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That temple-town flavour

Café @ So Sweet serves up the classic Tamil taste



Great food at the CMH Road outlet. — Photo: K. Murali Kumar

THE FLAVOUR of Tamil Nadu that seems so elusive for one living in Bangalore has been captured right here on CMH Road in Indiranagar. Café @ So Sweet brings you the taste that you relished at the celebrated Saravana Bhavans, New Arya Bhavans or Nathans in those sunny towns down south. It is not just the mainstay pongal, or the dosa and idli varieties that exude the typical taste, it is also the way in which they are made that transports you to those charming temple towns.

Vasudevan and Prema Jai Kumar's venture in Indiranagar comes after they tasted success with a similar restaurant at HSR Layout. And the popularity is through word-of-mouth, beams Vasudevan.

Initially, Prema prepared only sweets at her store that she aptly called "So Sweet". A little later, she turned out the famous Tirunelveli halwa and khara items. The idea of specialising in that famous Tamil Nadu sweet was then extended to opening a restaurant specialising in the favourites of the Tamil-speaking people. It turned out to be a good idea and with a cybercafé next door, So Sweet turned Café @ So Sweet, the new name supplied by IT pros and engineers who are regulars here.

Since April 2003, this self-service restaurant has been seeing a steady flow of customers. It has 40 varieties on the menu that includes idli, pongal, vada, kuli paniyaram, podi idli, butter roast dosa, vada curry dosa, and paratha kurma. Between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., the dosas hit the tava in rapid progression, says Vasudevan. They come in different avatars such as the cap dosa, which resembles a joker's cap, ghee dosa, rava dosa, rava masala dosa, paper roast, gobi masala roast, and the most popular one, vada curry dosa. Made of bengal gram, this dosa, priced at Rs. 15, is served with chutney and sambar.

The coconut, mint, coriander, green chilli, and tomato chutneys, and the aromatic sambar complement the main dishes delightfully. Coriander and mint leaves, and garam masala sprinkled on a dosa make for an unusual dish. As does the pepper masala dosa that has an excellent filling. Gobi masala roast, and vegetable kheema dosa, made of veggies cooked in masala, are innovations worth cheking out. The paper roast comes in "family size" at Rs. 25. The chilli cheese dosa is a hit with capsicum and grated cheese as topping.

The pongal here began as a breakfast dish, but is now forced to make an appearance in the evening too, owing to popular demand. Made of rice, dal, whole cashew, pepper, and pure ghee from Oothakudi, it goes down smoothly with sambar and chutney, the classic accompaniments instead of the upstart onion raitha that served in many of the city's eateries. A vada and pongal is a good way to start your day.

Bowing to fusion food, Café @ So Sweet has the pizza uthappam (Rs. 18 apiece), a hit with customers. The base is like the dosa and the toppings like the pizza's — capsicum, tomato onions, cheese and sliced tomato.

The humble idli comes in tasty combinations such as the mini idli or the button idli where about 10 soft and fluffy idlis are dunked in sambar and topped with ghee. At Rs. 10, they are worth every rupee.

The chutney podi, made of urad dal, tastes just the way your paati made it, The red chillis used for the cooking come from Virudhanagar since the chefs find chillies here are a tad too sweet.

A wide variety of dosas, including the ragi dosa, make for the specials on Saturdays and Sundays.

The cooks have been brought in from Madurai and one can see they have not left their expertise behind. The dosas, for instance, are tossed up under the watchful eyes of a dosa master.

IT professionals, and families — mostly from Indiranagar, Frazer Town, Ulsoor, and Koramangala — besides a homesick, floating population from Tamil Nadu are frequent eaters here. Takeaways are high on Sundays and in the evenings.

Coconut rice, curd rice garnished with mustard, curry leaves, urad dal and served with lime pickle, lemon rice, tomato vegetable biriyani, and puliyogare, and the Tirunelveli halwa complete the menu. The halwa is made of milk extracted from good wheat. Sugar and ghee are added in right proportions. The halwa is served hot, says Vasudevan, as that is how it is eaten in Tamil Nadu.

The eatery has introduced "the friends and family party card" — valid for a day — at Rs. 49. You can choose pongal or rice, one item, special dosa, either masala, onion, special masala, idli or idayyappam, chaat, and juice. The response to the card has been very good, says Vasudevan. Another new addition is the Chennai-style meal.

Café @ So Sweet has a branch at HSR Layout, which is also self-service, but chairs have been provided. Here also the fare is the same, include the lunch.

The Indiranagar outlet can be contacted on 51154639/51154640 and the HSR Layout outlet on 51109432.

M.V. CHANDRASHEKAR

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