Madison, Wisconsin


Image for Ali Seiter

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Well-spiced, intensely flavored Nepali food; a menu offering steamed leafy greens, brown rice, tofu, and dahl; seasonal specials from farmers market vendors: that's the gist of Dobhan's perfection.

When I say Indian food, you may invision heavy curries, flatbreads dripping with ghee, an overloaded stomach, and a night spent on the toilet. However, combined with the lighter Tibetan cuisine and twisted with a modern viewpoint, Dobhan offers fresh, light, and exceptionally healthy dishes including an entire menu page devoted to vegetarian and vegan options.

I always opt for the small plate of Hariyo as an appetizer—an almost giftwrapped package-like square of steamed Asian greens including bok choy and mustard sprinkled with tamari and sesame seeds which lend a tang of umami that complements but doesn't overwhelm the natural flavor of the greens.

Earthy, bountiful in toothsome garbanzo and white beans as well as lentils, not overly spiced, simmered with tomatoes and sprinkled with basil, the dahl at Dobhan never fails to please the legume lover in me.

Amidst a 7-dish cornucopia of tantalizing vegan-friendly dishes such as coconut-crusted tofu, Moroccan tagine with almonds and couscous, and a seitan-vegetable saute, the Tofu Buff caught my hungry eye (or perhaps rather, my stomach). Served alongside a pile of short-grain brown rice, this mix of sweet caramelized onions, crunchy snow peas and zucchini, meaty mushrooms, ever-so-slightly wilted baby spinach, and strips of hearty marinated tofu formed a delectable vegan entree. If I could somehow accurately describe the amazingly savory mix of Nepali spices that permeated the tofu, believe me I would, but after slowly chewing piece after piece of drool-worthy soy and mulling carefully over each bit, I still haven't the slightest idea of which ingredients created this magical tofu. You'll have to trust me—the best tofu in Madison.

See pictures and more info at my blog:

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I've had mixed experiences here. I had an amazing dinner on my birthday with excellent service and great food. When I brought my family for lunch, however, we were quite disappointed. The menu was quite different, with fewer vegan options. The service was very slow, and the food pretty average. Both omnivores and vegans were not very satisfied. The portions are small by American standards. I will visit again hoping to capture that awesome first experience though!

Image for conde.kedar

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As far as Nepalese places go in Madison, Dobhan is not the place to visit. Stick to Himal Chuli on State Street.

I came here for dinner on a Sunday night. To start, the service was friendly, but slow and inattentive. I had to flag down a waiter to get me a table, and then do a lot more flagging to place my order and to pay my bill.

I started out with an order of samosas, which were solid and respectable. I wanted some veg. potstickers or momos, but they don't offer vegan versions (or even vegetarian versions) which was surprising. I'm guessing that they use some kind of frozen pre-made kind, which is why they don't offer any variety of fillings.

For my main course I had the veggie burger ($8), mostly because none of their Nepalese dishes looked appealing at the prices they were charging ($14 for a seitan curry?). The burger was terrible. The patty had no flavor and was under-salted; the bun was an awful white flour spongy piece of garbage and the lettuce and tomato were like eating plastic. The tomato was particularly brutal: it was pink in color, mealy and devoid of any flavor, the way that cafeteria salad ingredients tend to be. Which is basically how Dobhan is sourcing its ingredients I imagine (let me guess: their food service provider is Sodexho or Aramark).

In the end, Dobhan is imminently avoidable.

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