You may be unfamiliar with crêpe-like dosas, deep-fried vada or other spicy street foods from India. Sri Balaji Caffe is a reason to get acquainted.
The West Jordan restaurant fuses foods from the northern and southern regions of India and stands out for its vegetarian-only menu, friendly service and à la carte prices that make it affordable to sample the appetizerlike fare.
Dosas, a fermented pancake made with a rice and lentil batter, form the majority of choices at Sri Balaji. Each plate-sized crêpe is stuffed with a savory filling and raw, red onions for color, texture and bite.
The hearty onion masala dosa ($6.99) is packed with a spicy mashed potato mixture (masala), as is the Madurai special ($7.99). The SBC special ($7.99) comes with two kinds of cheese and is laced with chile flakes. Sri Balaji even makes a chocolate-drizzled dessert dosa ($6.99).
Poori with masala ($5.99) was one of my favorite dishes in terms of flavors and appearance. A deep-fried bread that puffs into a large hollow ball, poori is flaky and crisp. Use it to enjoy Sri Balaji’s masala — a spicy potato curry filled with potatoes, onions, peas, carrots and red chiles. The masala, tinged with coriander, cumin and turmeric, is one of the least hot and spicy items on the menu, so it also was one of the most popular at our table.
The masala is good with dosas, too.
Most surprising was the vada ($4.99 for two). These fried fritters, really lentil doughnuts, delighted with their light and airy texture. Owner Manikandan Raghavan urged me to try them as an addition to my meal. The savory fritter was a perfect accompaniment to the layered flavors of the sambar — a lentil-based vegetable soup ($2.99 à la carte). The sambar was packed with toothsome vegetables including carrots, zucchini, peppers and onions along with tomatoes and a multitude of spices.
The menu also has Idli ($3.99), steamed rice and fermented lentil cakes that possess a magical melt-in-your-mouth quality and are typically eaten for breakfast.
Many of these à la carte street food items are found on the buffet ($10.99). If you’re adventurous and like to experiment with flavor combinations, the serve-yourself option is an excellent way to tour south and north Indian cuisine. Raghavan or his staff are always nearby to make suggestions or answer questions.
Tangy, cardamom-spiked mango lassi ($3.99), rose milk and filter coffee ($2.99) are traditional beverages that lend an authentic Indian café vibe to the restaurant.
With the addition of Sri Balaji Caffe, diners now have a plethora of vegetarian options when it comes to small portions of spicy Indian cuisine.
Heather L. King also owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches.
Sri Balaji Caffe • (★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Indian street food — think dosa, poori and vada — is the specialty at this vegetarian restaurant in West Jordan.
Food • ★★★★
Mood • ★★
Service • ★★★★
Location • 1617 W. 9000 South, West Jordan; 801-996-3628 or www.sribalajicaffe.com
Hours • Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 9-11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6-9 p.m.; closed Tuesday
Entrée Price • $
Restaurant Noise • 1 bell
Children’s Menu • No
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
Onsite parking • Yes
Credit cards • All