Dosas For One And All

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]arnatic Café is a cosy little 40 seater in New Friends Colony. Started four years ago by Pavan Jambagi, the café is already seeing growth and is soon opening another outlet in GK 2, New Delhi. The menu is simple; some snacks, dosas, rice and a few sundries. In a way, the cafe itself is as comforting as the food it serves. Most, if not all the economically priced south Indian eateries I’ve seen are the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am type! They want your business alright, but would like your ass out of the chair its perched on, no later than 45 seconds after you’ve finished eating, so that another customer can occupy it. The ambiance is usually utilitarian, the sambar from Patiala and the staff usually brusque and language challenged. Not so at Carnatic Café. The ambiance is warm and comfortable, the décor quaint and the staff, friendly and cooperative.

The idlis were soft, spongy and very porous!
The idlis were soft, spongy and very porous!

Which brings me to the food. Our meal began with a platter of Idlis with Papad (INR 80) and a glass of Rasam (INR  65). The idlis, which arrived hot and steaming, were soft and so very porous that they absorbed the accompanying very light and delicious sambar in a jiffy! Conversely the chutneys were probably the thickest versions I’ve seen with the very tasty coconut chutney not nearly chewable, but definitely thick enough to spread over the hot surface of the spongy idlis. I can’t say the same about the Rasam that came with a single, fried pappadum. While I didn’t really like the flavours it presented, the rasam was quite different from any others I’ve tasted, the most notable difference being the distinct presence of hing in there.

Carnatic Cafe has the most amazing selection of dosas in the city
Carnatic Cafe has the most amazing selection of dosas in the city

The idlis were followed by a most interesting dosa – the Podi Dosa (INR 125), which I remember first eating at a friend’s place in Chennai and loving it! Accompanied by the same trio of chutneys and sambar, the podi is a thick specimen of its genre, thick, crisp and smeared with flavourful podi (gunpowder) all over the inside. The combination is a killer one – crunchy dosa, crunchy podi, spicy and the most satisfying snack you can imagine! Our final orders were a cup each of Filter Coffee (INR 65) and a Bombat (INR 155). Funny name for a dosa I thought, as I tore off a piece and found myself chomping on a delightful morsel of thick, crisp dosa, smeared with garlic chutney, stuffed with a blob of roughly mashed potatoes flavoured with curry leaves and ginger and the whole soaked in white butter – now tell me that didn’t make you drool!

Visit the Carnatic Café for excellent coffee made the traditional way, for flavours you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, for prices that are tough to  beat, for the quaintness of its atmosphere, for the shopping that’s alongside in NFC, but most of all because you love the brilliant selection of dosas they serve that you’ll never find anywhere else.

[box]

Sid Khullar (SK): How did Carnatic Cafe come into existence?
Pavan Jambagi (PJ): Carnatic Cafe started without a plan. Explaining and analysing the birth of Carnatic Cafe is slightly difficult but I owe the existence of what the place is today, to my several life experiences since childhood. A dream was born which developed over a period of time and Carnatic Cafe became a reality.

SK: How did you decide on the menu?
PJ: What we offer as our menu in Carnatic Cafe is the feel of a simply cooked Kannada meal which is both classic and comforting in the same go, something that I found even many a restaurants in Bangalore did not serve. The menu is essentially what I have grown up eating at home.

SK: Are all the dosas on the menu your own creations or some of them traditional recipes?
PJ: The dosas in the Carnatic Cafe menu are a box full of beautiful memories, of the lunch box of school days, that I shared with my childhood friends. You may find some of the names on the menu novel, as they represent my personal memories of places and people.

SK: What has been your biggest learning from your experience with opening and running Carnatic Cafe?
PJ: Commitment towards the work being done, bringing honesty and maintaining the same standards in cooking and serving is what I believe in. Being passionate about what I do is not a momentary thing but what I practice every moment of my existence day in and day out.

SK: What are your future plans for Carnatic Cafe?
PJ: I am a non-planner and the only plan is not to have too many plans. Que Sera Sera. However, the one thing I stick to is to enjoy cooking and serving everyday. We are soon opening our second restaurant in GK2 M Block market so the team is busy and looking forward to the exciting times ahead!

Pavan Jambagi, the owner of Carnatic Cafe in conversation with Sid Khullar. [/box]

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.