Open dosas on an open road

Just before the Adichunchanagiri Medical College on the Bangalore Mangalore highway, you will find a guard manning traffic from the divider and pointing a reflector towards a building at the side. This is Hirisave. You turn to your left (if you are travelling from Bangalore) and you see a large building with an even bigger garden and cars and bikes lining the driveway. Welcome to Mayura.

This hotel, run by South Canara professionals with their touch of finesse and polished cleanliness, has been a pit stop for travellers since the last 15 years. Getting straight to the menu – their dosas are brilliant. From the open dosa to the ‘light’ paper dosa, you have some of the best dosas along the entire Bangalore-Mangalore stretch prepared here. Though slightly off the highway, this place has gathered enough of a fan following for its dosas and thali meals that make it a venue to look forward to.

The open dosa is a speciality here and anyone ready for a different experience should try this. The dosa comes along with a huge blob of ‘desi’ butter that makes it literally melt in your mouth. The meals served with ‘desi’ ghee again are a treat and the South Indian thali is a speciality. And then there are the button idlis, tiny idlis served with hot and not so spicy dhal curry. This is a meal that settles well in the tummy specially if you are in the midst of a long journey.

You will find bikers from the Harley-Davidson club or cyclists on their weekend expeditions making a beeline to Mayura. For me, personally an extremely important reason why I make a stop here i because of its cleanliness. I haven’t seen a cleaner mass-serving South Indian hotel in South India. You have to hand it to the management –  spotless washroom, there’s even someone manning the place at all times.

As a group of four, we had nearly all the favourites available at Mayura for lunch. Needless to say we skipped tea and dinner.

Bide your time with the Phobidden

I love south east Asian food. Though I have never been that side of the world, the stories and tales from the South Seas do have an imaginative clout. Swayed by the aromas through visits to the Aroy in J.P. Nagar and the Thai restaurant on Brigade Road (that apparently is modelled on Thai street food that Thai visitors say is authentic) I did not hesitate when good friend and foodie of the century Sandesh Shenoy suggested we try the Phobidden Fruit.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Vietnamese Chicken Curry

The ASEAN nations serve their own unique blend of spices that really stimulate your gastric juices. Phobidden Fruit, located in Indiranagar’s famous 12th main food street is a quaint Vietnamese restaurant with a relaxed outlook. The muggy, tropical-like weather added to the ambience as we climbed the short spiral staircase to the terrace. The service takes its time, but the starters and the main course were worth the wait.

Pho at Phobidden Fruit
Pho

From chicken spring rolls sauteed in delicious spicy sauce to a beef fry dish (I don’t recall the names but the pics should give you an idea of how delicious the food was), the starters were the right ingredients to set the table on fire for the afternoon. A bit on the spicier side but with a tinge of sweetness either brought on by burnt jaggery or lemon grass, the Vietnamese dishes tweak your taste buds to ask for more. And with the main course of Vietnamese chicken curry (chicken dipped in a spicy and sweet curry with coconut milk and a bit of grated coconut, and with a slice of yam and steamed rice and vegetables to accompany the curry) I dug into the food with the relish it deserved. It never disappointed. Sandesh, on the other hand, had the signature Vietnamese dish of Pho (a soup based dish with noodles and chicken and vegetables). However this dish was slightly bland compared to the rest of the course we had that afternoon.

Getting lucky with the Vietnamese Chicken curry gave me the palate to try the dessert on hand. We had Che, a coconut milk based beverage/ice cream that was so so. I didn’t think much of the desserts.  Overall, it was a cherished lunch – extremely satisfying, laid back atmosphere and the company to go with it. And I would go and order the Vietnamese chicken curry all over again. It was the highlight of my meal.

Dinner, Dinner in the Hall

Just coming off one of the best home-cooked meals I have had in Bangalore, and when the time comes to set up my space I know whom to turn to for recipes and tricks of the kitchen trade (of course apart from you  mom!). The Almeida’s from Sanjaynagar are a newly wed couple. Mr. Almeida happens to be a childhood friend whom I hold close. He is married to Ms. Right – in a good sense, she has set right a house that one always entered in a topsy turvy world during those bachelor days.

Sear fish, daali thoi, butter garlic prawns, beans sukke, boiled rice
Sear fish, daali thoi, butter garlic prawns, beans sukke, boiled rice

Cronin and Renish so kindly agreed to have me on board their ride to Mangalore and this evening, before the road trip, I was served a typical Mangalorean meal of rava fried sear fish, beans sukke, boiled rice and some real yummy butter garlic prawns. Except for the butter garlic prawns the rest of the meal was cooked by Renish. However Mr. Almeida’s skills were left not too far behind as his online recipe for butter garlic prawns turned out as good as the delicacies on Masterchef Australia that we kept watching while we ate in respectful silence. Respect… for the taste.

The prawns were big and nice, juicy in fact, while the sear fish was fresh and extremely tasty, not overdone, but with just the right amount of masala and flavour. The same goes for the prawns that were cooked just right and with a balanced seasoning that gave out a wonderful aroma while I sat in the hall watching Two and a Half Men sometime earlier.

I have no clue of the nuances of cooking, but I know my food and this was good. And how could I forget the Dhal-e-thoi. This Konkani recipe was made by Renish and summed up a wonderful table.

With this contentment, I go to bed on one of the rainiest days of the year. Tomorrow morning we set forth for Mangalore. It’s freezing out there and with the wet roads we need to take it easy. Cyclone Nilam‘s effect can be seen in Bangalore and lets see how far she stretches.

Long Weekend

It’s a long weekend, what with the Eid date being slightly miscalculated and there we have it… three whole days. Today was a good day, almost auspicious, as I got a lot of formal work, regarding a personal investment, out of the way. A prayer for a good start and then signing stuff, gathering more stuff on how to take things forward followed by a great meal, made my time worthwhile.

I was at Flamenco for lunch – a quaint, relaxed (chilled out actually) restaurant that serves continental cuisine. Located off the Jain temple road in Jayanagar, Flamenco is run by Abhijith, a young self-taught cook who runs the place for pure passion and fun, but definitely not at the expense of taste and quality. Relaxed interiors, no formalities and a wide menu to choose from. I would recommend anything on the menu, but make sure you end the meal with waffles and ice cream. The waffles here are simply awesome.

Though, this afternoon i stuck to a risotto with chicken and mushrooms in red sauce. That was more than enough. Tummy khush, me bhi khush 🙂

A pleasurable restaurant review – Veekes and Thomas, JP Nagar 2nd Phase, Bangalore

Just got back from a great dinner at Veekes and Thomas. This dinner was the last I will be sharing with my cousin in Bangalore before he gets married in November. Now Veekes and Thomas is a restaurant that came with very strong recommendations and it certainly did not disappoint.

It took us some time to locate the restaurant in JP Nagar 2nd Phase. Tucked away close to the Ranga Shankara Theatre, Veekes and Thomas is a 3-4 table small restaurant, with a big heart. Entering the place, you realise that you have made it to a simple place, he to frills and no fuss, but with an underlying class that expresses itself in the quality of food. The rattan chairs around small glass tables do make it a bit cramped and slightly uncomfortable to sit, but I am going to oversee all this to get down to the food.

Continental fare at its best with a taste customised for our Indian palates – that’s how Veekes and Thomas describes itself in its website and that’s the taste we got from the very first bite. Easy on taste, sense and palate, it is truly a relaxing gastronomic experience.

Now for the menu. The Veekes and Thomas menu is extremely detailed with a lot of Italian/Continental terms and at the first shot it did present a confusing mixture. Maybe it’s the fact that my tryst with Continental fare is limited, but then when you start reading through the menu, it does give you a pretty good idea of what’s what.

Despite the detailed menu, we were a bit lost on what to order and that was when the friendly manager and manageress came in. They took turns to give us a fair idea and recommended the dishes to be tasted. And that’s how we ended with a classically fried plate of chicken nuggets with brown sauce followed by chicken salami with oyster mushrooms crostini. The crostini topped with a thick layer of cheese was crisp and quite a mouthful of tasty chicken and ‘rooms.

For the main course, aided by the manager, I settled for a chicken steak with mashed potato while my cousin had the stuffed chicken (pocked? was it) dish. Laced with thick gravy that was not greasily heavy, these chicken dishes were real juicy and not too rich or thick with spice. This balanced blend of spices made it that much more comfortable as the meal gently settled in.

Topping this meal, I had a wonderful mocha desert that came with a ‘just right’ crunchy crust with a rich chocolaty flavour that was not too rich, if you know what I mean. The chocolate mousse ordered by my cousin was a creamy chocolaty delight.

A delectable balance exists in the food served at Veekes and Thomas and I would definitely rate it extremely high on the burrpometer. However, I would love to see the place expand. Going by its theme of being the ‘Fab India’ of the food scene, Veekes and Thomas looks to be taking this route in a planned manner avoiding any reckless expansion or investment in the highly overpriced real-estate sector in Bangalore. It would do well to improve the seating experience a bit as the low, sunk rattan chairs are a bit hard on the back when eating. That apart, I would definitely give a two thumbs up and I did give a physical demonstration to the manager when he passed by our table.

Now, we come to the bill. Veekes and Thomas follows a NGO sort of business model, where they use biodegradable material for plates, hire and train the underprivileged to be a part of their growing business network and team. Commendable, that business men are putting the ‘good’ into business in a real sense of it. The dishes are fairly priced compared to the highly overcharged fares on MG Road or Indiranagar.

Summing up, this is not the last time I will be visiting Veekes and Thomas. We went to the JP Nagar 2nd Phase branch at No. 22, 5th Cross, 24th Main,  JP Nagar 2nd Phase Bengaluru. However, they do have another branch near the Brigade Millennium apartments in JP Nagar 7th Phase and street counters in Jayanagar and Cunningham Road. Takeaways seem to be popular at the moment, but I guess a larger dining experience could make a better impact.

Dalma – Koramangala goes Oriya

This evening turned out to be one of those ‘ don’t plan and just go for it days’. The discussion in office these days eventually veers towards Salman Khan‘s latest blockbuster Dabangg. With all the hype and the cracking open of enough piggy banks to fill up the RBI mint, this movie was a must see for me and the need turned into action as three of us colleagues went ahead and booked the tickets for the 9.55 evening show.

Binod - the Oriya food guide
Binod - the Oriya food guide

Now with a lull in the project work, we had all the time in the world to kill till 9.55 PM. So, Binod Pradhan, my Oriya friend suggests that we go to ‘Dalma‘ – an authentic Oriya restaurant located in Koramangala. We set out for the 100 feet ring road in Koramangala and easily found the place on the main road (of course with Binod’s help).

Dalma is a tastefully decorated Oriya restaurant that at the same time makes no pretensions of its small town origins. I was told that the word Dalma signifies a type of dal that is a part of the Oriya cuisine. We started off with the Prawn and Chicken Pakodas.

The prawn pakodas were up to the mark with the freshness still intact, but I felt that the chicken pakodas could have done with better pieces. What followed was the main course for which we had (or rather Binod, our Oriya guide had) a full Oriya thali with a chicken gravy dish authentic to that region again.

Oriya Thali
Oriya Thali

The Oriya thali was simply wonderful, with a mix of light spice topped with a sweetish tinge of a tomato mix that went well with the overall taste. The meal consisted of white rice with a huge bowl of dalma (dal with potatoes), another dal like dish that was slightly different from the dalma, a fried vegetable mix, a sweetish tomato dish, a dry spinach dish seasoned with spices and roasted dal,  and a bowl of a kheer like sweet. The chicken dish we ordered was lightly spicy with soothing flavours that were easy on the tongue. Unlike the starter, the chicken pieces here were pretty good.

Dalma
That's dalma 'the dish' for you

For those fond of extremely spicy stuff (meaning Andhra food) and for those whose gastric juices can withstand any fire fighter, this food would be pretty timid, but those with a balanced world-view of cuisine would surely love the difference that Dalma offers. Idid.

Dalma is located at:

#37, 6th block, 100ft road, Bangalore , Koramangala, Bangalore

P.S. I am definitely going for more servings and the next time its going to be the fish that is covered in mustard. Sounds good.

WordPress down?

Tried getting onto WordPress this morning but looks like it was down for some time. First time I am coming across this problem, but there had to be a precedent for this. Googled and voila, there are many instances of maybe the system getting updated or something…

For all its worth technology ain’t god. Thanks wordpress, being down and out for a while does make this communication platform much more appealing. We are in the same league – wordpress and me. The next time a client of mine complains about there being downtime they better get their pawns in place, cause when you are lower down the pecking order you gotta be prepared for the downtime. Don’t blame me . I am not god, neither are you and the more you demand the more will I be in a position to sock the teeth out of you.

Pardon the rambling, perhaps getting ready for the week ahead does get me into a foul mood. What the hell, it’s Sunday morning still. And I am just back from India Coffee House on Church Street and a breakfast of 2 dosas, 1 vada and 1 plate of scrambled eggs on toast (love the stuff fried with a hint of milk), washed down by a cup of coffee tainted with an overdose of chicory… but boy was it good and to top it all stopped by the local coconut vendor for some semi-sweet nut water. Good once again. At cousin Shaun’s place today. Lazing.

Food for the morning soul

Steaming idlis, deep fried vadas with the right touch of oil, spicy sambar with that subtle sting of tamarind, freshly ground chutney with a perfect balance of mustard and methi (coriander), all this followed by a cup of piping hot slightly strong filter coffee, with the suprabhatham playing all along – that’s what I call the perfect south Indian breakfast at the Udupi Gokul Café in BTM Layout.

When I landed in Bangalore 5 years back, Udupi Garden in BTM layout was the biggest landmark that directed people to my residence close by. Run by Kundapur Brahmins, this restaurant was the only one that opened at 6 in the morning and it suited me fine as I started my walks pretty early (5.30 to be precise). As this darshini became my kitchen, I got to know the staff pretty well and service got over enthusiastic when they heard I was from Mangalore. That’s one thing about living in Bangalore, you meet any ‘Kudla’ people and you get that extra bit of friendly service.

Udupi Gokul cafe at 6 AM
Udupi Gokul cafe at 6 AM

Three years later, in 2006, the folks at Udupi Garden had to vacate the place. Besides being in a prime location and a landmark for all BTM directions, the restaurant was doing roaring business and was recognized as one of the best in Bangalore for darshini type food. Naturally, the owner hiked the rental amount and even though I am sure they could afford it, they may have been pipped by another ‘kudla da jana’. Another Kundapur guy began running the restaurant, but the quality sucked and btw it still sucks, so much so that the Udupi Garden name is forever tarnished.

Meanwhile the original Udupi garden gang started off a Udupi Gokul Café that was recently renovated. But, the quality, cleanliness, cooks and the atmosphere remains the same as the original Udupi Garden. For now Udupi Gokul Café is the place to visit for South Indian snacks in BTM layout. Situated close to the Jayadeva hospital flyover, the darshini is a bit out of the way for me, but then my morning walks have got that much longer resulting in a bit more weight off my a**.

Check it out:
Udupi Gokul Café,
Near Jayadeva Hospital Flyover,
BTM Layout
Bangalore

P.S. – The pongal vadas are my favourite.

The Mogul Treat Restaurant, Mangalore

This is one restaurant that I will unabashedly campaign for. Accuse me of crass commercialism… go ahead, cause I need this restaurant to be in business if I have to keep getting my fair share of the world’s best biriyani.

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I have eaten biriyani in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai – eaten it in restaurants that matter and even those that don’t to the outside world. But never have I tasted such fine biriyani as that at The Mogul Treat in Mangalore.

The mutton biriyani is juicily cooked in fresh spices and the masala layers in the biriyani match the aroma and taste of the basmati rice. It is not too oily or greasy on the fingers. Besides the biriyani you have a whole lot of mughlai dishes. Sheekh kababs are pretty good too. But when you get to the restaurant make sure the mutton biriyani is on top of your menu. You can get a takeaway or sit in the cozy ambience of a simple but well decorated restaurant. Would suggest takeaway as the restaurant is small and tends to get full almost immediately.

Location

Millennium Towers

Highland

Mangalore – 575002

Pricing: Reasonable

Ragi Mudde and a bottle of rum

I hate long days in office when deadlines force us to spent hours on end scrolling clients mails and turning their requirements into never ending deliverables. However such days have a light side to them at the end of the day. A friend of mine from my days in Manipal stays quite close to my office and on such days we usually end up at this seedy looking, dim lit joint in Jayanagar 9th block called Amaravati.

I usually associate the name Amaravati with the Doordarshan series that used to play in the early ’90s. Called ‘Amaravati Ki Kathayen‘, each episode was based on a short story by some popular Indian authors (don’t recall their names though). Anyway coming to this restaurant, it was my friends discovery and when he told me that it was ‘the’ place to have ragi mudde with chicken gravy and guzzle it down with beer or rum or Lime ‘n soda (in my case) I was up to trying this unique mix. I had heard a lot about ragi mudde after coming to Bangalore but never made an effort to go out and taste it. Of course this dish was made famous by Deve Gowda and family when he was the Prime Minister of India.

Dark and seedy looking with the usual bunch of local goons and college chokras the place was an after hours hotspot for government servants and bank employees looking forward to unwind after a hard days work in their respective offices. I could make out that most of the men were family guys who’s excuse to their spouse once they got home would be that they were held up by some urrrrgent work at the office or the boss held a exclusive meeting at the last minute where drinks were served.

Dirty, seedy, broken bulbs and red and green lighting – you coudnt have asked for a seedier and gaudier atmosphere. A bunch of plastic flowers in shades of pink, purple, red and other lipstick colours filled the centre of each table that was covered by a checked cloth that looked like its last wash happened a month back. A broken ashtray made up the rest of the table.

What I love about such places is the freedom that you get to talk as loudly as you want, talk whatever you want, and take your time to order your food and drinks. These are the best places for a good conversation on anything and everything. Saint and sinner make this their home for the evening. The evening goes on as broken, unconnected pieces of conversation make up an entire drinking session. I hardly remember what we talk about, but I know that we really had a good laugh at someones expense and go on reminiscing about the good old days in Manipal which had its share of such joints – ‘Janani’ the most notorious and famous (with its mnthly credit for the guys who were regular customers). I guess these restaurants are a perfect tool to unwind at the end of the day.

The ragi mudde is solid and fills up your tummy in a jiffy. It tastes great when you mix it with the chicken gravy. The first time I tasted the mudde I really ground it between my teeth and ended up like a kid with sticky chocolate all over his mouth. This dish needs to be rolled into balls and thrown into the mouth and gulped. Thats the mudde eating process.

Tonight will be visiting the mudde place again. Another round of talk over some chicken lollipops and muude with some spicy gravy. Today was one of those days.