The western suburbs remain the ultimate destination for a dosa trek, with longtime South Indian favorites like Bangles (889 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown) and counter service-casual Indian Hut Curry & Cakes (260 N. Pottstown Pike, Exton) still going strong. But the pleasantly modern dining room hiding behind the generic strip mall facade of Manam, which opened in 2018, has fast become a new favorite. We go, in particular, for hard-to-find softer dosa variations like the bowl-shaped appam rounds, which have coconut in the rice batter, and onion-laced rice pancakes of kal dosai, which are both ideal for sopping up richly spiced coconut milk curries.
Manam, which shares some of the same partnership that owns Thanal Indian Tavern in Center City, also delivers some excellent renditions of Northern Indian cooking, in part, because co-owner Jaisri Chety, an analytics pro by day, studied at a Punjabi school. As a result, she’s made sure the kitchen has a skilled tandoor chef in Thamil Murugan, who is dedicated to the art of roasting skewered meats in the vertical clay hearth’s blistering 660-degree heat.
In the past, we’ve devoured the flavorful Jinga prawns and juicy zaffroni malai chicken kebabs. But my most recent visit to Manam brought some tandoor-roasted lamb chops that I cannot stop thinking about. These New Zealand chops drew impressive tenderness from an overnight marinade in an herb sauce made from fresh coriander leaves (a.k.a. cilantro), lime juice, mint and green chiles. But it was the spice box of flavors radiating from those succulent lollipops that woke my senses — the earthy complexity of Manam’s masala blend (cumin, fenugreek, ginger and curry leaves) dancing along the meat’s heat-singed edges with an extra dusting of powdered coriander seeds and chile. It’s the kind of deep flavor that makes you wonder in that moment why anyone in the world makes lamb chops differently. And at just about $16 for four or five (depending on weight), it also ranks among the best lamb chop bargains this region has to offer.
— Craig LaBan