Tasty South Indian is now neer by
At a time when everyone’s opening patisseries, cafes and Japanese restaurants, a new South Indian restaurant is something of an anomaly, especially in a neighbourhood like Colaba where there’s no dearth of Udipi restaurants. There are two Kamats, a Shubh Sagar in Colaba Market and Madras Café just off the causeway.
But Tanjore by Angie is not just another generic South Indian restaurant. The tiny, 24-seater, which opened about 10 days ago, specialises in the food of the Tamilian Brahmin Iyer community. So while they have the popular tiffin snacks like dosai, idly, vadai and uttapam, they also do a number of main course rice dishes, beverages and desserts you’re not likely to find at your neighbourhood Udipi. (What you’re also not going to find is Chinese, Punjabi, Mexican, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, tandoori and aerated drinks.)
Impressed by the focussed menu we decided to start with the two very different types of dishes: one which is not easily available, the molgapudi idly (Rs 120) and the other which is ubiquitous, a Mysore masala dosai (Rs 170).
Served with a thick coating of crunchy molgapudi mixed with til oil, the idlys were very soft, but not fluffy and a bit too dense. Nonetheless, they were a welcome change from the firm idlis we’ve gotten used to. Also unlike the sweet, Gujjufied sambar we’re normally served, this was a nice spicy one – with the peppery kick reminiscent of a good rasam. The tiffin snacks are served with three chutneys: a slightly sweet tomato-coconut chutney, a moderately spicy coconut chutney and a spicy mint chutney.
The dosai for the Mysore masala was thicker than usual and the insides were lined with molgapudi. Like Mysore masalas prepared on the street, this was topped with shredded beetroot and carrot on which was placed a rather fiery potato filling. The partner in dine, who normally enjoys a good few chillies with her vada pav, found the spice levels a little too hot to handle.
Ordinarily, neer more (Rs 90), buttermilk, is a good panacea for pungent food; in this case it only exacerbated the situation. Here, the buttermilk was flavoured by copious amounts of green chilli making it delightfully tangy and pungent, but hopelessly ineffective against the food. I had better luck with my paanagam (Rs 90). Made with chilled water with a mixture of jaggery, ginger and cardamom, it had the earthy sweetness of jaggery with a pleasing undercurrent of ginger.
The proprietor, Gitanjali Ramji, whose nickname is the Angie of the restaurant name, joined us for a bit and explained that the food she was serving was the food she grew up eating. She’s quite determined to stick to her traditional recipes and not compromise on the flavours or presentation to pander to popular misconceptions of South Indian food. She says she hasn’t had any complaints so far. We aren’t complaining either.
The highlight of the meal was the kal dosai (Rs 160), the one dosai it’s close to impossible to find in Mumbai. Unlike other dosai which are made on a metal griddle, the kal dosai is made on stone and without any oil. Also, because this home-style dosai is thicker than normal dosai, it’s often confused for an uttapam. Tanjore’s kal dosai is a delight; it’soft, light and with a tangy sourness. I would return just for this dosai.
The only disappointment came at the end of the meal with the puliyogare (Rs 180). The rice tasted perfectly fine but it was served with just two sago papads which I thought was rather inadequate. Ms Ramji explained this is how puliyagore is served traditionally. However, as someone not familiar with Iyer food and not bound by its rules or traditions, I thought the dish wasn’t visually appealing and required more accompaniments. Ms Ramji has a decision to make with this one – stick to family tradition or adapt to the commercial environment.
Tanjore is substantially more expensive than other South Indian restaurants in the neighbourhood. It’s unlikely to become my go-to restaurant whenever I’m craving a masala dosa or medu vada; it will definitely be the place I go to when I want something better and it will be the place I take guests to when I want them to experience a proper Tam Brahm meal.
The opening of Tanjore also marks three trends that are influencing dining out in Mumbai: the first, which I wrote about two years ago, is the revival of Colaba and Fort as dining destinations. The second, one that has been much talked about, is the growth of regional and community-centric Indian restaurants. The last is the emergence of home-trained cooks and chefs pushing their native cuisine out of the domestic kitchens
If other regional restaurants manage to achieve the standards at Tanjore by Angie, then Mumbai is definitely in for a treat.
Tanjore by Angie
Shop No 3, Ground Floor
Bela Court 1
Tel: 7045 348737/ 358737
|Invited by PR company||No|
|Guest of the chef/ restaurant||No|
|Restaurant knew I’m a food writer||No|
|Meal comped by the restaurant||No|