An unusual fare
If you thought South Indian tiffin meant the idli-dosa-vada combo, try the New Krishna Bhavan in Malleswaram which has long-forgotten delicacies like guliappa and mushti kadabu on its menu.
The dishes are consistently excellent. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
NKB IS, of course, "world famous" in Bangalore. But perhaps more significantly, it is "world famous" in Malleswaram quite a distinction since that part of Bangalore has the best South Indian eateries (from the Iyer Mess to the dry bhel/tomato bhel on carts) in the City.
"Every morning at 7.30," says Sunil Prabhu, the young and modest owner of NKB, "we have breakfast delivered at home from the hotel. It's been like that for the last 10 years. Almost a tradition, you can say."
That's how good the food at NKB is: nothing else will do for the owners not even home-cooked food. And it doesn't stop at breakfast. For over a decade the Prabhu family have `taken' their evening tiffin from NKB. I envy them. It has to be the best tiffin there is in Bangalore. And yes, I have eaten at MTR and Kadambam, and I still put NKB on the top.
It's the "NKB Unusuals", you see. You can't get them anywhere else or if you do, they just aren't as tasty or special. What are the "NKB Unusuals" specific to different regions in Karnataka? Udupi guliappa, my favourite, to begin with. The tangy ginger sauce that accompanies it makes this a unique treat. Gokak jawar dosa is a variation of onion uthappam, with a more interesting texture. Mangalore kotte kadabu comes rolled in a leaf with three fabulous chutneys and coconut milk.
That's a weekend indulgence. On weekdays you get the local version equally good mushti kadubu. They used to make a mean Kundapura gojju vada, but have had to stop it because they weren't many takers for it. It was pure dynamite. Lately they've come up with a rice chapathi and kurma that seems to be the answer to all of us Southies who like the texture and taste of a chapathi that can't take too much of wheat.
Green masala idli is an NKB original a cross between Chinese and South Indian that somehow seems to hit the spot. The Udupi buns and pova (they call it timepass) are hits too, with droves of people coming every day to parcel it and take it home for tea. Most other places serve rasam vada as a specialty and it's usually disappointing, but at NKB not only is it on the menu everyday, it is also superb and consistently at that.
Consistency is a rare thing these days, and at NKB every South Indian dish and not just the "Unusuals" is just that. The Mandya ragi dosa, button idli, and rava pongal to name just a few. (I can't speak for Gopika, their North Indian restaurant (tucked away inside) though, since I've never dined there.) Another incredible thing about the Unusuals is how reasonably priced they are order up to five dishes and the bill still won't be more than Rs. 70, coffee included. The best time to catch the Unusuals is after 4.30 p.m..
NKB was around for quite some years under another owner before Sunil's grandfather, Ramakrishna Prabhu, took over in 1969. He did it the hard way. His first job was as a cleaner at a hotel.
In time, he started a small hotel on Mysore Road. In '69 he bought what is New Krishna Bhavan today from the people who owned Malabar Lodge in Majestic (the first hotel in Bangalore, by the way, to begin self-service). Mr. Prabhu bought the provisions himself from a market that opened at 3 a.m.. He made NKB what it is today.
The credit for the "NKB Unusuals", however, goes to his son, Sundara R. Prabhu, who passed away last year. The "NKB Unusuals" had been his idea. He felt there was so much more to South Indian tiffin than the staple stuff masala dosas, idlis, curd rice, rice bath, and the like dished out by our hotels. So, on a whim, he took off to explore eateries all over Karnataka. When he ate something that surprised and delighted him, he would coax the recipe from the cook(s)
His younger brother, Gopinath, (who now runs NKB with Sunil) continues the tradition by introducing at least one new dish every few months. All this won't be possible, of course, without their three loyal and gifted cooks.
Sunil was involved in event management and producing plays when he felt that, like his grandfather and father before him, his calling was NKB. He sees the restaurant as his vocation now, and finds fulfilment in seeing how happy people are made by NKB.
If only there were more NKBs, Kadambams, and MTRs, more of us would know what authentic South Indian tiffin really tasted like, and how much more there is to it than dosa, idli, and vangi baath. You can contact NKB on 3442251.
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