The Samburna Special Mega Dosa ($12.99) from Samburna Restaurant in Bothell is so long it hangs off the edges of the two-person tables at the restaurant. At over 3 feet in length, the mottled brown crepe floats right above the surface of the table and beyond, supported in the middle by the edges of a round metal tray.
Not all dosas could defy gravity in this way. The dosa I ate at Samburna on a recent Friday afternoon was particularly crispy on the outside, which bolstered its structural integrity. The inside of the rolled dosa, though, was still soft and strewn with chopped red onion and dusted in spices. The caramelized crust, almost burnt in some places, lent a slightly sweet, toasted flavor to the dosa that contrasted with the tang of the fermented rice and lentil dough.
Madhi Oli, the manager of Samburna, says the dishes at the restaurant closely mimic the food he and the owners of the restaurant ate growing up in their home state of Tamil Nadu, on the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent across the water from Sri Lanka. Oli says the owners (Samson Gilbert, Ajay Stan and Jay Nainar) work in tech and started the restaurant three years ago because they couldn’t find authentic South Indian food in the Seattle area. He says they hope to open another location of Samburna in the Seattle area soon.
Dosas are ubiquitous in South India, and Samburna serves a few varieties, including the potato-stuffed masala dosa. But the mega dosa is a good bet — for $12.99, it’s a steal for a dish that would be hard to finish in one sitting.
The mega dosa comes with a side of masala (the seasoned potato mixture that fills masala dosa), a well-balanced sambar (lentil and vegetable soup seasoned with tamarind and turmeric) and coconut and tomato chutneys. The tomato chutney, Oli says, is made with blended tomato, onion and spices and slowly simmered in oil. The result has a rich, sweet tomato flavor reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes. The sambar and tomato chutney were my favorites, but you can tear off pieces of dosa and dip them in whatever sauce you prefer.
The kuzhipaniyaram ($8.99), ball-shaped dumplings, were a satisfying appetizer. An order comes with eight balls and is served with the same tomato chutney that accompanies the mega dosa. The dough is spongy and tangy, but not as tangy as the dosa — it’s fermented for four hours, the dosa: for eight, Oli says. And it’s studded with pieces of onion and whole cumin seeds. The kuzhipaniyaram is a good choice if you love the tangy flavor in dosas — similar to plain yogurt — but want more than is available in a paper-thin crepe.
The Samburna goat curry was also incredible, made with a heavily spiced tomato and coconut sauce that drowned out any gaminess in the goat thigh meat, served on the bone. The meat itself was tender — stewed on low heat for four hours, Oli says — and rich with the flavor of bone marrow.
11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday; 20806 Bothell Everett Highway, Unit 100, Bothell; samburna.com
5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 4-9 p.m. Saturday; 17121 Bothell Way N.E., Bothell; afghandelicious.com
Afghan Choopan in Bothell is a spacious restaurant with multiple dining rooms replete with brick walls and wood paneling. When I went at around 7:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday evening, the space was mainly empty, but the subtle, well-balanced flavors of the food blew me away.
I ordered the “boolani” ($12), normally spelled “bolani,” a flatbread stuffed with mashed potatoes, green onions and chives, drizzled with yogurt sauce. The soft dough flaked a little as I bit into it, and the sauce gave the flatbread a refreshing brightness.
The Afghan bamya ($12), an okra stew cooked with tomato and onion, was tangy and sweet, with hints of coriander. Order it with naan ($5), and eat the mucilaginous mixture wrapped in pieces of the crispy flatbread.
The plate of mantu ($13) was a stunning show of deep-red tomato sauce, yellow lentils and stripes of white yogurt accented by flecks of green parsley and dried mint, all covering beef dumplings. The delicate dumpling skins nearly dissolved in my mouth when I ate them, with the lentils offering a firm textural contrast. The sauce was refreshing and flavorful — you’ll want to wipe the plate clean with pieces of naan.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 22833 Bothell Everett Highway, Bothell; tajoiabothell.com
Tá Jóia serves up dishes that are a mix of Korean and Brazilian flavors and cooking techniques. But one of the owners, Vivian Lee, says the restaurant is not a deliberate fusion of cuisines. Instead, she says the dishes are a natural result of the 10 years her mother, Yoo-Mi Lee, spent in Brazil.
Before the Lees opened Tá Jóia, they ran a spot called Teriyaki Plus across the street for almost 20 years. The Tá Jóia menu includes some carryover teriyaki dishes and also some typical Korean options like kalbi ($16.50) and bibimbap ($12).
The fried rice is not as sweet as a typical Korean fried rice, and the meats are slow-roasted. It’s served with a Brazilian-inspired pico de gallo — mild, with oil and vinegar — and a lime-cilantro mayo sauce. The flavors in the dish, like the smokiness and saltiness in the sausage, are sharper than those in most fried rice I’ve had. Vivian Lee recommends mixing the pico de gallo into the fried rice before eating. For me, using all of the pico de gallo would make the dish too sour, so I’d add a little at a time.
The grilled shrimp ($13.50) is also light and tangy, served with the same pico de gallo and mayo on a bed of Spanish rice. The slight char on the shrimp offers a nice counterpart to the acidity in the rest of the dish.