WHERE THE EATS HAVE NO FAME

A wise man once said: you don’t need a sil­ver fork to eat good food. Wel­come to the small but golden restau­rants of In­dia’s big cities

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Foods - By Swa­pan Seth

In a world con­sumed by Miche­lin stars, 88 best restau­rants in the world and a flood of food awards, I am happy to play the Pied Piper to the lit­tle known, the rarely-spo­ken-about and the never no­ticed places.

Just the other day, I was sent a mail ask­ing me if I would like to in­ter­view a two-miche­lin star chef. I pan­icked. I wrote back to the edi­tor say­ing that I was ill-equipped to un­der­take such a mar­vel­lous mis­sion. I can­not even pro­nounce words such as de­gus­ta­tion, en-pa­pil­lote and soubise.

My favourite pet is an un­der­dog. So, here is a list of the places that float my gloat. These are my go-to places in the cities I go to.

WORLD’S BEST BIRYANI IN BEN­GALURU

While Manu Chan­dra has mas­ter­fully changed the ‘platescape’ of Ben­galuru, I con­fess I have not had the good for­tune to eat at Toast & Tonic, though his Mon­soon Bone Broth and Flash Aged Steak have been show­ing me their cleavage for a while and very soon, I hope to be there. But in Ben­galuru, the one meal that I ab­so­lutely must have is at Eden Park. Their mut­ton biryani is fiercely fab­u­lous. I would rate it as the best biryani I have ever had. Equally stag­ger­ing is their chilly chicken (Andhra Style). I time my flight to Ben­galuru to en­sure that I am in time for lunch. Bow­ing to so­cial pres­sure, there is an air-con­di­tioned area. But I would never sit there. It is the un­fash­ion­able, non-air­con­di­tioned area where the meal must be had.

SAR­DAR’S, CRYS­TAL AND GUJJU FOOD IN MUM­BAI

There hasn’t been a sin­gle trip to Mum­bai where I haven’t had pav bhaji from Sar­dar’s. It is sim­ply su­perla­tive. I like it very spicy and with loads and loads of but­ter. A statin af­ter that takes care of stupid things such as choles­terol.

The other nugget in Mum­bai is Crys­tal on Chow­patty. I love their dal fry and alu gobi. Per­fectly paired with cha­p­at­tis and but­ter as the top­ping.

The Tri­dent at Ban­dra Kurla at­tracts loads of Gu­jaratis from the di­a­mond bourse nearby. So the in­fin­itely wise David Mathews de­cided to hire a Ma­haraj for their cof­fee shop. He whips up a mean dal and saag. It re­mains amongst my most mem­o­rable meals to date. At the other end, and un­known to most, is the leg­endary egg curry by chef Sat­bir at The Oberoi. The trick that he em­ploys is sim­ple: the eggs are soft boiled. As you pen­e­trate the egg with a roti, the yolk breaks free and mixes with the curry to pro­vide a tex­ture and taste that is sim­ply lovely. STREET FOOD ALERT The alu gobi at Crys­tal on Chow­patty is delish

PLAS­TIC CHAIRS, BAD SER­VICE AND A FAB­U­LOUS THALI IN KATHGODAM

I go up to the hills of Ut­tarak­hand ev­ery year. And frankly, I am quite done with the Udupi­wala

There’s an AC area at Eden Park in Ben­galuru, which serves the best biryani. But, it is the non-AC part where the meal must be had

restau­rant at Kathgodam. For the long­est time, I have suf­fered their obese idlis and staid sam­bar.

TREAT FROM THE HILLS The alu matar at bho­janalaya, On a trip last month, I de­cided to quiz a bunch of train con­duc­tors on an al­ter­na­tive to the agony that Udupi­wala has be­come. The an­swer from all of them was the same – bho­janalaya at Kathgodam sta­tion. The place has plas­tic chairs and plas­tic table­cloths. The ser­vice is go­daw­ful. And be­cause the food is freshly pre­pared, wait­ing 30 min­utes for a meal is quite the norm. But when the veg­e­tar­ian thali ar­rives, all is for­given. The cha­p­at­tis are hot with a river of ghee flow­ing on them. Their alu- matar is stag­ger­ing. As are the vegeta­bles, the dal and the pa­pad – fresh as a flower. It is more than a meal. It is an abid­ing mem­ory.

TASTY TWIST Ka­chori-alu at Tea Junc­tion in Kolkata

A NU VA­RI­ETY BREAK­FAST, SHI­RAZ CHAAPS IN KOLKATA

The concierges at all the ho­tels I stay in know the drill. Break­fast for me has to be from Nu Va­ri­ety. They make the finest hing

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