CERRITOS, Calif. — One can never have too much rice and lentils when ordering South Indian tiffin items such as idly, dosa, vadas and uttapam made from traditional staple ingredients here at the Chennai Tiffin restaurant, owned by Jeeva Arockiasamy and Rakesh Gadde.
Tucked in the busy corner of the Best Plaza off 183d and Gridley, the idea of tiffin, often synonymous with breakfast or snacks, according to Gadde was revived within their restaurant name as well as their popular dishes from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The vegetarian restaurant, established in late 2013, also offers a small North Indian selection of dishes. Most entrees average at about $8 per person.
Tamil-born Arockiasamy’s signature recipes translate into roughly 15 crispy and soft incarnations of the dosa stuffed with onions, carrots, cheese or chili which set off bursts of flavors in one’s mouth. Not to miss specialties originating from Andhra Pradesh, Gadde’s birthplace, include the MLA, Upma Pesarattu and the traditional rava dosa.
The MLA, created by the co-owners, is the standard dosa made with rice and lentil flour and infused with aromatic spices, nuts, red hot chili carrots, onions and tamarind flavors while the traditional, greenish Pesarattu, is made out of finely ground green moong beans.
Both entrees are non-crispy, soft dosas and are complemented and amply stuffed with a wonderfully creamy upma.
Three variations of uttapam are also offered. The vegetable toppings include onions, tomatoes or cheese and carrots.
As a side dish to offset the various entrees, customers can indulge in the five flavor chutney bar which are “made fresh in front of customers,” according to Gadde. The varieties include coconut, mint, tomato, chili and a unique and delightful peanut chutney.
The restaurateurs also offer all you can eat sambhar, which has a homely feel with its mixture of seasonal vegetables and medium flavoring.
Other attractions apart from the dosas are southern thalis inclusive of rice, rasam, kulambu or a tangy stew popular in Tamil Nadu and sweets. Thalis range from $7.99 to $10.99.
A variety of rice dishes, central to South Indian cooking, such as Pongal temper the strong flavors of the overall meal and are modestly priced.
The Carnatic favorite, Bisibelle Bath, which is translated to hot lentil sour rice, comes in a copious portion which can easily feed a family of four and is infused with spices such as asafoetida, peppercorns and tamarind.
No South Indian meal is complete without the eatery’s popular Tamil coffee called Madras filter coffee which is sweet, milky and made from dark roasted and ground coffee beans and chicory.
Apart from servicing small groups, couples and families in the informal setting with a 50-person seating, the restaurant also provides catering inclusive of on-site dosa preparation.
Arockiasamy and Gadde also opened a sister eatery in San Diego in 2013.
Chennai Tiffin is located in Cerritos at 11321 183rd St., (562) 809-1600; hours 11:30 – 2:30 & 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. except Mondays; and in San Diego at 9484 Black Mountain Rd., (858) 566-7300.