Raj redux

A restaurant known for authentic cuisine is bound to deliver when it hosts a Mangalorean food fest

Yellow Brick Road, Vivanta Ambassador, near New Delhi’s Khan Market is always a good place for authentic cuisine in an ambience of ethnic chic. On a regular day, diners enjoy world cuisine at the cheerful, colourful and happy space: the round-the-clock coffee shop Yellow Brick Road. It has been around since ages and is indeed, a favourite haunt of old-timers including walkers of nearby Lodi Gardens, where they relive the rich heritage of colonial India.

For the uninitiated, the building of Vivanta Ambassador is an INTACH-listed heritage building, built in 1945 by colonial architect Walter George in a poetic medley of British and Art Deco styles. To get to the restaurant, walk through the beautifully-designed corridors of the landmark property in the heart of Delhi in close vicinity of Delhi’s prominent landmarks such as Lodhi Gardens, Humayun’s Tomb, India Gate and The Indian Habitat Centre.

Recently, diehard fans of South Indian food had a treat in store when head chef at Mangalore’s Gateway Hotel Mahesh Naik was specially flown in.
“Piquant, flavourful and authentic is what best describes Mangalorean cuisine, which originates from the Tulu Nadu region of Karnataka,” explained Chef Mahesh, showcasing an array of dishes for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. “The main differentiator of this cuisine is the diversity of food from various districts of South India and the unique flavours forming the crux of Mangalorean cuisine,” he added.

Mahesh curated the menu along with the team of culinary experts led by Chef Sanjeev Chopra. The highlights of the menu were delicacies such as Padengi Laambu Gassi — green lentil and mushroom in Mangalorean gravy; Patlakodu Uppu Kari — snake gourd and coconut stir fry tempered with mustard seeds and fresh coconut; and Beans Uppukari —farm-fresh French beans tempered with mustard and grated coconut. We loved the Mangalore version of the sambhar which had the distinct flavor of okra.

For non-vegetarians, Yetti Pullimunchi (tangy prawns in homemade spices) clearly stole the show. Anjal da Kajippu fish in Mangalorean coconut curry had a robust flavor dominated by coconut. My favourite from the Food Fest was Kori Gassi — a traditional burnt-style curry with home spices which was served with special Neer Dosa which is made of rice is are buttery and paper thin. There was also Sannah — fermented steamed rice cake which tasted delicious on its own.

Every dish spoke of Chef Mahesh’s passion and love for Mangalorean cuisine and that has helped him discover the magic of spices from the South. He hails from the Udupi region of Karnataka and is a veteran chef with a rich experience of over 17 years with the Taj Group of Hotels. He has brought popular street and home food to the table with a twist – transforming traditional recipes of Karnataka into popular gourmet dishes.

To round off the meal, there were traditional sweet preparations like Kadalebele Payasam made of roasted gram and cashew nut stewed in coconut milk and jiggery. I preferred tender coconut payasam which was cold payasam sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with just the right amount of cardamom dust.

The idea, says the hotel’s General Manager Vikas Parimoo, was to showcase the cuisine and culture of Mangalore, hence the décor
of the restaurant was in synergy with the food theme, complete with traditional.

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