Feb. 27, 2013 - Issue #906: Tegan and Sara - Pop goes their world
Forget the usual suspects
Kathir Food Experience shares a flair of Indian cuisine
Which brings us to Kathir itself, its menu grounded in the food traditions of the southwestern state of Kerala, with some Sri Lankan influence for good measure. After two acquaintances who happen to hail from that part of the world enthusiastically and repeatedly endorsed the place to me, I finally recruited a co-diner and wended my way to Mill Woods for a late Saturday breakfast to see what all the fuss was about. We found the premises spic and span and, minutes after opening, already lightly populated by early lunchers grazing on dosas from big metal trays. Slightly garish pictures of pittu and kotthu, a fluorescent beer fridge and an ice cream freezer near the cash register contributed an unpretentious air borne out by the affordability of the food. Another sign avouched its ready accessibility by trumpeting Kathir's operating hours of 10 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.
Unlike the Indian food of your preconceived notions, which might revolve around a few shared, ghee-intensive dishes, naan and a heap of rice, Kathir's menu is more calibrated toward individual repasts, with prices topping out around the $10 mark. Turns out my co-diner was no stranger to Kathir and had already decided to revisit the idly with sambar ($6.50). I surveyed the lengthy list of dosas and decided to stick with what I knew, the masala dosa ($8), but was haunted by my acquaintance's endorsement of the chicken kotthu roti ($9.50) and decided to order a to-go portion of it for later. The co-diner opted to wash his down with a creamy mango lassi ($3.50), while I nursed my caffeine addiction with chai ($2).
It bears mentioning that South Indian culinary tradition favours vegetarian dishes, which should put it on the radar of every herbivore in town—including vegans. That said, they also offer the expected beef, mutton, fish and chicken curries if omnivorous is how you swing. The signs on the wall also advised us of the Sunday special—"appam" or rice pancakes—and the Monday special—"string hoppers" or rice noodles pressed into flat spirals—that seemed to call for a return visit.
The food was delivered quickly by our helpful, efficient server and I was a little taken aback by the comically gargantuan proportions of the dosa, a rolled-up crisp-fried crepe containing seasoned potatoes that exceeded the width of its serving tray by a hand span on either side. The tray's built-in ramikins were filled with creamy coconut chutney dotted with a mustard seeds and tangy tomato chutney. Last but not least, a bowl of hearty, curried lentil soup, called sambar, was also provided. I set to work dismantling the dosa, tearing off strips of the crispy outer shell and dredging them in the delicious dips, shoveling in spoonfuls of the spicy—but not too spicy—soup between bites. It instantly joined Vietnamese pho, Lebanese fatti and Filipino tapsilog on my list of deliciously offbeat breakfasts.
My co-diner's plate held four idly—big, fluffy, steamed rice-flour dumplings—and a bowl of sambar slightly larger than my own. He didn't offer me a taste of his lassi, but he tried my chai and suggested adding four or five sugar packets for a more authentic experience.
Thus slaked, I postponed the enjoyment of my take-out container until supper-time. Having ordered it blind, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleased to discover another contender for a future off-beat breakfast. Kotthu roti is a Sri Lankan dish where chopped-flat bread—the eponymous roti—is grilled together with onions, curry spices, egg and, in this case, chicken (you can also get vegetarian variants). It was then I remembered my acquaintance's advice about asking for medium spice, about the same time I noticed the diced fresh chili peppers dotting the shaggy mass of food. Indeed, it gathered a potent capsicum fieriness as I ate my way through it, but it was so savoury and complex that I couldn't bring myself to stop and let the flames abate.
If this hasn't whetted your appetite for Kathir's unique charms, consider that this wide-ranging, meal-spanning food experience barely came to $30 before a well-deserved tip. That's a mere pittance to have your buffet-conditioned ideas about Indian food blown out of the water, wouldn't you say?
Kathir Food Experience
9318 - 34 Ave,
780.466.4111 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy