Jaydev Nair goes off in search of the finest masala dosa to be had in Malleswaram, but finds he has bitten off more than he can chew.

The only thing worse than deciding which Dosa joint to hit early in the morning is having to hit five dosa joints. More trouble than it’s worth; why? Because it’s like deciding between rum and whisky, pepsi and coke. You won’t be having a glass of both at the same time, but then again, how do you decide which is better?

By that reasoning, it should be impossible to judge dosas for anything more than they are: a part of Indian cuisine that, knowing us, probably hasn’t changed since the Flood.

All you can do is hit the restaurants I did, looking for the best dosa in Malleswaram. To get to the nitty-gritties of the dosa business, though: you can walk into any of these places and come out lighter by around Rs. 50, which, for me, was a lifesaver (it’s that time of the month when my salary starts looking like that old friend one hears of but rarely sees), and most of these places are open from 8 a.m., so breakfast at one of these joints is perhaps the best idea of the morning.

Janatha Hotel

Without going into the details, I sort of stumbled onto this place. It has a storied history which need not be gone into at this time; but more importantly, it has that smell wafting across half the road to grab you by the nostrils. The air feels slightly greasy and there’s a distinct feeling of business. The waiters look harassed — a good sign — and by God, the filter coffee is to die for. Order either a masala or a plain dosa; both are equally good, and the sambar is unique; not too tangy, not too dilute, and thankfully, they don’t overdose on the cinnamon. In addition to the dosas, you are also advised to try out the Mysore Pak, and the vadas.

Filling: 4

Sambar: 5

Chutney: 3

Crispiness: 3

Greasiness: 3

Dosa Express

Somehow feels like Janatha’s long-lost brother; the same kind of busy atmosphere prevails in this place. In direct contrast, though, their sambar is typically mainstream and not worth mentioning, but the chutney is exceptional. This is the place to do some heavy eating – the huge array of dosas are well-made, light and easy on the palate, which is another way of saying that you’ll be having more than two at one sitting, if you’re here for a full meal. The service is quick and fast, and if you want a quick bite, then I'd recommend the set dosa.

Filling: 3

Sambar: 3

Chutney: 4

Crispiness: 3

Greasiness: 3

Shiv Sagar, Mantri Mall

This place stands out particularly, since it’s more mainstream than the other eateries on this list. It did, however, feel quite surreal to ask for a masala dosa while someone nearby asked for a vegetable manchurian. Getting back to topic: this place is nothing less than a factory. Industrial-grade food, made with textbook precision, and the same can be said of the dosas. It’s like all the dosas went to the same finishing school, if that image helps; each one is the same as the other. Regardless, Shiv Sagar is the place crowds go to chill; loud, raucous and also, that manchurian didn’t look half bad.

Filling: 2

Sambar: 3

Chutney: 2

Crispiness: 4

Greasiness: 4

Shri Sagar, better known as Central Tiffin Room

The younger generation’s Indian Coffee House. I could almost call it a throwback to an earlier era; it doesn’t look like much, but there is that kind of railway-waiting-roomish feel to it. Arguably, the Best Dosa award could decorate CTR’s walls if the competition wasn’t so stiff. By and large, the benne masala dosa is exactly that combination of spicy and thick that can get your stomach groaning contentedly in no time at all, on top of which the place will make you feel incompetent if you don’t happen to ask for extra sambar and chutney (they’ll think you incompetent anyway, if you don’t start with the masala dosa). If Bangalore had a place where the crème de la crème of dosas came to be eaten, this is it.

Filling: 5

Sambar: 4

Chutney: 3

Crispiness: 4

Greasiness: 2

Asha Food Camp

This I liked. Asha is a reasonably big family restaurant that simply happens to be known for its dosas, among other things; like Shiv Sagar, but here, that feeling of surrealism is gone. It’s got a relaxing atmosphere, which for some reason is very conducive to ordering idlis (I highly recommend); but since that’s neither here nor there, let me introduce you to the paper masala dosa, one of the crispiest and tangiest dosas I’ve had in a while. The dosa certainly stands out — I can’t say that it’s any better or worse, but just different; it has a very tangy, distinctly sour taste that tends to sit on the tongue for the next fifteen minutes, unless you wash it out with the coffee, which, despite doing that job, turned out to be rather lacklustre.

Filling: 3

Sambar: 3

Chutney: 4

Crispiness: 3

Greasiness: 2

Obviously, this is the hardest part of the competition. Trying (and failing) to find a winner. So let me adjudge that there will, ladies and gents, not be a Best Dosa award this week, and quite likely never, by this reporter. It’s just impossible to try comparing masala dosas like this; especially if you find that you prefer the sambar from one place, and the chutney from another, ditto the taste, the filling, or the coffee, or the ambiance; and then again, all of these factors depending on the whims and cravings of the child inside.