, and another dosa, this one a Banglore ghee masala dosa, Zio and I had our fill of starch. Dosas, we learned, are best enjoyed in small doses. As an afterthought, someone mentioned Mike from Yonkers. Gerry shrugged; there had been no further word. Gerry is to be complimented for introducing us to Jersey City and the world of dosas, but we are grateful that it will be a long time before he takes on his next journey.

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