A lukewarm welcome

Updated: Jan 28, 2020, 09:55 IST | Sundari Iyer | Mumbai

Vanakkam Cafe's representational South Indian menu holds promise but loses steam when its kitchen gets the basics wrong

Gadbad idli
Gadbad idli

Food: Room to improve
Ambience: Regular
Service: Warm
Cost: Competitive
Verdict: 1/4

South Indian food has now become a staple breakfast/lunch option globally, and not just for people belonging to that part of the country. While most prefer the original versions of dosas, idlis, uttapam and rice preparations, the current rage demands for experimental ones like Mexican or Chinese dosas. Vanakkam Café in Malad brings the many cuisines from its states — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and even Sri Lanka — under one roof.

Sheera
Sheera

We drop by for lunch on a weekend and find it full, which we take as a good sign. The menu — a busy one — makes for a convenient browse. It classifies dish names with abbreviations of the state or country it belongs to. Like KA (Karnataka), AP (Andhra Pradesh), TN (Tamil Nadu) and KL (Kerala), and so on.

Open peri peri paneer dosa
Open peri peri paneer dosa

We begin with thayir sadam (curd rice, '115), the easy-to-make comfort food that most Tamilians fancy acing each time we attempt it. Sadly, they get the basics wrong; the rice being undercooked in this case. We are forced to abandon it before reaching the midway mark. The pongal with avial ('145) is also a downer because of the salt overkill. What piques our interest is the experimental fare. The open peri peri paneer dosa ('300), is a spicy cheese delight that even the hardcore Tamilian in us doesn't frown upon. Another unique offering is corn capsicum waffle ('250), where the waffle is made with dosa batter. Vanakkam's cheese burst dosa ('300) is oozingly indulgent, and scores a few notches higher than the versions that are whipped up by Mumbai's popular roadside dosa stalls. The Hyderabadi upma dosa ('130) and kuzhi paniyaram ('115) taste good, but are oily for our palate, while the bedgi (or byadagi) chilli masala dosa ('120) is a robust blend of potato masala and the Karnataka-origin chilli that adds a spicy kick to the dosa that we enjoy with a hot cup of filter coffee.

Chutneys
Chutneys

All meals come with four kinds of chutneys, of which the pineapple variant is a welcome break from the usual coconut, peanut and tomato versions.

Mushroom ghee roast dosa
Mushroom ghee roast dosa

Even the mushroom ghee roast dosa ('150) scores high marks; the crispy coat has a generous filling of thinly-sliced mushroom and coconut, with a hint of spice that brings the dish together. The paneer moilee ('180) with malabari parotta ('35) is a mixed bag, tasting more Thai than South Indian; as is the case with the Bangalore bonda soup ('135). While the parotta is perfectly made, the thick coconut gravy for the moilee should have ideally had a thinner consistency. Still, we smile because it tastes good, and is a rarity on city restaurant menus.

Corn capsicum waffle
Corn capsicum waffle

Maharashtra makes its way to the menu as well with gadbad idli ('120). The idli in misal is a twist to the typical misal pav; here, the pav is replaced with the idli. Interesting and tasty but there is no change in the use of the original ingredients. The dessert, the pineapple sheera ('80), makes it the perfect South Indian mini feast. Light, airy and flavoursome, it ensures we forget the hiccups encountered along the way.

At Vanakkam Café, Shop No. 7, Nilgiri Apartments, opposite Siddhivinayak Mandir, SV Road, Malad West.
Time 8 am to 12 noon
Call 9372867711

1/4 Exceptional, 3/4 Excellent, 2/4 Very Good, 1/4 Good, 0.5/4 Average. Vanakkam Café didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals

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