Monday, February 14, 2011

Tamil Pride, y'all!/Hotel Sangeetha (NOT the chain).

OK. First thing that comes to your mind when I say... Tamilian food.

Home-y, comforting, satisfying? If you're a hostelite.

Bland, boring, blah? Especially if you've had idli for breakfast, rasam sadam for lunch and kal dosai for dinner. Three days in a row.

Naturally, when we go out, I vehemently protest against any Tamilian restaurant. Except those times when on duty, I'd be so hungry, and W would pick up just what I crave by looking at my Hungryface:  A bowl of piping hot Sambar saadham with chips and pickle from Hot Chips (sometimes he charms them into giving extra kootu/poriyal with his Tamil).

Something that'd fill my stomach, and the hole in my being (Which wanted to vegetate in front of the TV or gossip over the phone with school-friends instead of doing rounds at 10:30 PM). So except for those testing times, I'd turn down tamil food, because I find the ones turned out by restaurants somewhat insipid, soul-less and lacking.

Of course, there are places like Raintree at Taj Connemera which makes delicious kuzhi paniyarams and pazharasam. Hot Chips, that offered sustenance during my internship days, in the form of mini-meals and the 12-rupee filter coffee. The piping hot sakkara pongal/Jil-Jil-Jigarthanda at Murugan Idli Kadai, that somehow makes the road to Obesity a happy, satisfying one.

And there are places that try to make Tamil food posh. You know, deja vu-inducing yellow rooms, dirty ketchup squirter-bottles on the table, A/C hall upstairs kind of places. Where they expect you to pay Rs. 150 for an oily dosai. *Cough*Saravana Bhavan*Cough*. Just because they have branches at Kuwait or New Jersey or wherever.

Indha paruppu en kita vegaadhu (doesn't go down well with me, approximately).

Nitpicking aside, the moral of my long-winded story is that I avoid Tamilian restaurants. It almost never stands up to its home-cooked counterparts. Like this kick-ass Thayir Semiya C's mom makes; one of the dishes that I eat by the bowlful, one of the reasons I visit their house often (amongst a host of others) and one of the recipes I've never tried because I know it'll never taste half as good and that'll kill the magic.

But because something is better than nothing (Mathematics, don't you know?), I tag along when the family dines out on Sunday nights. The real moral of the story: Completely unexpectedly, I discovered a simple restaurant that I LOVE, and it has undoubtedly been one of the best places I've been to, in the last couple of years.

I've gone there five times after the discovery last year. The number may double in the next few months. Hotel Sangeeta (NOT OF THE Apoorva Sangeetha chain or any other chain) is a stand-alone restaurant that is bang opposite the Egmore Railway station. They're basically a business hotel with lodging or whatever, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is some wannabe 2-star basement restaurant. The place is spotless, the cutlery simple and the menu refreshing and basic.

The Specials keep changing each day!

Straight onto what we ate:

I had the Rava Onion Dosai, priced at Rs. 40. I asked the staff if it could be made with no oil. They told me, in honest Tamil, that at least a little is used on the griddle for greasing, but they'd try. And they delivered on the promise. A non-oily, crispy, delicious rava dosa, stuffed with onions and studded with whole peppercorns.

That's the chozha poori. I'm not fond of chozha poori. Or poori channa.

I liked the chana gravy though, and I'm sure poori lovers would have a hay day. Between 35 and 45 bucks per plate.

Masala Dosai. It's that simple. Yummy turmeric-infused mashed potatoes in a delicious dosa. SOLD.

Some healthy venthaya dosai (fenugreek dosa), with vada curry. If you haven't ever tried vada curry in your life, you're missing out on something big. It tastes like masala vada, unfried, cooked in a robust gravy. Our version of the malai kofta maybe? Only a hundred times better, obviously. The vada curry here is pretty good, but definitely doesn't hold a candle to the one my maid makes. Nevertheless, it was completely devoured.

Ooh, the onion oothapam that we always order! The mark of a good tamilian restaurant, I tell you. Do you even need me to tell you how it was here? The sambar, podi and chutneys are a revelation: they're all-natural, have no flavour additives and still taste amazing.

And couldn't resist the temptation of sharing a Madras filter coffee, even though it was ten in the night, and I was probably wrecking my circadian rhythm.
Sorry to be all bundle-of-contradictions on you, but filter coffee is the true mark of a tamilian
restaurant. Along with idlis. And the chutney/sambhar. Mmmm. Filter coffee. Mmm. Stealing an extra portion for myself.

One of the most honest, cheapest meals I've had in such a long time. You know when you should truly, really go, though? Sunday mornings. Between 7 and 10. They do a fantastic Tamilian brunch. A buffet of idli, vada, idiyappam, sambar vada, pongal, uppuma, dosai, payasam, pineapple/chikkoo kesari, filter coffee. Unlimited. Rs. 75 for an adult, and Rs. 40 for children under the age of 5. I'm NOT lying.

I even wish it were a little more expensive that, so the crowd would be lesser. But something tells me any person with half a brain would pay a whole lot more for this. I would, and I like to think I have both cerebral hemispheres intact.


  1. I hate you for this post. Hate hate HATE you!! x-( You did it on purpose, didn't you?

    Will pass on the compliment though!

  2. Seriously, this reaction for Idli-Dosai? LOL.

    And since your parents are flying out to visit you very soon, I don't even know why you're complaining!

  3. Because food just doesn't taste the same here. :(