11 Questions with Anjan Mitra of Dosa

It’s impossible not to think of Dosa when you think of delicious Indian food in San Francisco. Whether you’re at the stunning Fillmore location, with its soaring ceilings and sexy vibe, or the cozier Valencia Street spot — Dosa is known for consistently serving up bold flavors, delicious cocktails, and amazing service.

Anjan Mitra is co-owner of Dosa, along with his wife Emily. She focuses on hiring and training. He develops the seasonal menus and works closely with managers on the wine and cocktails. Here, he reflects on how he got started in the business, his take on the San Francisco dining scene, and how his mom helped shape his palate.

  1. How and when did you learn how to cook?

I came to the U.S. to go to college when I was 18 and there were no Indian restaurants near the school I went to in Pittsburgh. So, my first introduction to cooking was in my college dorm room kitchen. But my mother taught me how to taste food and put together flavors when I was a kid growing up in India. I feel like I had grown up somewhere else. My palate was very different.

  1. When did you know you wanted to run your own restaurant?

My wife Emily was between jobs and we were trying to figure out a small side project for her. She was playing around with a few different ideas: yoga studios and an East Coast-style diner, amongst others. Eventually, we realized there was a void of good southern Indian food — it just didn’t exist in San Francisco. We thought we’d open a small little restaurant, nothing crazy, and that was the Valencia Street location. We just celebrated its 10th anniversary in December.

  1. What’s always in your fridge at home?

We’re pretty healthy at home because when you own a restaurant you tend to eat a lot of food. We try to stay balanced. We always have a good supply of vegetables and fruits and we love a good hummus.

  1. What’s your guilty pleasure?

I’m a huge fan of chicken wings. During my college days, it was the only thing that had the spice levels I was looking for. There was medium, mild, hot, and psycho. I’d get the psycho. I also love Gummi Bears. I try to eat healthy, but that’s one thing I’ll pick up every now and again.

  1. What food trend do you most despise?

A lack of cohesion on the plate. I’m all about complexity and balance, but I don’t like when I get a dish and I can’t understand why some of the ingredients are on the plate and [why] the dish looks a lot better than it tastes.

  1. Describe the San Francisco food scene in one word:

Ingredient-driven.

  1. What and where was the best meal of your life?

That’s a hard one. The most recent, interesting meal I had was at Floyd Cardoz’s restaurant in India, The Bombay Canteen. He’s one of the first Indian chefs who has gotten recognition, exploring regional dishes and cooking good Indian food in India.

  1. What’s your drink of choice?

I love a great glass of wine, but right now I’m digging Japanese whiskey.

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I spoke a few more languages, like Spanish or Mandarin, as it’s really the easiest way to immerse yourself in a culture.

  1. If the next meal were the last of your life, what would it be?

It would definitely be one of my mother’s Bengali meals; that’s my comfort food. There’s a mustard chili fish she makes — It’s the one dish I crave the most.

  1. How has your experience with SeatMe been?

It annoyed me for years that I was paying these high prices for OpenTable, but it was the only game in town. We needed more choices. SeatMe’s software was built from scratch and is much more forward-looking and the pricing is significantly more competitive. I’m also a big fan of Yelp — it’s a good way to keep tabs on how you’re doing — and they have a marketplace built in, so it makes a lot of sense.

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