Mangalore is lost on this kitchen
Promising to deliver a popular coastal cuisine, this Nana Chowk joint disappoints by serving non-Manglorean fare
It's strange how despite restaurants in the city opening themselves up to diverse cuisines, the sound of something local and homegrown still excites the senses. That's why Mangalore Kitchen in Nana Chowk beckoned one Friday evening, where even the rain couldn't put a dampener on plans. Having grown up on Mangalorean fare at home, this writer has developed a certain fondness for coconut-based curries and sabzis, and walking in, the idea was to hope for the same culinary magic to emerge from the kitchen.
Prawns masala gravy
The surprise factor had to be high — just like Hotel Deluxe in Fort with its Chettinad cuisine — and so there was no checking of the menu online. Big mistake. Because, while the restaurant seems to be named eponymously after its cuisine, nothing of that reflects in the menu. It was a shocker in fact; with inclusions like lasuni, kadai, Kolhapuri, Mughlai versions of chicken gravy instead of the very local Mangalorean chicken kori gassi or sukka masala. Surprisingly, there was no fish curry, but deep-fried variants of the same — surmai, bombil, bangda masala fry — were spotted on the menu. The final order read thus: prawn masala fry gravy with rice (Rs 230) and two non-veg thalis — mutton thali special with neer dosa (Rs 280) and bombil thali (Rs 180) — which at least, on the menu card, sounded like a familiar home-style meal. The pricing felt reasonable too.
Here, it's important to discuss the ambience, albeit briefly. Since it was muggy outside, the AC section on the first floor came to the rescue. Sure, one couldn't expect a fancy set-up but this space turned out to be boxy with zero ventilation. And the tables were packed to the extent that it became difficult to enter and leave the space. But, as a fellow diner pointed out, the wallpaper of a sugarcane farm gave the effect of the space looking like a vast grassland — whoever's ingenious idea that was.
The food, for want of a better word, was disappointing. The bombil thali, which came with four pieces of fried bombil, a coconut gravy, karela sabji, and two non-Mangalorean dishes — sol kadi and naan — was the worst of the lot. The rava-coated bombils looked fiery red, only to imply that they had been marinated in food colouring and not red masala, and were deep-fried, making it oily, rather than crispy. The karela sabji, called karathe sukhe in Mangalore, was bitter to the point that it hindered with the palette. The saving grace was the coconut gravy, which was decent, if not great.
There was nothing to write home about the mutton gravy either — it felt like a South Indian curry trying hard to taste like a shahi Mughlai dish. The neer dosa wasn't as soft as it should have been, but combined well with the mutton. The prawn masala was the saving grace, despite being low on local flavour front.
One could have called this a wasted dining experience, but some good company and the rains outside, made it all bearable.
At Mangalore Kitchen, opposite fire station, Nana Chowk.
Time 9.30 am to 12 am
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