Viman Nagar has an ever-increasing up-scale residential population but not enough regular family dining restaurants. The long-shut French Loaf has been taken over by the famed Shiv Sagar legends. Now, they have a pure vegetarian Shiv Sagar and a fish-dominant Fish N Bait on the first floor.
The folks at Fish N Bait are sister concerns of Mahesh Lunch Home and they know their fresh catch. The ocean-farer Mangloreans cook up finger-licking good curries, spicy dry curry-leaf laden prawns and battered crisp-fried little parcels of sea goodness. We haven’t been to a tasty-yet-air-conditioned fine-dine fresh catch place in a while, so we indulged.
For starters, we had a Harnei Bombil (Rs 210) — Bombay duck stuffed with prawns. They arrived in rather cute rotund roundels that looked like fat spring rolls. The spoon dented the delicate flesh of the bombil and a bright green coriander-mint chutney oozed out. The crunch of the top layer and the melt-in-your-mouth white fish made a lovely combination. The prawns inside were a bit too tiny for wholesome flavour but they lent a good bite nonetheless.
We were keen on crab for the mains but we didn’t want to go through the hassle. Fish N Bait clearly understands customers like us. So, they have crab meat, done any way you like. While there are Chinese versions and butter-pepper-garlic ones, we stuck to what we know is their core competency. And the Crab Meat Sukka (Rs 425) turned out to be a winner. A bowlful done with a South Indian blend of onions, ginger-garlic and grated coconut, it went perfectly with the wafer-thin Neer Dosa (Rs 10).
By the time the maroon, aromatic bowl of Surmai Pulimunchi (Rs 325) swayed onto the table, we knew we had to stop gorging on the crab. The Pulimunchi is a native Mangalorean hot and sour gravy tempered with tamarind and, of course, red chillies and curry leaves. It can be mixed with white rice or soaked with a spongy Appam (Rs 15) like we did. Here, the appam’s tinge of sweetness balanced out the spices of the gravy leaving behind a Ferris wheel of flavours on our tongue.
The portions were hearty and a single main course dish can suffice for a couple, so order only as you go along. The staff is well-trained and the pricing reasonable. The menu, of course, offers vegetarian, chicken and meat options but that’s for that lone diner at the table who is allergic to seafood. As for us, we are waiting with baited breath to plan a second visit.