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"The food is great," he said. "It's the only place in Saskatoon offering dosas."

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Samosa King of food court

Amy Jo Ehman
for the StarPhoenix

When I started this gig reviewing restaurants, I never imagined I’d be dining in the food court of a shopping mall.

Most food courts have less atmosphere than a boarding school cafeteria, and the tenants are franchises and chains. Call me parochial, but I prefer to sample the efforts of local chefs and restaurateurs.

However, over the Christmas holiday season, a guest at a party cornered me and insisted that I simply must try Samosa King in the food court of The Centre Mall.

“The food is great,” he said. “It’s the only place in Saskatoon offering dosas.”

What’s a dosa, I wondered? Obviously, I had to go.

Since the party in question was at the house of my friends, Gail and Jeff, I invited them to a dinner date in the mall.

Before I continue, I must say something about the food court at The Centre Mall: It’s not half bad.

It’s bright and clean, with real tables and chairs (not those awkward contraptions that are welded together) with a gas fireplace and a nod to interior design. Think of it as a big, busy well-lit restaurant.

Tucked between tacos and stir fries, the Samosa King looks like any other fast food chain, but it’s not. According to the chef and owner, Suresh Venkatachalam, it’s the only non-franchisee in the food court and the first restaurant in Saskatoon to serve South Indian cuisine.

And that brings me to do-sas. A dosa, I discovered, is a thin crepe made of rice and lentil flour, wrapped around a choice of fillings and served with various chutneys. Apparently, it’s a popular street food in southern India. It’s simple and good.

The young fellow taking our order was personable and efficient, answering our questions with a smile even though he’s probably been asked a million times before.

He was proud to tell us that everything is made in the little kitchen at the back of the stall.

Of course, we had to sample the samosas. We also star

ted with an order of pa-koras, which are a deep fried treat made with chopped potatoes and onion in a batter of chickpea flour. The samosas were well filled with a mash of potato and vegetables if, in our case, a bit overcooked.

The pakoras were crunchy with a hint of cumin, served with a green chutney and a reddish chutney which, I’m guessing by their flavours, were mint and tamarind.

Jeff said the pakoras didn’t look too appealing but were, in the end, his favourite new discovery of the meal.

The guys both ordered beef vindaloo which is traditionally quite a spicy dish but, I suspect, toned down for the shopping crowd. It came with several options: Jeff had rice and channa masala (chickpeas).

John had rice and also Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower). They both liked it very much.

Gail chose the kaddai chicken which was cooked deliciously tender on the bone with just a hint of spice. She also ordered naan bread which, though not quite as warm and soft as one might expect from a full-fledged restaurant, was pretty good for a food court.

My dosa came with a bright green coconut chutney which I had never tasted before and which added a tropical flavour to the simple dosa. The meal came with a bowl of lentil soup so flavourful it was my favourite item overall.

No, let me correct that. My absolute favourite was the mango mousse for dessert. I’m sure it was calories through the roof, but irresistibly tangy and smooth.

The two guys decided to end their meal with frozen yogurt and ventured down the mall to another stall. I guess that’s the beauty of eating in a food court.

Samosa King offers several other Indian food classics such as butter chicken, vegetable khorma and goat biryani, all at prices that are comparable to other options around the food court.

According to the owner, there could be more Samosa King outlets in the future. Now that I think of it, testing a new restaurant concept in a food court is a great idea.

Samosa King is located in the The Centre Mall, which is just east of Circle Drive on Eighth Street East. Opening hours correspond to those of the mall.

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                King Of The Court

Awesome Indian cuisine at a mall? Yup!
Published Thursday May 3, 01:16 pm
Craig Silliphant

 


Photo Credit: Amielle Christopherson

“Now I’m going to visit the only court I can never be in contempt in — the food court!”

-Homer Simpson

I’ve always enjoyed the finer things in life when it comes to dining and drinking, so I’m sure my wife Jenny had a specific idea in mind when I told her I was taking her for a nice dinner the other day. The menu? Indian food. The venue? Samosa King.

The name was the first thing to arouse her suspicions, and then all my romantic pretenses were blown out of the water when I pulled into the underground parking at The Centre at Circle and Eighth — where Samosa King presides like royalty over the mall’s food court.

Obviously, food court joints don’t often appear in the dining column of Planet S magazine. I’ll admit I love fast food in moderation, but it’s rarely worth talking about in forum such as this. Most of the fare is created in a laboratory and shipped frozen, only to be deep-fried and served, soggy and greasy; it’s not exactly farm to plate.

Samosa King, however, is different. I don’t think anyone told the owners that they’re expected to cut corners in the fast food world, because they actually make everything fresh in-house. (I imagine the other food court owners plotting against them, although maybe I just watch too much TV.) In fact, Samosa King offered up some of the best Indian food I’ve had in awhile, entirely comparable to many of the local Indian restaurants with brick and mortar locations.

We wanted to try a wide variety of menu items, so we shared a bunch of different plates, starting with the veggie Samosa, which was delicious (they were also available with beef or chicken). It was a substantial pocket of pastry, filled with a mash of spiced potatoes, peas, lentils, and coriander. They tasted really fresh, and even had a slight kick to them — much better than the freeze-dried pastry sacks you sometimes get. My wife doesn’t generally like samosas but she liked these ones, which says a lot.

Next was a beef curry, which also came with veggies and rice. The curry was flavourful, filled with tender beef, onions and even slices of jalapeno pepper. (You can also get a butter chicken curry or two different vegetarian options.) The curry was good, but the vegetables that came on the side were even better — a spicy mix of onions and potatoes. The rice soaked up the curry nicely and the whole thing tasted very authentic.

It was actually my mother-in-law that tipped me off to Samosa King (who says all mother-in-laws are bad?), and her recommendation was to try the dosa. I’d never had it before, so I didn’t know if it was a food or a new dance craze sweeping the nation (“Do the Dosa”?). It’s actually a crepe made of black lentils and rice batter, stuffed with mashed chickpeas and your choice of meat (we went with beef). The crepe was a bit crispy outside, while the filling was a soft and tangy surprise inside. It was very tasty, but the beef was a tad elusive. I’d have liked a bit more of it in there, although that’s a pretty minor gripe.

The real hero on the plate was the chutney it was served with — I loved it! It may have been meant for the dosa only, but I was dipping samosas and anything else I could into this amazing, bright-tasting concoction.

The standout dish of the entire meal was the onion pakoda, which is a fritter-like creation, referred to in other Indian dialects as pakoras. It’s probably not the healthiest thing on the menu, but then again, deliciousness can often stand in stark opposition to fat content — and I was silently chewing and nodding my head in agreement from the first bite.

The Samosa King pakoda is made with onions and spinach, battered in flour and deep-fried. It was like some sort of huge and exotic onion ring, and though it came with its own yummy sauces, you better believe I dipped it in that chutney.

At the end of the meal, both Jenny and I were thoroughly impressed, though each by different things. Jenny was a fan of the dosa and the vegetables, and I was won over by the pakoda and the samosas. Overall, we both agreed that the meal was consistently excellent throughout.

I should also mention that though this was enough food to feed about four people, it cost a mere $24.00. (I remember once eating at an Indian buffet in town that was $20.00 a person, and the food wasn’t half as good.) It just goes to show you that you can find some of the best food in some of the strangest places. I hope this location is only a stepping-stone to an actual restaurant, but for now, I’m a loyal vassal to the (food) court of the Samosa King.

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