You don't have to know where Mauritius (moh-RISH-us) is to delight in cilantro chutney-embellished vegetarian samosas ($5) at Chez Dodo. Once you pinpoint the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, the ethnic rendezvous captivating your taste buds makes more sense. Colonization of the island, originally populated by dodo birds, injected French, African, Indian, Creole and Chinese influences into its cuisine.
This culinary kitchen sink somehow hits a sweet spot with eclectic concoctions of rice noodles fried in turmeric and cumin, topped with chicken or potatoes. Shyam Dausoa, the owner of Chez Dodo, has sold boxed island specialties at Whole Foods Market and Food Fight grocery for years. Now he leans out the window of his beachy cart with a steaming wok of noodles, asking customers through a thick French accent to assess the spice factor of their portobello burry, a gluten-free lentil and mushroom mound ($5.99). "Mound" really is the word for the heaping portions of noodle curries Dausoa squeezes into to-go boxes. Ask him for true Mauritian spice in the island fever curry sauce and its onion, pepper, ginger and vinegar will clear your nasal passages for a month.
From the office chairs flanked by Christmas lights in Chez Dodo's seating area, its choose-your-own-adventure menu looks deceptively simple. Pick a base of dholl puri flat bread, curried noodles or brown rice.
Next adventure: healthy vegan, tropical happiness or island fever curry sauces. And for the final twist, pick from proteins like curried chicken and lentil fritters. The spicy lamb and portobello burry pack more flavors than the island has culinary influences. In a world where veggie samosas can be a disappointing mush wrapped in phyllo dough, Chez Dodo proves its vegetarian worth, heaped with chutney we'd make a meal of a la carte.
- Order this: Portobello burry ($5.99).
- Best deal: Two big samosas ($5).
- Iâll pass: Taro fritters ($5).
EAT: Chez Dodo, North Vancouver Avenue and Fremont Street, 284-4575. 11 am-11 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-9 pm Saturday. $.