"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." - Andy Wharhol
"On Oak Tree Road, every restaurant will be good for fifteen minutes." - Me
Oak Tree Road runs from South Plainfield (where it´s actually known as Oak Tree Avenue) through Edison and Iselin, and finally ending at Route 1 where it´s name somehow changes to "Green Street." Along the way, you´ll find the highest concentration of South Asian shops and restaurants in the Tri-State area, the best selection of Belgian beers in the state, a fine Pho house, and a wonderful/creepy Sichuan place - which all adds up to a major resource for food fans in New Jersey. At any given time, there are probably two or three spots that would deserve mention here, but it's not always the same two or three. Every place has it's moment of fame. The challenge for those of us who live here is to just keep up.
Enjoying its fifteen minutes these days is Woodlands, a dosa specialist in that strip mall on the corner of Oak Tree Road and Marconi Avenue (look for the Halal butcher sign if you´re coming down Oak Tree.) The dosa, which happens to be Iselin´s signature food, is a large crepe made with a lentil flour batter that´s fermented to achieve its distinct flavor.
At first glance, the menu lists seventeen different types, ranging from "Plain" for three bucks to "Paper Masala" for seven fifty. It turns out that there are only seventeen because Rava Dosas are listed in a separate section further down the list. By the time you reach the "Onion Chili Rava Dosa" at the bottom, there are twenty five. Trying them all could be a project of sorts.
I started with the Masala Dosa. The crepe was darker than most; almost like a serious breakfast pancake, but the fragrance was unmistakable. The accompanying sambar soup was somehow spicy and bracing at the same time and the light green chutney was unusual in that it actually had enough flavor to stand up to the rest of the ingredients.
Thus far, I´ve been back three or four times and have begun working my way through the menu, I´ve had a fair variety of regular dosas, and my wife Maria has tackled a Rava Dosa (made with rice flour batter). They were all worthy meals.
Old South Indian hands won´t be surprised by any item on the rest of the menu, but the spiced buttermilk drink called "Majjige" is mouth filling, herbaceous, and far better than the typical lassi and milkshake fare we´ve come to expect.
Finally - as if I needed more proof - things change so quickly around here that in the few weeks I´ve been eating at Woodlands, they adopted, and then dropped, a whole Indian/Chinese menu. Maria ordered what turned out to be a bowl full of starchy glop one day, and then went back to the dosas. Thankfully, Woodland´s kitchen did the same thing.
14 Marconi Ave. (at Oak Tree Road), Iselin, New Jersey 08830; (map) 732 283 7374
Author's Note: I often describe Iselin and Edison as "Flushing with parking." You might not agree if you try to get a space in front of Woodlands. Don´t despair, there´s a large free lot just a block away.
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