Meet the people who are bringing back Karnataka's regional cuisine to the city's restaurants

These chefs, restaurateurs and gourmands are focussing on traditional recipes in an attempt to reacquaint the city with its culinary roots

author_img Anagha M and Ruth Dsouza Prabhu Published :  02nd November 2018 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  02nd November 2018 12:00 AM

Ragi Mudde with Bas Saaru at Oota Bangalore

These chefs, restaurateurs and gourmands are focussing on traditional recipes in an attempt to reacquaint the city with its culinary roots. As part of our special eighth anniversary edition, we take a look at this trend and the people behind it. 


Anurag Mallick and Priya Ganapathy, Oota Bangalore
Oota Bangalore, a restaurant by the folks behind Windmills Craftworks and The Terrace is an ode to the heritage of Karnataka. From the decor to the food, everything at this fine dining establishment is designed with tradition in mind. Travel writers and food enthusiasts Anurag and Priya were roped in by the restaurant to design a menu inspired by the culinary traditions of Karnataka. “We divided the state into five culinary circuits – the Karavali coast that leans heavily on seafood, the Western Ghats that loves its pork, pepper and greens, South Karnataka, where ragi is the staple, North Karnataka, which uses a lot of jowar, and the Hyderabad-Karnataka region with influences like meat, spice and gongura leaves from Andhra,” says Anurag. 
To capture the real taste of the state, they cooked over 350 dishes and had countless more at homestays, famous eateries, temple kitchens and homes of nearly 25 communities such as the Kodavas, Bunts, Bearys, Mangalorean Catholics, Saraswat Brahmins and Haviyak Brahmins, before finalising the menu. On offer are dishes such as Vonagiru Nellikayi Tambuli (dried gooseberry soup) of the Haviyak Brahmins and Shayya Jhinga Biryani (vermicelli prawn biryani) from the Navayaths community. “The focus is on rediscovering local food. This is important because traditional recipes are on the verge of vanishing into oblivion,” sums up Anurag.
Rs. 1,700 for two. At Whitefield 


Sombir Choudhary, Farzi Cafe  
The restaurant is known for its Indian cuisine with a global twist. As owner, Zorawar Kalra says, “It is a genre-defining restaurant concept and our way of bringing Indian cuisine back ‘in vogue.’ Farzi has always been about re-inventing Indian cuisine with a modern twist.” While they usually focus on North Indian dishes, this new menu champions regional cuisine. Designed by chef Sombir Choudhary, it features recipes from Karnataka. “I was born and raised in Bengaluru so it wasn’t very hard coming up with these local dishes,” he says.
The menu takes some classic Karnataka dishes and gives it a contemporary twist. For instance, the Edamame Hummus is served with Kori Roti Crisps and the paddus are made with pine nuts and scallions. Some other dishes are Rava Fried Calamari, Coorgi Pandi Ribs, Prawn and Pandi Sukka and Baffath Spiced Pork Ribs. “There is so much  to explore in Karnataka cuisine, but we decided to ‘Farzify’ dishes that are popular amongst locals,” adds the chef.
Zoravar sums up his thoughts on this trend by saying, “There are conscious efforts being made by chefs and restaurateurs alike in taking a more modern approach to preparing and presenting a completely renewed Indian cuisine experience to diners across the globe.”
Rs, 2,200 for two. At UB City, Vittal Mallya Road 

Kavan Kuttappa, The Permit Room 
For Kavan, who grew up in a traditional Coorg household, the idea was to take all the influences that make up the Bengaluru food scene – primarily those of the Southern states, and create a menu that retained  the original flavours of a dish but with some changes. The result – an inspired menu of contemporary South Indian food that The Permit Room is renowned for.“We take all of the food that has been around you for ages and recreate it, keeping the original flavours in place with techniques that elevate them to another level,” says Kavan, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
The Karnataka-inspired dishes on the menu at Permit Room are the Bellary Baba’s Badnekai, a traditional North Karnataka side dish for jowar rotis. This is converted into a chip and dip version, with a cold eggplant mash, smashed peanut butter dip and jowar roti crisps. In a tribute to the bajji shops, the Bengaluru Banana Split sees raw plantain, flattened on a plate, two sauces made in house, cheese and some pearl onion chutney served up as a plated starter. This, Kavan feels, makes it approachable for a pub format.
Also on the menu is a family recipe for pandi curry with akki roti. The wedding special dessert of chiroti is served sandwiched with basundi, and with mango milk and ice cream. Nothing describes Karnataka more than this dish.Kavan plans a trip to North Karnataka to experience the food of the region and place the spotlight on it in future. “The food is influenced a great deal by the coastal region in North Karnataka and I want to experience it to be inspired by it,” says Kavan.
Rs. 1,500 for two. At Commissariat Road

Balakrishnan Subramaniam, The Old Fashioned Bar
The theme at The Old Fashioned Bar, is quite literally that of going down the route of the old, the tried and the tested. And that is why Balakrishnan, the managing partner, brought in a number of old school Karnataka-inspired dishes to his menu.
“Inspired by the chaat that was served around the Vidhan Souda to ministers post their sessions, the Ooru Chaat is made with cucumber, pineapple and the spicy peanut mixture called Congress Masala. This is easy to whip up and bring out to guests who love something quick and spicy with their drinks,” says Bala-krishnan, who has been in the food and beverage industry since 2006, after completing his levels of specialisation in wines and spirits from WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust), in the UK. 
The prized Bannur lamb takes centrestage in the Bannur Lamb Chops, a popular dish on the menu. While the masala is that found typically in the military hotels that dot the city, it is done in the tandoor rather than slow cooked. Discovered on a road trip, near Katpadi junction, the Street Style Chilli Chicken is another favourite with diners. The classic snack nippat too finds a new twist in the Chicken Nippat Masala here, where it is crumbled and sprinkled over diced fried chicken.
“With more than 40 per cent of our guests being from outside Bengaluru, we believe this is a great way to give them a taste of Karnataka,” says Balakrishnan in conclusion.
Rs. 1,000++ for two. At Koramangala


Divya Prabhakar & Vishal Shetty, Bengaluru Oota Company 
Three years ago, good friends and neighbours Divya and Vishal felt that they wanted to do something in the culinary field. That is when they set up Bengaluru Oota Company. Vishal is a great cook and comes from a family of restaurateurs and Divya, who has a background in sales and marketing in the hospitality business, simply wanted to promote the food of the Gowda community to which she belongs, to a wider audience. Bengaluru Oota Company today offers curated menus showcasing Mangalorean and Gowda food, based on diner preferences, with meals discussed and booked in advance.
“In Bengaluru, there are hardly any restaurants that represent the cuisines of Karnataka. Mangalorean food is popular, but Gowda food is hardly known, barring a few military hotels which are not really authentic or hygienic,” says Divya. Among their popular dishes are the Kane Fry and Bannur Mamsa Pulao. There are guests who also come in asking for ragi mudde, Gowda-style prawn, chicken and mutton curries, and akki roti. There is always an effort to bring in seasonal food at Bengaluru Oota Company, like their recent offerings made of jackfruit. And the hunt is always on for old recipes that can be tried and included in the menu. “We are currently looking for a Christmas cake recipe that was made in my great grandmother’s house,” says Divya, signing off.
Rs. 1,000 upwards. At  Jogupalya


Sabyasachi Gorai, Byg Brewski and Bob’s Bar
For Sabyasachi Gorai, popularly known as Chef Saby, regional food is some-thing he has immersed himself in, in every city that he has called home. For his Karnataka-inspired dishes at Byg Brewski and Bob’s Bar, he brings in a range of options that take you to the popular food streets of the city.  “At both the Byg Brewskis we have a select menu called the Karnataka Section which features five to six dishes. These include Ragi Mudde with Nati Koli curry, ghee roast and the Mutton and Chicken Sukka among others. At Bob’s Bar, the main courses are reminiscent of Ramzan dishes at Mosque Road, from military hotels and thali places across the city,” says the celebrated chef who has won the National Tourism Award for The Best Chef of India.
In a version of the street corner charcoal grill, at Bob’s, Saby also offers grilled potato, tapioca, arbi and banana, besides meat and fish. “The masalas I use are typically found on the streets of Bengaluru –red, green or yellow, baffath or bottle masala,” he shares. Spice levels are based on the specific dish and are not unnecessarily high. It is only for the desserts that he has added a personal touch like the Mysore Meringue Hill — Mysore Pak with a little meringue on top, inspired by the Nandi hills. 

Byg Brewski, Sarjapur Road and Hennur  Rs. 1,600  for two.
Bob’s Bar, Indira Nagar  Rs.1,000 for two