Restaurant Guide 2013: Chennai Masala

2088 NW Stucki Ave., Hillsboro, 531-9500,

[HILLSBORDOSA] Finding Indian food in Portland proper that hasn't been dumbed down for the locals can be a challenge. Instead, head west into the hills, toward Hillsboro, where a robust population from the subcontinent lives and works. The menu at Chennai Masala ranges across a grand nation that boasts many regional cuisines. The best of the menu, however, are the meat-free choices from the Southeast where the restaurant's namesake coastal city of Chennai —Madras, in the old British ledgers—boasts a population of nearly 5 million. Look to the appetizer section of the menu for the savory doughnuts called medu vada ($5 for two) or large dumplings called idli ($6 for two) served in a jolting gravy. Each comes with a small side of moderately spicy sambar and a less intense coconut curry sauce. A large selection of dosas—mammoth crepelike squares that are filled and folded—anchor the menu. One favorite is the cheese masala dosa with added potato and onion ($14). Another is the spectacular paper roast ($11), a crispy scrolled crepe 2 feet in diameter. The gluten-intolerant can celebrate that all these dishes are made from lentil or rice flour, or both. An expansion and refurbishment last year means plenty of space in a comfortable setting.

Ideal Meal: The specialty dishes are as much fun to say as they are a delight to eat: uttapam, idli, vada, dosa. Pick your favorite variation.

Best deal: A dosa built for two (with or without meat added) and a couple of mango lassis yield a light dinner for around $10-$12 a head.

Pro Tip: Don't be sad, carnivores. There are ample lamb and chicken dishes, too. 

11:30 am-2 pm and 5:30-9:30 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $$.


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