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Taste with tradition

The pride of Modern Restaurant's service, however, remains the catering opportunity for Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, says T. SARAVANAN



Dishing out the delicious

FOR ANY lover of traditional South Indian cuisine, the name that comes immediate to the mind is `Modern Restaurant.' Ironically, there is nothing "modern" worth mentioning about the restaurant, which is more than half-a-century old. Perhaps it was modern when it came into being and over the years expanded its customer base for its delicious varieties of vegetarian food.

On the arterial Nethaji Road, this imposing old structure cannot be missed. Two simple reasons have primarily contributed to its soaring success -- the proximity to the temple and the tasty food, particularly the common idlis and dosas have been its mainstay.

"The restaurant was gifted to my father, V.M. Sadasivam Iyer, by his employer, Ramaiar of Palakkad, for his sincerity and hard work. The restaurant then was called `Madras Restaurant'. After my father took over in 1956, he worked to elevate the standards and make it look modern. Subsequently, he named it 'Modern Restaurant'," the proprietor of the restaurant, S. Mohanasundaram, reveals the humble beginning of the restaurant.

Daily from 6.30 a.m. to noon and again from 4 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., the dining hall and the kitchen of Modern Restaurant are scenes of brisk activity.

Famous for tiffin

"Earlier, we served only tiffin items as we were famous for that. But our customers started asking for meals and we started the meals section during lunch hours from 11.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.," says Mr. Mohanasundaram.

It is his firm belief that more than the decor of a restaurant, it is the taste which matters to the customer. "We have cooks working for generations. When fresh hands are appointed, we train them to our requirement. My father was very particular about quality and we have never dared to compromise on taste and quality of food," he says.

The group is also well known for its outdoor catering which even extends to Chennai, Salem, Coimbatore and neighbouring States of Kerala and Karnataka.

The pride of Modern's service, however, remains the catering opportunity for Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. "Whenever they visited Madurai or passed through the city, we were their official caterers as they loved our food," he recalls, eyes gleaming.

While their idli-dosa fare builds a loyal customer base, their hit items are also the `Bissi Bela Bhath' with potato fry, which evokes a large number of enquiries and orders.

Family business

The entire business is family run. "I and my brother, S. Ramakrishnan, take care of the restaurant, while all family members hold key positions. We also employ a good number of part-time workers, though it is hard to find a dedicated band these days," Mr. Mohanasundaram notes.

Modern Restaurant has even expanded its chain, establishing the M.R. International. The family is confident of the business blooming as it is sure of the fact that the `sweet' memories of their yummy `rava kesari' and the sweltering taste of piping hot idlis too will be carried forward for generations.

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