Nagarjuna – Andhra Meals, Bliss.

Who doesn’t like Andhra meals? If someone doesn’t, then something wrong with them – terminate the friendship, if family tolerate them, but don’t be close.

I love Andhra meals – and have mostly had them from the smaller ‘Andhra messes’, which I guess are ironically more in Chennai than anywhere in Andhra. The only ‘proper restaurant’ where I’ve had the meals is Nandhana Palace and it wasn’t a great experience.

Sunday lunch at Nagarjuna was damn good though. There was a huge waiting list at 230 pm on Sunday! But the manager did a good job of managing the crowd – took down the names on a paper with columns that indicate how many seats you need – 2,4,6 or 8. Simple, elegant but rarely practiced. We got our table in 10 minutes.

Started off with the traditional rice, ghee and pappu (palak) – ah!! If there is a heaven, I am sure they serve rice, ghee and dal everyday. The podi was also on the money – not too spicy, and tasted fresh. Not to miss out was the green chilli and urad dal chutney, did a fine job on it’s own. I would have liked some more vegetables, we only got a carrot-beans poriyal of sorts, missed the ‘fries’ you get in smaller andhra messes. Wife recommended I mix rasam, ghee and podi – was a decent combo, podi kills it on its own.

Service was prompt and polite – there’s a dedicated guy for serving ghee, one for rice and the waiter for the table manages the curries, sambar, pappu etc. in addition to taking orders and billing. Seems trivial, but it matters when you are looking for someone to get you more ghee and that guy is walking around doing something else. Prompt arrival of food matters.

The non-vegetarian menu looks very very interesting – didn’t want to ruin my veg meals. I will be going back to try the biryani, fish fry and the various chicken curries. Looking forward to some lip smacking food!

Unsolicited Guests – Roti, poori and their ilk

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The quintessential South Indian meal, or Elai Sappadu (meal on the banana leaf) is a delight, a fascinating journey of tastes. But for a long time now, there has been an unwelcome guest in this medley.

Yes, it is the roti/chapati with some sort of a veg korma, or worse paneer butter masala. Now there is nothing wrong with having roti/pooris, but my humble, firm, and suddenly steadfast opinion is that it takes away the authentic taste of the South Indian meal. In fact, even the veg biryani that you can see in the picture is unsolicited.

And for someone with a smaller stomach, that can only take so much rice, it robs me of precious real estate. Recently, I visited Krishna Kafe in Koramangala to have the full monty afternoon lunch. I refused the ‘chapathi’ upfront.

When I finished my meal, I had the feeling of having created a change, though the only person who cared to listen was my wife. Maybe my rant here will be read by a few 100s or more likely tens and inspire them to go full South Indian too. I am hopeful. Fingers crossed.

What do you think?

For those uninitiated, the proper meal course is listed below. Steamed rice is the base of the meal and is mixed with the below gravies.

  1. Paruppu (dal) + ghee
  2. Sambar
  3. Kozhambu
  4. Rasam
  5. Curd
  6. Buttermilk

Generally there are 3-4 vegetables that can be served as a poriyal (sautéed), varuval (fried), kootu (steamed with paruppu) and of course the universal favourite, appalam. Sweets are served upfront or as dessert, or both. I personally love the kesari or paruppu payasam, but there are wonderful variants these days, which I do not feel are unwelcome. Below is a helpful Wiki link, and an excellent video on the banana leaf by PutChutney (who used to be a good YouTube channel, but are plain boring now)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Indian_cuisine#Gravy_dishes_to_be_mixed_in_rice 

South India 101 – The Banana Leaf by Put Chutney

 

Nasi and Mee, Koramangala 4th Block

TLDR: Classy little place for authentic South East Asian cuisine, can get crowded during weekends and peak hours with some waiting time. Must try: Soup dumplings, Honey Chilli Lotus stems, Thai curry (red and green, both), Char Kway Teow and the Mimosa. Slightly limited options for vegetarians, but whatever is there is great. Bit pricey, INR 1500 for two (1 starter, 1 main course, 2 drinks)

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Highlight: Honey Chilli Lotus Stem

Today was my second visit to Nasi and Mee and I was very careful. The last time I went there, I had some delightful South East Asian delights, but then I also burned the roof of my mouth. That was because of the soup dumpling, which by the way is a must try. I had never heard of anything called a soup dumpling and when the wife ordered it was quite excited to try it. So excited I was, that I did not bother that the dumpling was steaming hot and popped it into my mouth! What happened next? Well of course, the dumpling burst, the soup spattered outside (inside my closed mouth i.e) and burned the roof of my mouth. I did not scream, but let out big gasps. Even with a bruised palate I enjoyed the remainder of the meal – Pad Thai, Fried rice with Thai curry.

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Soup dumpling being served

Today, we went for an encore of the vegetarian soup dumplings, honey chilli lotus stem and Malaysian chicken satay. Thankfully the soup dumpling was not steaming hot this time and I handled myself gracefully enough. The lotus stems were the highlight of the day – crispy, saucy, wow, yummy! We gobbled it up fast.

The chicken satay was good to start off with, the taste was very close to the regular Tandoori chicken. Later though, I felt it the meat was a bit rubbery and could/should have been lot more tender.

We wanted to try the Panda Bao – and ordered it, 10-15 minutes later were informed that it did not turn out so well in the kitchen and we could order an alternate Bao or a different dish. Went for the wok fried flat noodles, Char Kway Teow. Fantastic choice (congratulating self), the noodles soft and the flavour lingering.

When the bill arrived, I noticed that the service charge of 10% was added already. I requested them to remove it, and they did, without any fuss. I added a tip and left.

The Mylapore Cafe, Koramangala 1st Block

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TLDR – Small place, with pretty decent to good Tamil Nadu style South Indian food. Prices are extremely economical and unreasonably reasonable by Bangalore standards. Could do with some improved cleanliness, and service.

What are the odds of a person, who has lived in Mylapore for 8 years, and then moved to Bangalore, to discover 5 years later, that there is a place called Mylapore Cafe and they serve good sambar? Like the one back home? I thought it was very unlikely, and when the food turned out to be pretty decent to good, I was very happy.

Wife and I have been taking early morning swimming classes on the weekend, and post the pool workout, we head out for a heavy breakfast. One Sunday, after class, we were not really in the mood for a Continental outing, and wanted some good solid South Indian grub. Zomato-ed the nearby locations and found two good places – Aarogya Ahaara and the Mylapore Cafe, right next to each other. Aarogya Ahaara was crowded like crazy, we were hungry, so went in right next to their neighbour.

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Idli vada to start off with

Don’t know about the other days – but Sunday morning breakfasts have two options – you can pick the a la carte options or have an unlimited breakfast. The unlimited breakfast gets you

  1. Idlis – unlimited
  2. Dosa – choice of plain, masala, podi dosa, podi masala – you can take unlimited of each
  3. Pongal – unlimited
  4. Semiyabath or semiya upma – unlimited
  5. Vada – single (I presume, please do check)
  6. Coffee

For 100 rupees, I think this is the most amazing deal you can get in the whole of Bangalore. 

The idlis were really soft, made with batter, and not idli rava in the Udupi style.  I thought the vada was a bit on the oily side. The sambar was traditional TN restaurant style with a fair amount of tanginess – made with both tamarind and tomato I guess.

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Pongal, on visit #2 it was really good.

I didn’t really care for the ven pongal (kara pongal), it did not taste too fresh, maybe made rather early in the morning (it was much better the second time we visited). The sweet pongal was very good though, a little extra sweet in fact.  The semiya upma was average, I did not ask for a second helping.

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Semiya upma, not to kill fore

The dosas could do with a little improvement. Taste wise, they are definitely good, but I found them to be too crispy, making them a slightly, ever so slightly thicker, would certainly make them fantastic.

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Chutneys and sweet pongal, on the side

Chutneys were standard fare – good enough to get you going, but would not call them amazing.  Coffee which is part of the deal, was very good. They also offer Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita – but are not part of the unlimited deal.

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Extra sambar

Would definitely recommend trying the place for a good, and inexpensive, heavy South Indian breakfast.

Note:  the second time we visited, we got Kesari for the sweet, and it was only OK. Wife has made much better at home.

Food – 4/5

Service – 3/5

Ambience – 3/5

Price – 5/5

 

Nandhana Palace, Kamanahalli

TLDR – Average Andhra food, service can be improved. 

Upfront, I’d like to say that my assessment of Nandhana Palace is not exhaustive. I only had the vegetarian Andhra meal. I’d classify it as OK, I’ve definitely had better in smaller Andhra messes in Chennai and near my office.

On a Sunday afternoon at 230 pm, the restaurant was quite full, so I guess their non-vegetarian meals and other dishes are getting appreciation from other diners. I went with my wife and parents, were shown a table quickly and the orders taken. All 4 of us were not particularly hungry and decided to stick only with the vegetarian meals, with my wife ordering a buttermilk additionally for herself.

Rice and the first accompaniments –  the pappu (dal), sambar, rasam, vegetable curries – came quickly. I liked the pappu dal, I’ve always did. Nandhana served palak pappu, and it was tangy, nice touch with the tamarind I must say. The sambar, rasam and curries were nothing much to talk about.

The ghee to mix with rice and the paruppu podi took two reminders and forever to come. Finally when it did come, it was served generously.  The finishing servings of curd, buttermilk came a little late and were not too good. The curd was ok, but the buttermilk seemed like a sad leftover or the beginnings of a bad raita. The buttermilk which came after the finger bowl (!?) was also in the same tone. We left without trying any desserts.

Maybe the non-vegetarian is good, maybe their other items are better, but I wouldn’t be returning if I wanted to have a vegetarian meal.

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A Hole Lotta Lova Cafe, Koramangala 5th Block

TLDR – Budget friendly, cozy place for breakfast. Casual, relaxed atmosphere. Good breakfast options available for both vegetarians and non vegetarians, limited options on hot beverages. Try the waffles and the burgers (without mayonnaise)

Food -3/5

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Egg White Omelette

I’ve been in Bangalore for close to 5 years now, and in all this time I have heard of Hole in the Wall Cafe so many times for their waffles, but I have never been there. A Hole Lotta Love is from the same people –  catering to the same palate. They are both commonly known for their waffles and the English breakfast.

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Veggie 9 Yards Hash

What we had – Egg white omelette, Masala omelette, Veggie 9 yards hash, Banoffee pie waffles, Sloppy Joe Beef Burger and green tea (With a slice of lemon).

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Banoffee Pie Waffles

How it was – wife and I particularly enjoyed the Banoffee pie waffle. The waffle and the whipped cream tasted unique – I guess the restaurant makes it themselves. The waffle was crispy and seemed to have been made from some sort of a cake batter, the whipped cream did not have a factory taste. Despite having reservations on our respective waistlines, we jointly gobbled this up.

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Masala Omelette

The masala omelette, while good, could have done with a little lesser oil. However this is how most kitchens make a masala omelette, and I should have asked them in advance if i wanted less trans-fat.  The egg white omelette was healthier, though the spinach tasted bland once the omelette disappeared.

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Sloppy Joe Beef Burger

I have heard the name Sloppy Joe quite a few times on American TV series, and decided to to try it out. What I should have done is asked the kitchen to make it without the mayonnaise. I am not sure why, but most restaurants in India make burgers and sandwiches with a generous serving of mayonnaise, which at least for me, kills the taste of the sandwich or the burger filling. The chilli beef filling tasted good, and the burger was truly sloppy – I had to lick my hands after every bite.

 

Service – 3/5

Quick and smooth. Nothing to complain.

Ambience – 4/5

Very relaxed and casual atmosphere. Surprisingly the crowd was for a Saturday morning. People slowly filled in though. I saw quite a few students with their bags, I’d say the average age of folks that were there would be 25, no more.

If you fancy eating your breakfast looking down on the busy Koramangala road, you could do that, or get a table inside – in the duplex style place. There is a pool table too. The bathroom does not have a mirror – they have made art that says “You Look Fine”. Ha!

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Very Casual atmosphere
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If the weather isn’t too hot, a table overlooking the road isn’t a bad option.

The Flying Squirrel, Koramangala 5th Block, Cafe

TLDR – nicely sitting among a cluster of restaurants, with proper coffee-house atmosphere. Serving fresh coffee, food is decent, could do lot better. Good choice for coffee and talk with friends.

Food – 3/5

The Flying Squirrel (TFS) is a coffee-house, the kind you’d would have watched on Seinfeld – known for their gourmet coffee more than anyone else. The people behind TFS have their own coffee estates, grow their own coffee and brew a pretty awesome brew. The fresh smell of invigorating coffee hits you as you enter the place and keeps one fresh as long as you are there.

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My Parama Cappucino, loved the small cookie.

 

For the coffee, I picked the slightly conservative choice of Parama Cappucino – a South Indian style blend, and it did not disappoint. It was refreshing, I only wished it could have been served piping hot. The coffee cooled down a little too quickly for my taste. Wife ordered a Aromatique Latte – slightly on the sweeter side, due to the infusion of fruit, berries and caramel. Might not be for everyone. Loved the small cookie they served along with the coffee. It’s about the small things, really, in the end.

In contrast to the excellent coffee, food is only decent. I ordered a beef burger for self and wife chose overnight oats and the fresh vegetable crunch sandwich. The filling in the veg sandwich was perfect except for the overdose of mayonnaise – cut that out, and you almost had the perfect sandwich. The overnight oats was fine. The beef burger was only so so, I thought the patty was too crunchy for its own good.

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Veg sandiwch – If not for the extra mayonnaise, would have been perfect.

Service – 4/5

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Polite, quick service. Nothing to complain about – the folks patiently listened to our questions and gave the right answers. As we checked out, they shared their new breakfast menu and suggested us to check it out.

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New breakfast menu

Ambience – 4/5

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This was the best part of TFS. I loved the coffee-house atmosphere. The aroma, the lighting, the seating, the coffee and coffee makers on sale, the TFS folks explaining coffee brewing running on their TVs – really a good spot to meet your friends over coffee. I loved the coffee bar concept too.

Summary – will definitely stop for coffee the next time I pass through, might have to think about ordering heavy food though.