Southern Indian Cuisine Finds A Home In Somerset

Hoysala serves an array of on-point authentic dishes, some just a tad shy on spice.

Presented sliced into thirds with both a creamy, mild yogurt sauce and a brothy vegetable-studded sauce, the spring dosa charms and comforts. It’s exactly as it should be, a light, yet sturdy crepe made from rice and lentil flours, plump with a potato-onion masala and a scattering of slow-cooked veggies. It’s sincere, just like the restaurant that’s serving it forth—Hoysala, a home for Southern India’s cuisines in Somerset.

Spring dosa

Hoysala itself is modest and spare, sitting at the far side of a shopping center on busy John F. Kennedy Boulevard. It’s known for its buffet, which on this night is being patronized by folks who hail from the four states in Southern India that serve as the springboard for Hoysala’s menu.

That menu is clearly divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarian selections. You can try the plantain bajji, in which slices of this starchy member of the banana family are deep fried in a too-thick batter that’s barely, if at all, seasoned. Unless you’re looking for bland-on-bland, skip it, because even the accompanying frothy yogurt sauce doesn’t have a kick to it.

Plantain bajji

But the so-called shrimp fry is terrific: It’s more of a saute, crowned with unevenly sliced onions and proffered with a couple wedges of lemon. The shrimp, tinged with heat from chilies and cooked not a second too long, had a vitality rarely seen in a relatively simple seafood dish.

Shrimp fry

That wasn’t the case with the puliyogare, a tamarind rice common in Southern India. Typically vigorously seasoned with a wide range of spices tapping sour, tart, nutty, bitter, sweet and chilie-hot, this incarnation was mild and in need of more of a pop from the sour-tart tamarind.

Tamarind rice

Black chickpeas cooked with ground ginger and coconut, masala-curry style resonate with layers of flavor, making kadale saaru a signature dish at Hoysala. It hails from Karnataka, where thick gravies are prized and dishes such as kadale saaru an everyday feast. I can see why.

Black chickpeas

Goat curry done in the manner of Malnad, meaning of northern Karnataka, has a similar coconut-based sauce, but the billed green chilies and black pepper weren’t as prominent as the meat demanded. This was a good dish, but I was left wishing for some taste tension between the gamey goat and the seasonings.

Yet the dosa, the shrimp and the chickpea dishes gave me reason to want to explore further the menu at Hoysala. There’s got to be cooks with good chops in Hoysala’s kitchen, if those dishes can be so technically correct. No need to be shy with spice: Let the cooks loose, and let diners learn.

Hoysala, 2 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Highwood Plaza, Somerset. Open daily, except Mondays, for lunch and dinner. BYO. 732-247-4300;

Read more Eat & Drink, Table Hopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown