Some weeks ago, the usual set of suspects (read determined foodies and bloggers) gathered at The Gateway Hotel to experience the West Coast Seafood Grill and Wood Fired Dishes at Karavalli, one of Bangalore’s long standing eating establishments. Executive Chef Naren Thimmaiah has been part of the restaurant for all of its 23+ years, and it was our pleasure to have him walk us through the wonderful dishes we partook of that night. Karavalli has recently revamped its menu, now with a limited number of items for lunch, and a bigger focus on the dinner time menu, which features outdoor grills (you can choose and cook your choice of seafood, in a variety of Coastal sauces and spices or leave such matters in the experienced hands of the Chefs), favorites from Kerala, Mangalore, Goa, Maharashtra (or to simplify, the Konkan coastline) and more, all in a very serene and mood uplifting ambience.
We sat outdoors that evening, all the better to watch our food in different stages of preparation (some of it straight from the case where the fresh seafood was resting on a bed of ice), as well as giving the young ones in the party a chance to run around some. The meal will remain with me as one of the most fish-tastic ones I have ever enjoyed! Red Snapper, Black Pomfret, Indian Salmon, Scampi, Sear, Prawns – every item cooked and showcased beautifully, with the most complementary seasoning and style of preparation, to maintain the natural aroma, juices and taste of the fish.
We ate a large number of starters, beginning with Scampi Kaidina, scampi in a flame colored Goan masala that made me forget all my genteel manners and dig right in with my fingers. I will also admit to reaching for a second one, when the platter came around with a freshly grilled supply. Next up was Meen Eleittad, banana leaf wrapped fish that was incredibly soft and flaky and coated in the juices and spices of the marinade. Chemeen Roast, delicious, crunchy prawns in a rich coating of masala and then Red Snapper Tawa Fry (possibly my favorite fish preparation of the evening) had me already half full.
There were also vegetarian options: Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi (mini balls of idli with flavorful spices and ghee) and fried goodies in the form of Pachakkai Varathathu (fried raw banana in Kerala masala) and Kaju Kotambir Vadi (cashew bhajis, for lack of a better description). We ate our fill, and were slightly horrified when banana leaves for plates and multiple bowls of individual servings of the main courses made an appearance. Not that we stopped ourselves from gorging, mind you! We were served Meen Vevichathu (seer fish cooked in a spicy chilli gravy), Karavalli Mutton Curry (to die for, South Canara style), Kadala Gassi (brown chickpeas cooked with coconut spice roast, also from South Canara) and Maavinakai Mensukkai (preserved mango curry from the Havyaka community). We ate these with Idiappam, Malabar Paratha, and Appam which had been made with coconut water fermented for a couple days, thus giving it the distinct flavor of toddy. The Appams were worthy of the highest praise – perfect texture and those crisp, lacy edges.
We ended the meal with a dessert platter of Ada Pradhaman (Kerala payasam made with jaggery), Bebinca (the ubiquitous Goan dessert) and a Tamarind ice cream that was, in my eyes, the perfect ending to the meal. It was tart and tangy and yet managed to be dessert-like. There’s a reason that Karavalli is going strong over two decades after its inception, and if you’ve never been, then well, you really must! I have partaken of seafood spreads, here and abroad, homemade and at seaside eateries, but nothing to beat the range at Karavalli! If you like fish (I don’t love it myself, I enjoy it, but it’s not my go-to choice) you’ll be happy; if you love fish, you’ll be ecstatic!