The oldest discussion in food is about ‘authentic cuisine’. Judging the authenticity of European Cuisine in Bangalore is a doomed project from the start given our obsession with spice.
But judging pan-Indian food is a birthright no food critic can take away from us. And yet the question remains, where should one go for authentic South Indian food in Bangalore? South India has five states with distinctive cuisines (and lots of sub-cuisines within each), so we need to be specific. South Indian food is so much more than just idli and dosa. Yes, really.
The closest thing to authentic veg Kannada comfort food in Bangalore has to be at the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) at Lalbagh road, which belongs to the dominant Udupi culinary tradition in Karnataka. True to the popular brand name, its copyright was bought for upwards of Rs 450 crores to be introduced in the packed food market. They are also credited with inventing the rava (semolina) idli during World War II’s rice shortages.
Assured by recently discovered trivia and past experience, my folks and I walked into this heritage eatery, making it just in time for their venerated lunch meals. Predictably, there were more than 20 people in line at the considerably large waiting area whose walls now have contemporary food awards along with the classic ones, besides shots of famous patrons.
We were ushered into the dining area by a lungi-clad staffer. Like a well-oiled machine, the waiters brought in the plates and perfectly chilled grape nectar in cute little cups while we waited for our food.
Any respectable Kannada meal starts with Payasa (pudding). “They want to kill our appetites from the start,” quipped my dad, the eternal cynic.
As the Poori and Saagu (veg curry) arrived, there was a sudden, almost reverential, lull in the hall. The feast began.
The pièce de résistance of MTR, Bisibelebath with ghee, provoked mouthwatering noises in anticipation of the spicy tanginess of the signature dish. As if there wasn’t enough ghee already, the Kesar-Badam Kashi Halwa was brought forth (again, kannada meals from Udupi are punctuated by sweets) and it seemed as though the halwa was in the ghee instead of vice versa. But only my health-conscious mom refrained from eating it.
A Kannada meal here or anywhere else is incomplete without Sambar and then Saru (rasam) with rice, followed by velvety spiced curd rice (Yes, there is an obsession with rice here). The 40-minute silence was broken by gasps. My brother waved a white flag at the fruit salad with ice cream, placed in front of us as if in recognition of conventional placement of desserts at the end. We walked out chewing the beeda (pan), determined to try their famous breakfast in the future. We took a stroll in the Lalbagh Botanical Garden nearby to complete our walk down memory lane.
A paradise for staunch vegetarians, MTR is pure veg. Just make sure you don’t walk into the MTR mini-meals outlet that is two doors before this one. Refrain from overeating only one course. And park your vehicle in the paid parking lot before the traffic signal that leads here, as there are no other options nearby.
This isn’t the only great place in the city. Bangalore is a foodie haven. But the food here is tastier and the drinks are headier with the Quirk card that offers a flat 25% off on food and drinks at 50 restaurants in the city. Buy it now!
How to Get There:
MTR – Mavalli Tiffin Rooms
9 Locations – Lalbagh Road – Basavanagudi | Indira Nagar | J P Nagar | St. Marks Road | Forum Value Mall – Whitefield | Malleshwaram | Samvit Food Court – Kanakapura Road | Gandhinagar – Majestic | Banashankari.
Most of the Outlets are Closed on Monday | One can visit outlets between 8-8:30 AM till 9 PM (Tue – Sun)
Cost: ₹250 for two people.