Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore - A review

Michael Swamy 31 October | Updated on October 30, 2012 Published on October 30, 2012

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore   -  BUSINESS LINE

It is with much eagerness that I step into the Karavalli restaurant in Bangalore. In the 12 years of its existence, Karavalli has earned itself a certain distinction, thanks to the contemporary style of South Indian cuisine served here. Located at The Gateway Hotel, the restaurant is all set to introduce a new menu for the first time since its inception. Seated under the huge tamarind trees in the restaurant’s courtyard, rather than in the quaint bungalow-style restaurant indoors inspired by the traditional architecture of coastal south India, I consider myself lucky to be the first to sample the new menu.

The Chef

The chef, Naren Thimmaiah, has designed the menu to reflect his 22 years of research on the home cuisines of Kodavas of Coorg, Mangalorean Bunts, Calicut Muslims, the Syrian Christians of Travancore, Havyaka Brahmins of Vitla and the Portuguese influences in Goan cuisine. The pantry is choc-a-block with interesting ingredients like Kodumpuli (a souring agent which resembles a wild amla) from the Western Ghats, toddy vinegar from Goa, home-made ghee and Kundapur coconuts.

The Menu

Strongly influenced by the cuisine of the south-western coastal regions, the menu also has select organic dishes along with a play of the colours of the region. These cuisines are strongly influenced by local ingredients such as cloves, cinnamon and pepper, home grown chillies; fresh meat such as duck, chicken and lamb, fish and shellfish such as prawn and lobster and vegetables unique to different regions - plantains, tapioca, peas, several varieties of cucumber, bittergourd, drumstick and more.

The chef explains the unique concept of an interactive dining experience offered here, which is a way of keeping traditions alive. An example that he states, and I later savour, is of dishes like the Pothi Choru, a meal of ghee, rice and Moplah chicken curry wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf and served in its own ritualistic way. Another tradition is the ‘Tiffin Carrier’ concept where the food is served in custom-designed tiffin carriers, thus making for a quick meal. As he further elaborates on traditional techniques adopted in the kitchen - cooking over wood-fire and in earthenware pots - one can tell that the experience will be well worth the wait.

My sampling of the various dishes on the menu begins with starters like Camaro Con Cilantro, a flavoursome dish of prawns lightly tossed in a saffron sauce and fresh coriander. The clean flavours of the coriander gel very well with the warmth of the saffron and really help in whetting the appetite. The Denji Pulimunchi (rice flour coated soft shell crabs tossed in a spicy masala) are resoundingly crisp; the masala just coating the crabs without making them soggy. This dish is a bit spicy but delicious all the same. The vegetarian starter Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi (steamed rice dumplings flavoured with coconut and cumin, and tossed with mustard and curry powder) is delightful and well-balanced. The dumplings are steamed to perfection and do not leave a pasty feeling on the palate. The Ghee Roast Chicken (chicken cooked in homemade Kundapur masala and ghee), Attirachy Ularthu (lamb cooked with onions, tomatoes and fresh spices from Kerala), Patrade (colocasia leaf rolls brushed over liberally with pan-roasted spiced lentil paste and cooked) all prove that there is much more to south-western coastal food than coconut. Each dish offers a range of flavours that never fail to surprise.

Final platters

Presented to me next is a range of curries – Meen Vevichathu (seer fish cooked in a fiery gravy), Pothi Choru and vegetarian wonders like Maavinakai Mensukkai (preserved mango curry of Havyaka origin) and the Haagalkkai Kabbu Saaru (an astonishing combination of bitter gourd and sugarcane in a mild curry) which deserve the apt description of finger-licking good. The fieriness of the fish curry, sweetish tang of the mango curry and sweet-bitter-spicy flavours of the Kabbu Saaru are further enhanced with accompaniments like Ramasseri idlis, appams and Kuttanad boiled rice. As the dessert platter arrives next, I see the predictable vermicelli pudding, along with a pleasant surprise - the pudding Gatti Shaavige Payasa comes with a caramel sauce, giving it a very refreshing element. The Alle Belle (pancakes stuffed with coconut cashew and jaggery filling) are really nice but what really makes for a spectacular end to a fabulous meal is the tamarind ice-cream. The tangy taste of the tamarind is left intact without it being overpowered by the creamy sweetness typical to ice-cream. It’s not overly sweet nor is it sour. It tastes like the perfect ice-candy, just much creamier. With great food, warm service, homely atmosphere and a rustic décor, Karavalli is certainly worth a visit, or maybe more.

What: A new menu

Where: Karavalli, The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore

How much: Rs 2,500 for two, exclusive of taxes

(The author is a Cordon Bleu Chef and Food Stylist)

Published on October 30, 2012
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