By- Rijul D Nadkarni ( RLBU)
Ghee topped dosas, richly flavoured sambhar, piquant yet savory chutneys, soft and ‘cute’ Idlis, crispy vadas, that simple upama and a sweet ‘sheera’ or kesari as it’s known in the south are bread and butter of the region. As you get a first crack at that ghee dosa, caress it with some sambhar or chutney and let it meet with your already impatient taste buds, it is a moment of long lost lovers, just enough to send goose bumps trickling down your spine; and that filter ‘Caapey’, oh don’t even let me take you there !
Well frankly speaking , being a true Mumbaikar by heart and soul, my love for South Indian cuisine doesn’t fail to amaze me too! Probably childhood in Muscat might have had a role to play as traditionally the south Indians make a major chunk of the Indian contingent in the Gulf .
Residing in Delhi- NCR for the past year or so, it was a real task locating a good south Indian outlet until the day when someone said “I need to take you to Carnatic Café”. Located in the heart of the lively NFC (New friends Colony) market, an affluent and posh neighbourhood in South Delhi, rests this serene outlet .
For all the ‘Benglureans’ or those like me who’ve been on brief visits to Bangalore can surely relate with the ‘Bangalore’ style Dosa and trust me the one’s served in CC (if I may call it) are right up there with the likes of CTR and MTR in Bengaluru. If you do step in, you’ll quickly realize that these aren’t the usual sour and thin dosas you would get at every other South Indian restaurant in Delhi which mostly resemble paper plates folded along its diameter.
In case you are utterly confused with what to order, the go-to dosa is always the Malleshwaram 18th Cross. A street in Bangalore, but a dosa here, this baby is as crispy as a dosa gets with ghee melting in your mouth and a reddish powdered chutney (known as ‘podi’ in some parts of the south ) spread from within adding diversity to the taste . This coupled with the variety of chutneys and sambhar is an absolute treat . If a dosa generally fascinates you , then you’re at the ‘Tomorrowland of dosas ‘ . The Bombat , the Rava Masala , Mysore Masala and Set dosas are also good buys .
The buttermilk also known as ‘Majjige’ in the menu is refreshing. Probably as a business strategyI would recommend this being served in Pitchers due to its extraordinarily high consumption. A tip on the flow or order of inflow of beverages could be Rasam with Pappad at first, buttermilk to go along with your main dishes and filter coffee to round up your meal. The vadas are crispy, idlis are soft and the upama is good too. Another noteworthy item is the ‘Paddu’ or ‘Podu’. This Spherically shaped item made out of rice – flour offers something different to a vada and is unique to Karnataka. Before you realise what it is exactly, you would’ve gulped down a plateful. I’m not an insider of CC but you can be rest assured of a thrilling experience from any random pick in the menu.
A nice interior with dim lights and mild Carnatic music sums up to a pleasant ambience. The service is fast and hospitable.
Probably the only drawback is the space. Not the most spacious restaurants around with a seating capacity of 25-30, extended waiting in the weekends to get your seats at basically any time of the day could get erratic. The cuisine being so versatile with respect to time is probably to blame here. Nonetheless the experience that follows is worth the wait .
The cost is more than compensated by the quality at offer and for south indian cuisine in Delhi – NCR one needn’t look further than Carnatic café .