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From unassuming lunch homes that have been dishing out simple staples for decades to swanky new restaurants serving everything from Allepey fish curry and kothhu parathas to addai and avial – there are quite a few places in the city, where you can sample delicious Southern fare. If you know where to go, you can find good filter kappi, as well. Here are a few top picks.
Rao’s Udipi Home, near Southern Avenue, has been dishing out fantastic South Indian fare since 1969. The setting is unassuming, perhaps a little shabby for modern tastes, but their food has often been dubbed the best in the city. Their Mysore masala dosa is particularly good, so are the uttapams and rawa dosas. Go early for their breakfast specials – pongal and upma, the must tries.
Ramakrishna Lunch Home in Bhupinder Mansion, a stone’s throw from Rao’s Udipi Home, is perhaps the oldest South Indian eatery in town (1955), and by far, one of the best. Try their pillowy, soft idlis and crisp medu vadas. They come with a delicious assortment of chutneys, podi and sambar. Ask for their special coconut chutney, deliciously thick and topped with fried lentils and mustard seeds for a nutty twist.
Banana Leaf, on the ground floor of the 74-year-old hotel, Komala Vilas in Lake Market, has been one of the favourite South Indian eateries in the city since it opened its doors in 2002. Their thalis are especially popular. Go on a Sunday to sample their special lunch thali. It is a massive meal that has everything from sambar, dal, rasam to avail, vegetable kuttu and bisebella bhat. Wash it down with a glass of buttermilk, or go in the evening, after 7 pm for a plate of kuzi paniyaram and some filter coffee.
Restaurateur Naveen Pai’s latest venture in the city, Pai’s Malgudi is an ode to R.K Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’. R.K Laxman’s illustrations on the walls take you back to Swami’s life in quaint Malgudi, while you wait for your food. The spread is vegetarian with an assortment of dosas, (including innovative ones like the Mushroom cheese masala dosa)), idlis, uttapams and vadas. The spicy Malgudi Blast Dosa is a house specialty and one of their bestsellers. But for a taste of everything good at Pai’s Malgudi, opt for their ultimate sappad. The meal includes rasam, sambar, porial, pachadi and wada served with pooris and a rice specialty of your choice (the spicy Bisi belle bhaat is quite good), a dessert and some delicious mor mologa (fried chillies). Plus, the filter coffee is quite good.
And then there are the meats, prawns and fish. Tamarind, near Deshapriya Park, is one place that has challenged the local misconception that South Indian food is restricted to the essentially vegetarian dosas and idlis, like none other. From Kerala classics like Erachi Curry and Meen Moilee to fiery Andhra specialties such as Chappala Pulusu (fish curry) and Mamsam Kundu (mutton tossed with red chilli paste and other spices) and perennial favourites such as Coorg mutton fry and Chettinad chicken – the menu is exhaustive. Every meal here comes with complimentary buttermilk – spiced with curry leaves, ginger and green chillies – it is delicious. These days, evenings are specially crowded, so reserve in advance.
Again at Ammini, a quaint eatery on Manoharpukur Road, Ramani Menon turns out home-style Kerala specialties – the recipes are her family’s culinary bequest. The menu is small but impressive. There are appams and Malabar paranthas to go with typical Kerala favourites such as kozhi (chicken) roast, potato stew or the Kerala kozhi Curry. Or, you can try their addai dosa (spicy lentil dosa) with spicy onion chutney. However, the best dish on the menu is definitely the mutton olathede, soft chunks of mutton braised with spices and fiery red chillies. It is a must try.
An independent journalist based out of Calcutta and a dedicated food enthusiast, she writes mostly about food and travel, and has worked and written for publications India Today, The Telegraph, Live Mint as also Lonely Planet India’s website. She also loves to experiment in her kitchen and runs a food blog – allthatsdelicious.com. But mostly she eats, frets about how much she eats and then eats some more.