Saturday, December 06, 2014

MTR, Nagarjuna and Meghana

Biryani at Nagarjuna BangaloreBangalore’s rapid growth into a cosmopolitan capital has ensured a steady stream of new and trendy restaurants.  Expat chefs from Italy and Japan demonstrate their skills daily in fancy new dining spots while local chefs showcase fusion and flair in chic settings. I have reviewed several in this blog earlier.  This time I wanted to do something different. I went back to the city's roots and discovered local eateries that existed and flourished before the city’s new and modern avatar and its upscale dining options came into being.

Mavalli Tiffin Room, popularly known as MTR, is one such eatery.  MTR has been serving local Karnataka cuisine since 1924; this is where you go for the best idlis and dosas during breakfast - if you can manage to get a seat!  However, MTR is also the place to sample an excellent thali - a multi-course sampling of all that is wonderful about Karnataka food.

MTR Bangalore

MTR is characterised by a no-nonsense ambiance. You are waved to any of the unoccupied tables with a simple menu.  I decided to go with their Special Thali.  They started me off with a glass of pomegranate juice after which a thali with a variety of preparations was plonked in front of me.  The Kosambi, a kind of local salad, made me nostalgic.

Pomegranate Juice at MTR Bangalore

Special Thali at MTR Bangalore

Hot puris and a dosa made their way shortly followed by a side plate of sweet and savoury accompaniments.

Next came piping hot bisi bele baath - a savoury dish of lentils and rice very unique to this region of India and cooked amazingly well.

This was followed by rice, sambhar, rasam and finally more rice with curds tempered with spices.

Breads at MTR Bangalore

Accompaniments at MTR Bangalore

The other cuisine that seems to have been popular forever in Bangalore is Andhra.  This form of spicier food from their neighbouring state keeps multiple chains of restaurants alive here.  I counted Nagarjuna, Meghana and Nandini among those with multiple outlets, all proclaiming the best Andhra cuisine but focused on their popular biryani and dry spiced chicken dishes.

Bisi Bele Baath at MTR Bangalore

While I visited both Meghana and Nagarjuna this time, I think Nagarjuna has an edge.  Their biryanis were more flavourful, spicier (the way I like it), and accompanied by salan and raita that was pretty good.  Most of all, the roast chicken served at Nagarjuna certainly is worth a try for anyone visiting here for the first time.

Biryani at Meghana Foods Bangalore

This may not be the sophisticated dum biryanis of the five-star upscale restaurants, but a more robust and equally enjoyable version of the wonderful dish that has evolved in our country into so many variations.

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