Disclaimer: This is an experience in one particular branch of a chain restaurant, and only with the items we ordered, and in no way reflects the overall quality of the franchise. Or at least I hope it doesn't, because that would mean India has lost its collective taste buds.
Sure, cooking is an art form, but the one thing that will always separate food from, say, movies or music, is that with them, there are always a few samples that fall in the "so bad it's good" category. With food, there's nothing like that. With food, there's just "so bad it's pretty bad", "so bad it's really, really, really, really bad" and "so bad that even years later it makes you physically ill to think you ever paid for it". You can probably see where I am going with this.
It's my fault, really. After all, the warning signs were everywhere. The first was outside, where the billboard, about as tasteful as a combination of orange and green can be, boasted of a hundred odd dosas. Impressive at first glance, but there's a reason why Domino's does not have a hundred odd topping combinations even though it theoretically can.
The second was was when we settled into the American diner-style seats (those just SCREAM dosas, don't they?) and I ordered a cold coffee. Service was quick, I'll grant you this. One sip, and I knew why. It was white as Voldermort and thin as clear soup. It was like the server had just heard "cold" and walked away, omitting the "coffee" entirely. It was cold coffee from a fucking vending machine. In a South Indian restaurant. I know that's probably stereotyping, but when I walk into a specialist cuisine restaurant, I want my stereotypes dammit!
The third was when the lassi my wife ordered arrived. Or rather, didn't arrive. And didn't arrive. And didn't arrive some more. I make it faster at home, and I use a spoon. When it finally did, it was like someone had used the salt shaker to mix the curd. Admirable of the staff to watch out for our health like this, and granted, we are a couple that looks like we should really cut down on the sugar intake, but I prefer it when my servers don't take dietary decisions for me. So I sent it back, and then guess what happened? Yep, more waiting. Oh, and remember when I said that the server just heard "cold" and walked away for coffee? Turns out, that time, he was actually paying attention. The lassi wasn't even cold.
The fourth.....you know what. This is depressing. Instead of the fourth warning, let me offer the management and staff of the fine establishment some advice. See, when a couple walks into your restaurant and orders, and I'm being completely hypothetical here, say, a cold coffee, a lassi and a couple of dishes, it's kind of a given that they know each other and hence, would like to eat together. As in, at the same time. Now granted, there may be a bit of confusion about the timing of the drinks and the food as a group. Did the couple want the drinks WITH the food? BEFORE the food? AFTER the food? In little doggy bags to take home??? Oh how will we ever know? So I will give you guys that. I will also accept that somewhere in the deep dark recesses of your kitchen lies a dosa bible that expressly states "thou shalt not do the logical thing that servers in every other establishment does and actually ask the patron when he wants his drinks". But why would you ever think it's ok to serve one drink first, a salted version of the next drink 10 minutes later, the proper version 10 minutes after that, the first dish 15 minutes after that and the other one, again, after a 15 minute gap?
I was feeling experimental, so I had ordered something called a Paneer Crispy Dosa. It was crispy all right. It looked like the crispiest shade of black this side of a house fire. I poked at it gingerly. Oil oozed out like it had been laid by BP. I lifted the crusty lid with all the confidence of a teenage student in a slasher movie and inspected the contents. The "crispy" theme had permeated through and through. Among the shredded, blackened (I assumed from an overdose of sauce and not because it was "crispy". Or at least, I hoped so) vegetables lay slices of....what? Carrots? Potatoes? Paneer? Black chalk? I speared one on my fork with some difficulty and nibbled on it. It tasted very, very crispy. My wife took a bite. Have I mentioned how brave a woman she is? After a couple of chews she proclaimed "Potatoes". I looked at the menu. It listed the basic ingredients of the dishes - invaluably helpful as far as we were concerned. There was no mention of potatoes. By a process of elimination we settled on paneer. We had to. It was right there in black and white, and we had no evidence to the contrary other than the fact that it was like no paneer I had ever tasted.
Suffice to say, I didn't even try what my wife had ordered, an unholy concoction of paneer and mushroom. It had one great advantage over the dosa, in that I could tell which was which. But I still dared not taste. I wanted a brownie. Or at least something sweet. I flagged down the nearest server "Do you have any dessert.", I whispered, in my most apologetic voice. IA menu was flung in my direction, along with a mumbled "Sorry, no ice cream avelable". I have never heard the word "sorry" spoken with such a combination of disdain and disinterest before, and I include the time my sister told me she was sorry I had even been born. I opened the menu and saw a large list of nothing but ice-cream, which basically meant a large list of nothing. The bill was quick to arrive though. That was a relief. Suffice to say, we aren't going back to try the other 147 or whatever-the-number-is dosas.