Fluffy idlis, crisp vadas and divine karabath served with dollops of sambar

February 20, 2009

I am not much of a foodie. If someone were to ask me my gastronomical preference, the straightforward, simple and yet complete answer would be Tamil Brahminical. But I am not fussy or particular. I can make do with whatever is served as long as the servings are not parsimonious. It is therefore logical to deduce that I do not have any favorite eat outs (in fact I prefer home cooked food over eating out). This would be absolutely true, excepting one glorious exception. I do have a favorite and this happens to be a virtual hole in the wall, completely unpretentious, nameless, small little breakfast joint in Bangalore’s Jayanagar IV Block. Before I start extolling the virtues of the magical (and limited in terms of choice) food that is served in this place, let me recount an incident that happened a few days back which will bear out the extent of my affection for the place.

I had a 10.00 AM meeting in Jayanagar and the moment I smell the possibility of a morning meeting in Jayanagar I start salivating at the prospect of having breakfast in My Place. The meeting was a very important one for me and my friend (who also happened to be a colleague) for various professional reasons. We had decided that we would meet directly at the venue at around 945 AM as this would give us sufficient time to exchange last minute notes. My planning and scheduling was simple. Leave my house at around 830 AM. Given the state of traffic in Bangalore, this would ensure that under no circumstance would I have to forgo my breakfast treat. After having my fill, I would proceed for the meeting. And to ensure that I leave the house at 830, I set the wake up alarm for 700 AM. As luck would have it, I overslept and ended up waking at around 730 AM. Given the importance of the meeting and my pathological morning lethargy, I decided with a very heavy heart that I will give up on my idly, vada, karabath and sambar fix for the day and proceed straight to the meeting venue. Finally it was almost 900 AM by the time I managed to leave home.

Inexplicably, traffic was not a bummer that morning. Ordinary mortal that I am, my hopes started going up. It was 925 by the time I reached the diabolical BTM Layout signal which set me back by about 6 minutes. By this time, my friend had started calling me on my whereabouts and I kept reassuring him that I would be there well in time for the meeting. Things were getting agonising close and I was castigating myself for not having left the house 10 minutes earlier. I was convinced that an additional 10 or 15 minutes and I could have feasted on fluffy idlis and crisp vadas. Also, my driving has taken on maniacal tendencies in trying to make the additional 10-15 minutes. At the end of it all, I found myself in front of my favorite hole in the wall at around 940. Against all logic and as if on autopilot, I jumped out of my car and literally ran towards the eatery. I also heard myself telling my frantic colleague that a few minutes here or there is hardly going to matter. The next 8 minutes went off like a dream, in which I literally wolfed down a plate of idlis (2 numbers), 2 plates of Karabath, and 1 vada (and lest I forget, the idlis and vada soaked in manna like sambar). I can go on and on about the fluffiness of the idlys, their pristine white color, the crispiness of the vadas (neither too soft nor too hard), the perfect tanginess of the coconut chutney, and karabath which melts even before you can savor the exquisite taste. And for all you naysayers who do not believe that sambar can be as good a drink as any other beverage, I beseech you to take in the slurpy sounds of sambar being drunk from the plates.I myself am not a coffee afficianado, but I have been assured by my fellow idly-vada-karabath junkies that the perfect ending to this gastronomic experience is by washing down the food with a “tumbler” of filter coffee.The ritual having been completed, albeit a little more hurriedly than I would have preferred, I proceeded serenely for the meeting and reached the venue at the appointed time, not a minute early or late. I could not have asked for a more auspicious beginning to an important day.

A few things about the place itself:

1. It is nameless
2. The cast in stone menu offers idlis, vadas, karabath and depending on the day of the week, one rice bath.
3. Monday – Lemon rice, Tuesday – Bisibelle bath, Wednesday – Pongal, Thursday – Vangi bath, Friday – Pongal again and Saturday – one of the above.
4. The place is open only from around 8 AM to around 10 AM, Monday to Saturday.
5. Closed during the entire duration of the Dussera festival, Diwali and other major Hindu festivals.
6. The price list is revised once a year.
7. Even the basic minimum convenience of sitting and enjoying the food is denied to customers as there are no chairs
8. It is a self-service joint.
9. In the 6 odd years that I have been frequenting the place, I can vouch for the fact that the walls have not seen a new coat of paint.

I have often wondered about the psyche of the owner and what makes him do business the way he is doing. The place has a stream of regulars. As I mentioned earlier it does not even have a name by which it can be referred to. There are no boards announcing its existence to the world. What is it that motivates the chap to open the place in the morning and keep it open only for 2 hours by which time he has sold out whatever he has on offer. Given the obvious and ardent customer loyalty, I presume he has deduced that the food is tasty. In naked capitalistic terms, why is he not:

1. “Scaling Up”
2. interested in “increasing footfalls and traffic”
3. building and monetising “brand equity”
4. maximising “revenue per square foot”; and so on and so forth.
5. Ambitious.

In simple terms, the place sticks very religiously to its core competence. Shorn of all the trappings, you go to an eating joint to eat and as long as basic hygiene factors are taken care of, nothing else matters. At a time when everything around you reeks of hype and excesses, the simple functionality of the place is stark and refreshing and to me, something to behold. It also keeps taking me back in time, a throwback to the unhurried days of yore. And that is a big part of the appeal. Pure and simple Nostalgia. So,to paraphrase Mastercard, the cost of fluffy idlis, crisp vadas and divine karabath served with dollops of sambar – Rs 35. The generous servings of Nostalgia – Priceless.


6 Responses to “Fluffy idlis, crisp vadas and divine karabath served with dollops of sambar”

  1. Bennita Ganesh Says:

    Ah! Kara B!!

    One of life’s greatest pleasures……….The ultimate proof of how divine the Kara B is over here, is this. It is just a stone’s throw from Shanti Nursing Home, where we as a family regularly tend to reside when one or the other of our kids is ill and going by the rate at which we fall ill in Bangalore, we are here pretty often. The second thought that comes to my mind on these occassions (the first thought is for the suffering of my poor darlings) is “Wow! Kara B for breaker tom!!”.

  2. Raman Says:

    Cheat! How can you do this to me????!!!! Why was I not invited to the garam garam sambar mein dubi idli ecstasy and left to play the role of ‘my friend had started calling me’? For future reference – meetings may come and meetings may go but priority for such divine food shall always be so!

  3. subbu Says:

    Can you give me the exact location of this place. I stay very close to 4th block and would love to go there :-), Thanks much in advance šŸ™‚

  4. Krish Says:

    By any chance the 12 second call at 09:56 AM to tell me “I am on my way” was in the middle of your wolfing down the iddlys,kara bath and vada? Too bad I also would have joined !!!

  5. Srini Rao Says:

    Ganesh, good stuff .. was visualising the fluffy Idlis and Vadas and as you said , it must be a priceless experience – now you need to tell me where it is Rgds Rao

    • Gani Says:

      Thanks Bugger. The place is on 10th Main. J Nagar 4th Block. Next to Hande Hall. Opposite the old Medi Assist office. It is open only from 8am to 10am. Check it out and let me know. Cheers. Gani

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