Bangalore has become a frequent pit-stop lately owing to work and thus, has given me more opportunities to explore local food places there. In my earlier posts, I have written about Nagarjuna’s for their Andhra style Banana leaf meals, Brahmins Idli Cafe and Vidhyarti Bhavan, a place famed for its dosas in Bangalore. These are amazing places, tucked away in small corners but with some classic food experiences.
This post, I am writing about is about my dinner thoughts at “Karavalli”, a Fine-dine restaurant at the Taj Gateway hotel in Bangalore. The restaurant has won accolades for years since its existence and also has featured as amongst the top 50 restaurants in India. Karavalli is famed for its coastal inspired seafood offerings mainly but they also serve authentic vegetarian food as well inspired by the Southern regions of India.
Last month, during my trip to Bangalore, me and my father decided to dine at this restaurant. Dad has been a frequent guest at the Taj for almost a decade since Bangalore has been a major business market for us. Being such a regular guest has its own set of privileges – like knowing the chef’s personally or getting extra special attention by the people there.
This time round, it was the same and we were promised extra special attention when we booked our table at Karavalli for the evening. Since they realised I was a keen food lover, they arranged to cater to my request for a “Thali” meal in the evening (This meal is usually served only in the afternoon).
Come evening and we ended our work day and headed to Karavalli. A small path from the main hotel lead to the restaurant that is hidden amidst trees and plants. Dim lanterns and lights scattered across the pathway lead us to our food destination. The restaurant has an extremely homely and rustic feel to it.
We opted for sitting in the outer area of the restaurant instead of the air-conditioned room that was there. I, personally, love sitting amidst natural airy zones. It somehow makes me feel comforted and at home. Since our meal was already pre-decided as the “Thali”, all we had to do was wait for it to come along.
In came in first, the “Rasam” – a South- Indian soup style drink made using tomatoes, a gentle touch of lentils and lots of warm spices such as Black pepper, coriander, cumin and Tamarind. It is traditionally served at the beginning of the meal as the ingredients have an appetizing effect. Served alongside were some fried poppadums and ring-shaped fritters. These are served with all meals at Karavalli.
As we sipped the hot peppery Rasam on a lovely airy evening, our Thali’s was served to us and we were left speechless – and I mean literally. For a minute there, I genuinely regretted my impulse to order a thali because the amount of food placed there was enough to last three of my normal meals. And it all kept coming.
That day, we were served some of restaurant specialities. A Cauliflower vegetable that was lightly spiced in a dry red spice mix was placed in one bowl, a vegetable stew that was served in a coconut milk based sauce in another and Aviyal – a traditional Keralite specialty which, is basically a mix of carrots, beans, green peas, potatoes in a green chilli and coconut sauce was served in the third.
Alongside, was served “Sambhar”, which, is a lentil based soup style sauce seasoned with spices such as dried red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, black pepper and more. This is one of the complex gravies that South-India swears by and almost every place will have their own versions but each of them will be equally delicious thus leaving each place with their own specialty.
One of the highlights of the evening, was a Pineapple based vegetable dish. The pineapple was cooked in a coconut milk based gravy with spice seasonings and believe me, I have never tasted something so beautiful in all my South-Indian food expeditions. The sourness and sweetness of the pineapples blended beautifully with the creamy richness of the coconut milk while the spices gave them just the right kick to leave memories on your tongue. We so fell in love with this dish that we even requested the chef to give us an insight into making it and he, being a generous soul, came out and handed us the recipe. This is why I love such restaurants. They really want to share food stories.
The rich dishes served were of two types. I had to refuse one because, honestly, I couldn’t manage the quantities – although I hadn’t eaten all through the day. I felt horrible sending it back but then, I could only eat that much and I really wanted to finish all that was on my plate and not waste it. So, I chose my serving of curd rice, which, is a South-Indian specialty. It is essentially rice mixed with some thick yoghurt and tempered with curry leaves, dried red chillies and mustard seeds.
The other rice dish was spiced rice that were tossed in some traditional South-Indian spices of dal, curry leaves, dried red chilies and more.
Oh, and did I mention, there was a lovely marinated garlic pickle served on the table. I don’t remember eating this much garlic in a while but it had the most amazing marinated flavour that wasn’t strong garlicky but yet, just sour and strong enough to make you go back for seconds.
On the bread front, we were served plain Indian wheat flatbreads “Rotis or Phulkas’ and while I was happy there was only one to finish along with my large meal, my relief was short-lived. Along came in the “Hoppers” – a fermented rice flour batter bread that is cooked in an iron pan. It is a thin batter made from rice flour and fermented for a few hours. The batter is then poured in an iron pan and swirled to form a thin outer round with a thick fluffy centre. It is gently cooked till a hint of crispness shows up on the outside and is lightly browned. This, found its way in our plates.
This was accompanied with a curry comprising of dried beans and pulses. This was another specialty of the restaurant and while I do remember wolfing it down, I don’t remember its name. Maybe this is what they call food coma. So, forgive my memory on that one. It does feature in the photograph though so feel free to help me out with the name if you can. 🙂
Usually, in Kerala, hoppers are served with Kadala curry which is made with dried pulses as above. I think, it was the same. Hoppers, by the way, are also known as “Appams” in some parts of South-India. Hoppers is mainly a term used in “Sri Lanka”.
After an hour of attempting to finish the food and giving up after that, we were happy in our hearts but I did feel a bit guilty about not being able to finish the servings completely. While I sat there wallowing in my self-guilt but thanking my stars for finally reaching the end of the meal, there came in something more.
Yup…the dessert was yet pending. Now, me, being a prized idiot refused the dessert serving because I was almost ready to burst with all the food I had in me but my father, being the smarter one agreed to it. His philosophy – lets just taste and try.
So, there we sat, sharing the traditional dessert of South-India called the Payassam. The restaurant’s version that day was the “Ada Payassam” which we found out was something like rice-paper thins in a beautiful palm-sugar and coconut milk based sauce generously dusted with cardamom powder and toasted cashews.
One spoon of that and I was in dessert heaven. It was warm and sweet and creamy and comforting and that is the moment, I wished that I hadn’t turned away my dessert serving. Although I couldn’t eat another bite of food, I was up for getting one more of this dessert but then, common sense prevailed and I decided greed wasn’t going to do me any good (and also partly also because my stomach started protesting against my over-indulgence of the meal). I felt overfull and ready to drop on a nice comforting bed and if I had one there, believe me, I would have dozed off there. Again, we managed to get our hands on the recipe of this amazing dessert but are yet to try it at home.
That bought us to the end of our Karavalli Thali experience.
The food, like the place, is classic in its flavours with simplicity at its core and manages to make each dish with great precision (believe me when I say this because I have read their given recipes and each of them are masterpieces in terms of techniques and spices). It has a taste of home with its authenticity and that is what food should do. It should refresh your soul and yet, take you to your roots.
A couple of words of advice if you plan to eat the Thali meal here –
- Make sure you don’t eat through out the day. You really need all your appetite here to enjoy the meal well.
- Although Karavalli is famous for its coastal food offerings, their vegetarian food is equally amazing. Don’t knock it off before you have tried it.
Some places are not always about the food..Some places are all about the experience you have.