Leda Scheintaub and Nash Patel’s Dosa Kitchen takes its name as an homage to the iconic South Indian crepe that they have long and lovingly studied.
Dosa is essentially a crepe born of a ground, fermented rice batter. Sounds simple, but the yield is rich and replete with digestible possibilities.
The naked dosa itself, as Leda observes, offers a “seductively sour, tangy flavor and airy, crisp texture.” In the hands of Scheintaub and Patel, that unmistakable fermented savor of the crepe is unveiled and up front, supporting and enhancing an indelible variety of both traditional and innovative Indian offerings.
The culinary range of the dosa may well situate it among those enigmatic comestibles that frequently become an unwitting sampler’s instant obsession.
Needless to say, it is unlikely your palate will be content to interrogate the Dosa Kitchen menu just once.
And as with so many extraordinary, often underappreciated foods, the humble dosa is a ubiquitous component of daily life in its native region. In this case, that region is Southern India, where the term “dosa” is synonymous with “breakfast.”
Patel relates with semblant affection his early, daily encounters with dosa batter. As a boy, he effectively operated as a prep cook and runner for his mother in their hometown of Hyderabad. This work involved him in making trips to community milling stations to have rice and lentils ground, and making market runs for spices, meats and other ingredients.
It also included, conspicuously, transporting containers of dosa batter around town.
As with so many culturally entrenched, often essential foods, dosa preparation was such an unconscious part of Patel’s daily family life that there was little use for explicit recipes or contemplating methods. Patel and Scheintaub recount with loving amusement his mother’s insistence that fermentation is no part of dosa making: Rather, one has only to let the batter sit out in a warm environment for a bit.
Patel brought his considerable accumulation of Indian kitchen knowledge with him to the New York Metro area, where he continued working in and around Indian kitchens.
While dosa has ever been a part of Patel’s life, he notes (perhaps with some irony) that he tended always to work toward the front of the house. The move toward becoming a dosa specialist would initiate only after meeting Scheintaub, whom he connected with while serving in an Indian restaurant in New York.
According to Scheintaub, “I couldn’t resist his stern yet endearing instructions. So, one day I asked him out…[Patel] brought Assam tea, ginger, and cardamom to lunch, and over a lesson in chai making a culinary spark was ignited…”
Scheintaub similarly brings a considerable breadth of food experience to Dosa Kitchen.
Her culinary trajectory, too, stretches back to childhood, and in some ways has proven uncannily prescient. She recounts that her earliest interests in cooking tended to revolve around alternative baking methods, long before “gluten-free” was a household term.
Scheintaub took to baking gluten-free offerings for her father, who was advised to avoid gluten decades before doing so became popular. As a child pastry cook, she took to codifying her recipes and building tasting notes in a handmade pad she entitled “Natural Sweets.”
Her early impulse to combine writing and editing with cooking also presaged her culinary future. After working for years as a managing editor for a major publishing house, Scheintaub dared herself to pursue culinary school.
She recounts how, upon entering a raffle for a cookbook, she decided that upon winning the raffle she would commit herself to enrolling in the Natural Gourmet Cooking School. She won.
In her early professional cooking pursuits, Scheintaub worked as a personal chef, to include brushes with the likes of Conan O’Brien and David Blaine. Since then, food service has continued to dovetail with publishing, successfully navigating hybrid publishing/culinary projects like ghost writing and consulting on recipe and cookbooks, and for shows like “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef.”
Brattleboro, a town Scheintaub declares had “captured [her] soul on a random trip,” has been the latest act in the evolution of Dosa Kitchen for about a decade. Those 10 odd years have seen the couple grow their business from a farmers’ market stand, to a food truck and now to a brick-and-mortar establishment in downtown Brattleboro.
From the earliest days, Patel’s Indian and family roots have figured prominently in menu design. In particular, Patel relishes the lack of culinary restrictions that come with his Anglo-Indian heritage. For various cultural and religious reasons, for instance, you may be hard pressed to find beef or pork at many Indian food outlets. Patel and Scheintaub offer a menu that is not so constrained.
Indeed, while dosa is certainly the centerpiece of the menu, and while there are incredible meat dishes to accessorize the dosa, the menu moves in many directions. Even a brief glance reveals a remarkable diversity. To name some favorites, you might try the Sunnyside Breakfast Dosa, Nutty Falafel Dosa, Kimchi Dosa, Masala Sauerkraut Dosa, Maple Dosa, [or] the one and only Dosa Dog.
And beyond these beloved items, there are plenty more dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Amongst all the exotic and health-promoting cuisine, they approach their business with a personal focus on Dosa’s unique customer base.
As Scheintaub puts things: “We have developed a local following of people who are mindful of what they eat — people who favor local produce, humanely raised meats, and the absence of additives and GMOs in their food…[including] people who are gluten-free…”
As a result, Scheintaub and Patel come across as avowed crusaders for their unique brand of food service.
“What we love most about the food service business is sharing with people the way we
eat at home and educating people that so-called ethnic food can always be healthy food,” summarized Scheintaub.
Dosa Kitchen will open doors in early February 2020 at 34 Elliot St. in downtown Brattleboro. Their unforgettable dosas will also be available at Brattleboro’s annual LUV Crawl on Feb. 6. Learn more about Dosa Kitchen at dosakitchen.com or follow on Facebook and Instagram for events and updates.
Michael Ferreira writes from Brattleboro. He enjoys writing about literature, philosophy, people and places. Feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.