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Delicious Carnatic homestyle

27th Oct 2012

Carnatic Cafe

Ground Floor, India Mall, Community Centre, New Friends Colony,

Ph: 011-41008630,08804444889

Meal for two: Rs.300

A view of Carnatic Cafe.

It's not often one can convince the carnivore in me to go for a vegetarian meal. It's even rarer for it to be a meal I would crave for days after. But once in a while, a little "grass-feeding" gem comes along and does just that.

Carnatic Cafe is a cosy little spot tugged away in the slightly seedy New Friends Colony community centre market. The place has a sense of familiarity, perhaps bestowed by the marble table tops, wood and wrought iron chairs, walls covered in black frames – it's all a little reminiscent of Big Chill.

Carnatic Cafe was opened by Pawan Jambagi, a Bangalorean who wanted to bring Carnatic food to the capital. Unlike food from its neighbouring regions, Carnatic cuisine isn't spicy at all. And this place aims to serve food that mimics a typical home in Karnataka rather than a restaurant.

Our spread began with the "homeliest" meal of them all, the "Mini Meal". The meal consisted of two dal based dishes, a slightly thicker Kut, and a watery sambhar like dish sans the veggies known as Saar. The meal also included a delicious zingy chutney made of ginger and jaggery, known as Gojju; one vegetable dish; a sprouted lentil, coconut, and pomegranate salad; tamarind rice; plain rice; poppadom, and a maththi made from dal and curry leaves. They were even considerate enough to add dessert, in the form of a yummy pancake, stuffed with jaggery. The meal was accompanied by a drink of spiced buttermilk to wash it all down. Now if that was a Mini-Meal, I dread to imagine a regular sized one! And all for Rs.150! I hope these out-of-towners don't go from "value-for-money" to the Dilli trend of looto-all-your-money!Image 2nd

Next we tried the rava idli. Now if there's one thing you should know about me, it is I am not an idli fan. I never understood why eating a ball of steamed fermented rice was in anyway enjoyable. But the Carnatic Cafe may have found a way to convert me. Making idlis out of rava meant a fluffier, lighter idli as opposed to the denseness of regular idlis which gets to me. Rava idlis also include a few whole lentils, coriander and aromatics such as garlic and ginger to make the otherwise mono-flavoured idli a little more exciting.  And the vegetable istew like dish with carrots and peas could not be a more perfect accompaniment.

I believe in saving the best for the last, and the best was undoubtedly the much raved Malleshwaram 18th Cross. Yes that does sound like the name of a street rather than a dosa, which is precisely what it is named after. This dosa was like no other, with a supremely crisp and thin centre, cushioned and surrounded by fatter, fluffier edges – it's this play on textures that makes it truly unique. But it was the slightly spicy dal powder inside and the welcomingly over powering inclusion of ghee that took it to the next level. Honestly, once this was placed on our table it became exceedingly hard to focus on anything else! I would go back every week just to eat this and if my guilt allows, some Obbatu for dessert. With all dishes averaging an Rs.100 in this disgustingly expensive city of ours, I would gladly turn vegetarian on a weekly basis!

Another dish that caught my eye was the Bisi-Bele-Bath (sambhar rice), which I immensely enjoy eating. During lunch and dinner hours (though the restaurant is open all day), they have a special rice dish depending on the day. For rice lovers like myself, that's good reason to venture there every day of the week. Curd rice is available daily, Bisi-Bele-Bath on Wednesdays and Sundays, Tamarind Rice on Tuesdays, Lemon Rice on Mondays, Wangi (eggplant rice) on Fridays, and Kai Sasive Anna (coconut mustard rice) on Saturdays.

So if you are looking for an inexpensive meal, cooked with a lot of love in a clean and comfortable environment, Carnatic Cafe is your next culinary pit stop.

Follow Anisa's food adventures on her blog, Mademoiselle Chou-Fleur.

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