I found out that the Sheraton is based at Malleshwaram. A few twitter queries helped me find out that Malleshwaram is referred to as ‘old Bangalore’. That it has got quite a few popular Tamil eating options there. Some of them literally on the street. This seemed like just the sort of material that I was looking at for my book which is on eating around the lanes of India. The folks at High and the Sheraton told me that Malleshwaram is largely a Tambram (Tamil Brahmin) dominated area and is changing now with KPOs coming up.
The morning after I landed at Bengaluru I headed out from the Sheraton to explore the local eats of Malleshwaram for breakfast. The hotel had kindly arranged for a car and a knowledgeable driver. On my sights were Veena Stores which Monika Manchanda (@monikamanchanda) and Raunak Kundu had told me about and CTR which Adrianne Tanne (@skinnylatte), a Singaporean who often comes to Bengaluru, told me about. My choices were blessed by Sadhvi from The Sheraton.
I know that South Indians start early but I stumbled out of the hotel at around 9am much to to surprise of K back in Mumbai who knew that this is too early for me. The timing was quite optimum as it is a bit after the locals have had their breakfast so I missed the crowds and yet was not so late that I missed breakfast.
I was interested to see how ‘old’ Bangalore looks. Old Delhi has its Mughal architecture, old Hyderabad its Nizami style, old Mumbai has its Victorian British buildings and old North Kolkata its narrow lanes and raj baris of the nobabs of yore.
What about old Bengaluru?
Well, Malleshwaram looks like a typical Indian urban middle class suburb with lots of two and three stories houses. Hardly any high rises around. While there is the odd South Indian temple I didn’t see any classical architecture of note. What’s there though is lots and lots of greenery, the secret behind Bengaluru’s ‘garden city’ label.
My first stop was Veena Stores. It’s a tiny, close to 40 years old shop. You place your order, pay and get a counter, get your food and eat on the streets or take a parcel home.
I placed my food on the water filter to photograph. I started with the much much recommended idli and vada.
I am not much of an idli fan, exposed as I am to the dry pebbly idlis of Mumbai’s Udipi restaurants. The idli at Veena Store though is soft as a baby’s cheek (or bum if you go by Bangalore food blogger Nandita Iyer’s response on twitter). Delicate, juicy and very tasty and combined beautifully with the mint chutney that a gentleman in the corner doles out.
The medu vada was quite crunchy and raunchy and livened up the morning.
I saw quite a few folks having coffee too. I asked a young couple for what else I should try and they suggested the semolina based khara and sada baths. My eyes though were on something that a young man, formerly from Khar in Mumbai, vouched for, puliyogre. The couple earlier told me is a Tamilian dish.
I bought a plate of puliyogre. The food is served in disposable and environment friendly plates made with dried leaves.
I took a bite of the puliyogre and fell in love with it. It’s essentially a tamarind rice where the rice is light and airy, the tamarind juice gives it a lovely jhal muri like fresh tanginess and the peanuts interspersed in it give a nutty contrast. A fantastically well balanced dish.
Food blogger Anjali Koli writes: The best puliogare (puli is sour and ogarane is tempered rice) I've ever tasted is at a small town called Melkote 135 kms from Bangalore towards Mysore. It is a Tamilian rather Iyengar settlement in the heart of Karnataka. This town in home to Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple and there are carts that sell the best puliogare and tempered curd rice. They also sell the pulioagre mix in packets. The secret to a good puliogare is tempering with sesame oil. Your pic brought back memories of it. Yummmy!
The framing of my photo while eating it taken by our ex Mumbaikar friend was rather unfortunate though. No pun intended!
Satiated I drove down to our next stop, CTR. This is a proper restaurant. Two storeyed. Not air conditioned. It’s about 50 years old I was told by the cashier, or opened in 1950, I am not quite sure. Couple of years back its name was changed to Shri Sagar. Everyone calls it CTR though.
The restaurant was fairly full with a mix of family crowds and businessmen. Opposite me at my table was a gentlemen with a dour expression who later had his masala dosa with studied concentration,
As tutored by Adrianne on twitter I asked for a bene dosa. There’s no menu card here.
“Aah, butter dosa” said the smiling waiter and came back a bit later with the dosa.
The bene dosa is much smaller than the dosas in Mumbai. Has a masala stuffing. At 40 bucks is the most expensive dish on the menu. The aroma of butter could be smelt from a mile away. The dosa is thick. Crunchy outside and soft inside. I just loved. Every dosa I have in Bengaluru, whether in MTR, Sri Krishna and now in CTR, becomes my favourite dosa and makes me curse Mumbai for the horrid plasticky dosas we get here outside of Swagath in Fort and some of the Matunga joints.
I washed my dosa down with a frothy, sweet, strong, filter kaapi.
Ace Iyenger Products
I stepped out and went to a store called Ace Iyengar Products and picked up some snacky items and masalas for friends in Mumbai. They have large pictoral displays of the various food items which makes it easy for outsiders to shop. Very thoughtful.
Sri Raghavendra Stores
I was quite stuffed by then but my chauffeur took me to a place called Raghavendra Stores.
Raghavendra Stores is a tiny shop on a residential street outside Malleshwaram Station. Frankly if my chauffeur had not taken me there I would not have known about it. It’s about 45 years old I am told and is packed with people outside it at breakfast time. I had another brilliant idli and vada while my chauffeur had an upma.
My chauffeur then wanted to take me to a place where you get totta (chappatti-like he told me) idlis but I could not have one more idli and he then took me back to the Sheraton.
Grilled foie gras, crispy crackling, juicy wobbly scallops, fresh sushi, amazing idli and vada, puliyogre and bene dosa, robust double shot cappuccino, refreshing filter kaapi.
Twenty four hours. All in one, not very central, suburb of the city.
Now you know why I often say that Bengaluru is one of the really under-rated food cities of India.
All the food in this post ranged from Rs 20 to Rs 40 a serving, well below a dollar.