When Karavalli opened at the Gateway Hotel, Bangalore, in 1991 it thrived on one ideology – an exultation of seafood by using high-quality locally produced ingredients and traditional recipes that were procured from Mangalorean, Konkan and Kerala kitchens.
Back then Chinese, Continental and the quintessential Punjabi cuisine with Butter chicken, Shahi Paneer and Dal Makhani ruled the palate of the people. After a few teething problems and days of vacant tables, the restaurant started seeing a trickle of guests. The food reviews were so good that the word spread and it gained fame as a charming, must-go-to culinary haven in Bengaluru.
That was nearly three decades ago but the buzz has never ever waned. Karavalli continues to allure and has been endearing itself to its patrons. There has been consistency in taste and the food remain authentic to the region. Chef Naren Thimmaiah, Executive Chef of the Gateway Hotel attributes the popularity of the restaurant to two important factors. Says Chef Thimmaiah –
“First, since its inception, 80-85 per cent of the ingredients used in the dishes are locally sourced. That’s the main job done for us since the ingredients used are all fresh and of high quality. Secondly, in a team of 10 in the kitchen, 8 of us have been there for the last 10-15 years, cooking and perfecting the dishes as much as possible. Everyone knows what is required and the process is well understood. These are the two main reasons why there is hardly any difference in the taste even if you visit after a period of time. “
Varq, the elegant dining restaurant at Taj Mahal Hotel, is celebrating its 11th anniversary and gives an opportunity to Delhi-ites to savour the food of Karavalli at the restaurant till the 28th September. The pop-up at Varq showcases an array of culinary fare from Karavalli. The best of coastal cuisine and Chef’s favourite all feature in the menu. Kerala’s Meen Eletittad slathered with Malabar paste and pan-fried in a banana leaf wrap, makes the black pomfret incredibly soft, flaky and coated in the spicy juice of the marinade. Prawns tossed in a Kerala spice mix full of flavours of tomato, ginger, green chilli and coconut slivers give the Prawn Roast a unique flavour profile. Koli Barthad gets its tartiness from Coorg vinegar that is integral to the chicken dish lifts it up as an appetizer. The vegetarians can relish Patrade where colocasia leaves lend their flavours when they pillowcase a paste of lentils and spices.
The curry pots in Karavalli are a potpourri of exciting flavours and despite the use of coconut, each curry differs in taste according to the souring agents like Kachampuli, Coorg vinegar and spices. In the Allapuzha Meen Curry the tartness of the seer fish is offset by ground coconut giving it a unique flavour. Hailing from the Bunt community Kori Gassi is a star dish. At the pop-up, the chicken derives its colour from Byadgi chillies while fresh coconut, coriander and tamarind add depth and flavour. Whether for its tanginess or its uniqueness, I loved the Maavinkai Mensukkai – chunks of brine-preserved mangoes are cooked in a blend of chillies and coconut and taste similar to chutney. Enjoy by itself or dunk in a neer dosa, sanna or idiyappam.
Goa shines in the dessert section- the multi-layered Bebinca and the lip-smacking delicious, Dodol – a rice cake cooked gently in coconut milk and jaggery. I loved its soft, sweet texture like pudding. It just melts in your mouth.
A passionate chef, commitment to tradition, organic ingredients, fresh produce, years of experience and Karavalli’s unassailable reputation make perfect reasons why the Karavalli Pop-Up at Varq must not be missed. There could be no better way than this to enjoy its 11th anniversary.