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Chettinad FLAVOURS from techies



The only mission at Nala is enjoyment of traditional Chettinad food.

A CITY that has nurtured cuisine as wide as Chinese, Cuban, and Caribbean, surprisingly has not shown the same hospitality to gourmet delights from closer home. Chettinad cuisine is yet to sweep foreign invasions off Bangalore's tables, but one new restaurant, inspired by the gourmet king Nala, may yet conquer the city with tastes from this Tamil Nadu region.

Simply called Nala, this tech city's four-month-old diner is run by three techies — Gokul, Thyagarajan, and Saravanan — all classmates at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Management, Trichy.

The techies' families must have found it hard to digest the idea of their sons running an eatery after years of grind at college. But still, grudgingly, they're helping the young men make a fine job of their venture by sourcing rice and dal from Tamil Nadu.

"It was after much brainstorming that we took the plunge," says Gokul.

The kutthu curry, minced mutton paratha, and minced chicken paratha have replaced management jargon on their lips and soon they began to relish this new challenge. Today, they have a steady stream of customers, most of them regulars giving a stamp of acceptance to the fare. And like the typical techies, the three dashed off e-mails informing about their new restaurant to their techie-friends in Bangalore, who form a major part of their customer base.

At Nala, the ambience, with traditional paintings, provides an unpretentious atmosphere, where the only mission is enjoyment of traditional Chettinad food, prepared by four cooks brought in from Tamil Nadu.

Nala is actually a more refined version of the legendary but now-defunct Velu Military Hotel and is also perhaps the only Chettinad restaurant in the city. This gives Nala a readymade clientele, which used to flock to Velu's previously. Traditional Madurai vegetarian delights such as mini idlis, podi idlis, and podi dosas, where idlis or dosas are smeared with spicy chutney podi, vadakari, oothappam, apart from the unusual ones such as mutton dosa, and chicken dosa.

The non-vegetarian fare sizzles with the original Chettinad flavour. The chicken chettinad (Rs. 45), boneless chicken 65 (adorned with onions, carrot, and cucumber), and naatu koli are some of the delectable chicken treats. Kheema balls, mutton dry (better known as chukka), and kothu curry (minced meat, shredded in thick gravy to go with parathas, idli, and dosa) make for a memorable treat.

Kothu paratha or minced paratha comes in three variants — chicken, egg, and mutton. The paratha is first half-baked, the gravy of egg, chicken, or kheema added before it is baked and shredded. Sora puttu at Rs. 60 is a traditional fish preparation. The seafood platter also offers crab fry and curry.

Another simple meal plan is plain rice with one curry such as fish, mutton, or chicken. The spices and mode of preparation of Nala's biriyanis give it a distinct flavour. Chicken (Rs. 45) and mutton (Rs. 55) go well with gravy and raita.

Nala also offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. The vegetarian meal comes with traditional sambar, rasam, puli kolumbu, vathra kolumbu, two vegetable curries, and drumstick leaf fry, to be washed down with javarsi payasam or dal payasam.

Gokul says he's planning to introduce the jigardanda — a drink made of kadal paasi, very popular in Tamil Nadu.

Idiyappam with coconut milk tastes homemade while the non-vegetarians can opt for the idiyappam and mutton paya (trotters). Rice puttu, appam, idiyappam, and kuzhi paniyaram add variety to the menu.

A good meal for two costs Rs. 150. The restaurant is open between noon and 3.30 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Nala, at 1650, 10th main, 4th cross, HAL Third Stage, can be contacted on 56995586.

M.V. CHANDRASHEKAR

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