Just a few days have passed since I was invited to savor some wonderful South Indian food and write a review for the restaurant making them, namely this truly wonderful and upscale South Indian restaurant called simply South Indies.
Admitted, I have tasted a few Sadhya items back in Kerala but never had the chance to savor the main course items from all the States across the South of India. So I tagged a young friend along for dinner at South Indies, Pune, and felt certain I was in for a good time.
IPL fever was running high at the time and, following the passion for cricket, the restaurant had a special menu comprising starters and drinks specially designed for the event. I was surprised to see a Chaat item on the menu—because I adore Chaat—and super excited to taste it.
The staff was extremely courteous without possessing that ‘I’m doing this just because it’s my job’ attitude. These wonderful people took me through the menu and their cuisine concepts with great interest. Now that’s what I like about a good restaurant. The servers and attendants must strike a conversation with guests without being too meddlesome. The past a year or so, me and Umesh have had a soft corner for such places and would love to visit them again, South Indies having made it to that list.
Since I was not sure exactly what to order for my review’s sake, seeing as how some of the dish-names were rather difficult to pronounce let alone understand, the manager himself was kind enough to get me small portions of all their specialties.
We thus began with cocktails, one of which was based on tender coconut, transporting me to the Kerala backwaters I remember from many years ago. The other was a mix of vodka, tequila and a spicy tomato chutney, all of them ideally balanced and superb to taste. My friend tried the Blue Lagoon mocktail served in a somewhat large glass and she instantly bonded with it.
Our starters’ platter comprised of the Vadagam chaat mainly triangular fried chips in a mayo dressing. Nice but a very West-inspired mayonnaise was out of place in a primarily South Indian dish. The Podi tossed orange mini idlis were melting in the mouth and too hard to resist. The Mokka Junna Miriyalu Fry which is baby corn marinated in tamarind and black pepper wasn’t too appealing. However the Crispy Rice and cheese cutlets were lip smacking! Crispy on the outside, soft and mushy on the inside, the taste still lingers on my tongue.
Obviously, you’ll need a pretty good appetite if you’re going to taste so many South Indian perfections. That said, as we headed we found ourselves being served the main course.
The first dish to arrive was the Karuvepilai Poondu Kuzhambu , a smooth gravy with a prominent taste of roasted garlic, very different from what I was used to but very delicious nonetheless. Then there was the Tomato Pappu and Pancha Dhanya Koora, both dals, but possessing a singular taste that made each offer something to remember. I most loved the balance of flavor in them with the legumes not overpowering the taste of the seasoning.
The next plate that came to our table can best be described as a show stealer. The Kothmir Vonkaya Koora, tender baby brinjals immersed in coriander gravy. Not only did the brinjals look cute (in the way they were presented), the coriander wasn’t overwhelming as most other dishes I’ve tasted seemed to show.
The servers suggested accompaniments to be paired with each dish, perfecting our dining experience. They saw to it we received a portion each of Neer Dosa, Appam, Malabar Parotta and Urulai Kothamalli Roti.
South Indies strikes the bulls eye with its Neer Dosa (a handkerchief thin explosion of deliciousness) and their Aappam falls into the same category of awesome. However, the Malabar Parotta was a bit disappointing for no other reasons than that I’ve enjoyed better in Kerala. The Urulai Kothamalli Roti was average, having its fine points but not overly memorable. I recall ordering a small portion of lemon rice which looked great but lacked the lemony tang and slight rind-bitterness I was expecting in a dish this ethnic.
I’ve nothing to complain about, though. The whole meal was laid out perfectly, satisfied us to a fault and made us want to try more the next time we felt like eating South Indian.
By the end of our meal, we were too full to even think about dessert. However, under the friendly insistence of the manager, we gave at least one sweet a try. I opted for the Figs and sweetened milk which was passable in my opinion because I was too full to properly evaluate its well-rounded taste and the way it flowed across the palate.
We closed our enchanting meal with their signature Kumbakonam Degree Coffee. Just mentioning it here makes me want to go to South Indies right away and have that coffee again and possibly once more before I leave.
Thanks to the manager and servers, I found my wonderful journey to the South filled with a sensational ambience and soft instrumental music, much like cherry on a cake. For one, I know where my Tamil and Malayali friends can find good vegetarian food and I have already recommended it to quite a few of them. While in Pune, I’d definitely visit South Indies again to try their breakfast buffets which sell like hot cakes.
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