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Enticed by the prospect of South Indian food in the city rather than having to head to the ‘burbs, a group of us headed to Malgudi, the newly revamped Glover Park restaurant by the owners of Heritage India. We were all looking forward to a lazy, fatty Sunday brunch courtesy of the Capitol Deal we had purchased, good for an appetizer, entree, and unlimited mimosas (the deal will become important later).

A few of us started with idli, a steamed cake made of a rice-and-lentil batter, and the rest ordered methu vada, a savory fried donut made with ground dal, curry leaves, and chilis. Our food arrived, and everyone did a double take. Each plate held a lone idli or vada. Now, there is not a single South Indian mom or grandmother that would ever serve these one at a time, Capitol Deal or no Deal. They come in pairs, or trios, or even tetrads. And it was too bad, because the vadas were spot on – crispy, well-flavored, and served with an excellent tomato chutney laced with mint. The second chutney, coconut, was a bit bland but passable.

A tasty but very lonely vada

A tasty but very lonely vada

For entrees, most of us ordered masala dosas, the celebrated crispy crepe-like dish filled with spiced potatoes. Both the rava (cream of wheat) and regular (fermented rice flour) versions were paper-thin and fresh, with delicious soupy sambar for dipping.

Unfortunately, the Mysore masala dosa, which is supposed to have chutney spread inside of it along with potato, was lined with an inexplicable layer of raw red chili powder instead. The raw spice totally overwhelmed the rest, making it painful to finish.

A perfectly lovely masala dosa, ruined by RAW RED CHILI POWDER

A perfectly lovely masala dosa, ruined by chili powder

Thankfully, crispy rava dosa came to the rescue:

Ravva masala dosa

Rava masala dosa wins

One of our companions tried kothu poratta, or cut up flatbread mixed with vegetables and spices and served with a yogurt raita. It was tasty and definitely had a kick, but was about 5 bites short of a proper entree.

A small portion of kothu paratha

A small but tasty portion of kothu poratta

We also ordered some extra stuff just for the heck of it. Both the uppuma (cream of wheat) and thayir sadam (curd rice), touted as entrees, were RIDICULOUSLY tiny. I mean, I’d get yelled at for starving myself if this was all I ate at home. And at $8 for basically dressed up grains, they were waaay overpriced.

At least the uppuma was buttery and comforting, long on cashews if a little short on flavor:

An even smaller portion of uppuma

An even smaller portion of uppuma

The thayir sadam, however, was a fiasco. The rice grains were hard from having been refrigerated and not properly reheated, and the yogurt was oddly fermented tasting as though it had gone slightly bad.

Curd rice that would make my mom cry. Or mock us for being duped into paying $10 for this.

Curd rice that would make my mom cry. Or laugh at us for being duped into paying money for this.

A word on how to treat special deals: either do one or don’t, but please do not pretend that you are offering a full-sized appetizer and entree when tallying tax and tip, and then serve inexcusably small portions! To add insult to injury, even if some of the portions were extra small because they were ‘deal-sized’, we paid full price for tiny non-deal servings of uppuma and curd rice.

The folks at Malgudi certainly know how to do vada, dosa and sambar. Now if only they could make an edible curd rice and enter the ballpark of reasonable pricing/portion sizes. Long-time DC residents may still mourn the passing of the Georgetown favorite, Amma’s Vegetarian Kitchen. Amma’s served up solid dosas, idlis and vadas at reasonable prices and needless to say, Malgudi doesn’t fill the void.

Our advice: spend a little extra on gas and skip Malgudi for Woodlands in Maryland (review coming soon). It’s worth the trip.

2400 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Phone: 202-333-3120