In this space, James A. Foley explores New York City’s strangest sandwiches.
Hampton Chutney Co. is an Indian snack shop that sells a variety of chutneys. There is delicious iced chai, cardamom coffee, and a mango lassi on the menu, and a daily curry special, too.
The joint also sells more than a dozen kinds of dosa–an Indian crepe made from fermented rice and black lentil batter that’s typically filled with cheese and/or seasoned potatoes and served with a chutney and a bowl of spicy vegan soup called sambar. That’s not surprising, except that at Hampton, the dosa menu includes a list of markedly not-Indian fillings, which has to make these some of the strangest Indian crepes in the city.
Sure, there’s a Classic Masala Dosa ($7.95) on the board, but it is overshadowed by the Masala Deluxe ($10.95), which takes the classic potato-stuffed dosa and adds spinach, Monterey Jack cheese, and roasted tomatoes. Egg, cheese, avocado, and veggies are rolled up into a Breakfast Dosa ($9.95), and the Curry Chutney Chicken ($11.45) dosa is offered with balsamic roasted onions and spinach. The Seasonal ($10.95) includes grilled corn, roasted red peppers, arugula, and Jack cheese (and you can add avocado for another $2).
The wildest of all, though, might be No. 13: tuna with cilantro-chutney dressing mixed with avocado, arugula, and tomatoes ($12.45).
I once traveled in India for three months and ate more dosas than I can remember. To say I was skeptical of this fishy dosa is a gross understatement–I was disgusted with myself for ordering it. Beyond being an unlucky number, it felt like a sin.
I did not have high expectations.
The first bite turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The crispy, sour dosa was well-matched to the cilantro-chutney-imbued tuna salad it was wrapped around. Avocado added a welcome silkiness, and the mango chutney on the side added an element of sweetness to the savory flavors within. As a sandwich, I think the tuna combo might come off as mundane, but wrapped in the crispy, sour dosa it works unbelievably well. The only thing that brought the dish down was its general wetness–the dosa got soggy toward the center.
By the way, Hampton Chutney Co. also sells actual sandwiches: Varieties include smoked turkey, brie, and cucumber; grilled cheese with tomato and avocado on sourdough; or grilled portobello with chèvre.
But if the dosa is wrong, I don’t want to be right: I’ll stick with the wacky Indian fare.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 17, 2013