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Somethin' fishy

Coastaal Express is a seafood lover's delight



Blue water delights Traditional Bunt preparations attract not only the Mangaloreans in the city but also all who love coaastal cuisine Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Try this trick next time. Say the magic word Anupam restaurant to your Mangalorean friend and he'll respond gleefully, with the keyword being chicken ghee roast. This restaurant has quietly expanded to Bangalore above Sivananda Stores, Seshadripuram, and calls itself Annupam Coastaal Express. The extra vowels and consonants are (predictably) the result of a numerologist's suggestion, says owner Ravi Shetty. We shall, in this review, do away with unnecessary letters and simply refer to the place as Coastal Express.

The origins of the restaurant lie in Kundapura where Ravi Shetty's late father Thejappa Shetty, a small-time trader, started Shetty's Lunch Home in 1957. It grew so popular that in 1972 he started a branch in Mangalore called Anupam. Ravi Shetty explains that since his sister now runs the Kundapura restaurant and his older brother the Mangalore one, he decided to venture out to Bangalore. The 150-seater Coastal Express is spread over two floors: air-conditioned on the first floor and non-a/c on the second, with varying prices (the difference being roughly Rs. 10 to Rs. 20). It also has a bar with very reasonably priced liquor which includes wine, beer, cocktails and mocktails. The prices mentioned here are all of the non-a/c section.

Traditional recipes

The secret of this chain's success can be summed up as: "family business" and "traditional recipes". The women of the family manage the kitchens and the master cooks have worked with them for decades, which is why the food tastes unique. It's fresh with no artificial food colours. Take their signature dish, the chicken ghee roast. Byadgi chillies (which impart a fiery red colour) are used for the paste. This is fried in homemade ghee brought from Kundapura. The chicken is not pre-cooked but added to the base and fried over a slow fire.

Traditional Bunt preparations attract not only the Mangalorean population of the city but all who love coastal cuisine. Crab, prawn, squid, fish (payye, yeri, kane, anjal, bangda, silver fish and pomfret), and seasonal shellfish like mussels and Marvai are brought in fresh from Mangalore every day. Since the sizes vary depending on the catch of the day, some seafood dishes are not priced and you have to check with the waiter. Although coconut oil is traditionally used, Shetty uses only refined oil, which is what Bangaloreans prefer.

Starters

For starters we tried the dry, bland chicken sukka (or kuri agadina) for Rs. 50: mildly spiced chicken pieces boiled in coconut milk and mixed with grated coconut. If you're having a drink you might want to accompany it with some tandoori seafood, but we strongly recommend the silver fish rawa fry (Rs. 65) instead. Each little fish coated with rawa and fried, is crisp, non-spicy, non-oily, and can be eaten whole. You have more to choose from; naked fry (which is plain), rawa fry, tawa fry (with ginger-garlic paste) and masala fry (with chilli paste). Since we weren't health faddists we didn't try the steamed version (not on the menu but available on request).

For the main course, we had neer dosa (Rs. 20 for five pieces), the paper-thin dosa that resembles a wet tissue. There's also appam (Rs. 25 for two) and kori roti with curry (Rs.70). The Mangalorean specialty pundi (Rs. 20 for five pieces) is a crumbly ball that can be soaked in any gravy dish. We decided to dip our neer dosa in the coconut-milk-based chicken Kundapur (Rs. 65). We had the irresistibly soft and fresh prawn masala fry (Rs. 90) with medium-sized prawns, which are much tastier than tiger prawns.

Since we lacked the patience to crack open shells and pick out bits of meat we didn't order crab. Squid may be a novelty on the dining table, but (Shetty wryly points out) it is traditionally used as fertiliser! It becomes all rubbery when fried but behaves itself in a liquid so it's wiser to try the squid Sczechwan. Yes, there's Chinese on the menu as well as north Indian, purely to widen the choice. And what about the poor vegetarians? If they seek an authentic Mangalorean dish they can have the ever-popular potato ghassi (Rs. 40) or kanele, the bamboo shoot sukha (Rs. 45). Don't go away without eating the light and wobbly dessert ragi manni (Rs. 30) made of ragi, coconut milk and jaggery.

Coastal Express does corporate lunches and plans to open in Koramangala. It's at 6/4, Sivananda Complex, Sivananda Circle, Kumara Park East, Bangalore 560001. Call General Manager Ashok K. Hegde on 22355094 / 5 or 93413-45305.

Ambience: Very traditional
Specialty: Seasonal shell-fish like mussels and marvai
Wallet factor: Affordable
Service: Good

M.V. CHANDRASHEKAR

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