Alexandra Gill's very enthusiastic review of "a humble South Indian diner" that specializes in dosas, massive rice-lentil crepes filled with a variety of delectable spicy ingredients. I quickly organized a visit with one daughter, her partner, and their wee one, but somehow mis-remembered the name of the restaurant and ended up at a decent dosa place many hundred-blocks from the written-up diner, on the same Vancouver street. Good enough, and affordable and friendly (although sadly without a beer-and-wine license), we enjoyed Madras Dosa, but I decided to try once more to check out Corner Dosa.
Sometimes it's tough to gather the whole family on such short notice, but I sent out an email last Monday, and by Wednesday, we'd heard that all were coming, except our son, on business in New York City. Disappointing, but his father-in-law was visiting, and we were pleased to have him fill Z's seat -- especially since we will be co-grandparenting in just a few months. . .
The decor at Corner Dosa is modest, but the room is clean and bright, and the service is warm and welcoming. Our little ones were fussed over, and servers made their way around the stroller without complaints. At one point, my husband tried to order his Main before all the Appetizers had arrived, and our server insisted that we wait and see how hungry we really were. Similarly, when we did get to ordering our main dishes (the appetizers were a variety of samosa and pakoras, lightly battered chicken and shrimp, in a range that kept vegetarians and carnivores equally happy) and Paul tried adding a number of breads, the server pointed out which dishes would have accompanying breads already. We ordered beer from a small selection in the cooler, but certainly, no one was trying to increase the liquor part of our bill, and although we clearly hogged a considerable portion of the restaurant, there was no attempt to hurry us through the meal.
I probably should have snapped some photos of the wonderful food -- the dosas, especially, are photogenic, long, fat, golden crispy rolls, extending corpulently off the edges of their plates. Mine was filled with mixed vegetables and lamb -- the cubes of lamb were succulent but not at all fatty, prime cuts cooked to perfect tenderness. I watched my daughter's contentment with her lamb biryani (served with gravy, a South Indian difference, apparently), another daughter's partner equally happy with his goat biryani, the son-in-law sitting opposite me very pleased with a vegetarian dosa (featuring spinach and paneer, I think among other savoury ingredients). We'll definitely be back to try out more menu items.
As we drove away, and we remarked again how much further the restaurant is from the city core
than we'd expected (hence, perhaps, my error several weeks ago), I remembered the old bridge that used to cross the Fraser River, not too far from where this restaurant now sits. It was of wooden construction, with a swing span to accommodate tugs and barges passing underneath its relatively low height. I'm fairly sure that I drove over it in a daily commute for two or three weeks back in 1971 or '72 for a summer job in a food-packing plant, a job that gave me a glimpse into the world of punching a card for start and end of work, for each carefully doled out coffee break, for lunch break.
A glimpse was all I needed, and I was grateful when another more congenial position came up elsewhere, but I'm surprised how clearly the muscle memory of tamping down the pancake mix inside its paper bag remains in my forearms, how my knuckles recall the folding down of the bag and the feeding it through the slightly terrifying industrial sewing machine that closed the powder safely into its container.
And I have a similar sense of the bumpiness of the ancient bridge's asphalt underneath my funny little English car's wheels, a foggy but insistent recollection of waiting impatiently for the span to swing back into position after a sluggish tug had towed its load underneath. My cursory research suggests that I might be remembering correctly, as it seems the bridge closed officially in late winter, 1974, with the opening of the Knight Street Bridge.
Ah well. We're making new memories with them, for them, aren't we?
Several years after I (putatively) drove the Fraser Street Bridge those few summer mornings, Paul and I, newlyweds, would make our budget stretch to an occasional restaurant meal. We wouldn't do this much more often than once or twice a month, and we usually found that the dollars went much further in the ethnic restaurants that were just beginning to make their way into the Vancouver landscape. At least, there has long been a tradition of Chinese restaurants here, and there were Japanese as well (although sushi was just beginning to nudge its way in then). But in the early 70s, we'd still have to drive into Vancouver from our suburban home for Greek food while the pyrogy restaurant in New Westminster was closer, a welcome novelty, somewhere we could eat heartily for fifteen to twenty dollars.
No one, at that time, was serving Indian food, not in all of British Columbia, I'd almost dare say, not in those decades before the trail-blazing Vij's. But now, we have a plethora of options in our much more cosmopolitan, multicultural city. We're squaring the circle, Paul and I, stretching the entertainment budget eating affordable ethnic food, and making family memories at the same time. I do wonder what the young 'uns will remember in 40 years and how those memories will blur. . . .
What about you? When/If you cast your mind back 40 years, are you quite confident in the solidity of your memories? Are you occasionally surprised when contradictions are exposed or discovered?
And on a different note, have you discovered the joys of the dosa? (If not, I highly recommend searching them out!)
If you were around Vancouver "back in the day," do you remember driving the Fraser Street Bridge? And if you weren't, do you find yourself challenged or surprised or simply observant of the way your city has changed over your lifetime.
Really, that's enough questions, isn't it? I'm ready for your answers . . . let's chat!