I always passed this bright yellow and green board of Kerala Curry Leaves on my way to the office and back and was always intrigued by what their offerings could be. Moreover as the tag line said ‘Coastal Malabar Food’. The coastal food part is the one that always appeals to me as I feel that the amalgamation of ingredients and cooking techniques result in really unique taste experiences. Where else would you find a perfect balance of chilli, spices, coconut and tamarind apart from our beautiful coastline.
So, on this lazy Monday afternoon when I was again passing by that board I decided to stop for lunch. A small and clean restaurant with a very canteen-like feel with sofas on one side of the table and chairs on the other. The place is brightly sunlit with even brighter table tops. Generally I would associate such places with very strong aromas of common coastal ingredients like seafood, tadkas or coconut oil but to my surprise that wasn’t the case.
I was starving so went straight for the main course. Ordered Chicken Ullarthiathu, Chicken Mulagitathu, Malabar Parotta, Kerala Brown Rice, Poppadums and Buttermilk. The Ullarthiathu is supposed to be from the Central Travancore region of Kerala but also has a lot of other variations. It is basically supposed to be a mixture of spices and chilli cooked dry with the meat (generally beef is the meat of choice is what I’ve read) and then tempered with madras onions, coconut, curry leaves, mustard seeds and coconut oil. What we were served was chicken in a thick dark brown masala, which just about coated the pieces, with onion and a few curry leaves, which I can’t distinctly remember. It tasted nice with very low heat levels coming from neither the spices nor the chilies. But it distinctly missed the coconut oil and more curry leaves. Must be to adapt to local taste buds and plus, coconut oil in food is seen as a turn off by many. The Mulagitathu, which was suggested by the server as the special of the day, is basically a thin fish curry made with Mustard and Fenugreek seeds, ginger garlic, curry leaves and coconut oil. We were served a hearty portion of chicken pieces in a dark orange gravy, which I felt was a little watery. Surprisingly it tasted unique and nice with fully rounded flavour profiles despite being watery. Again, what I missed was the coconut oil flavour. I instead felt some coconut milk flavour and wondered if they’re used any.
The Malabar Parotta was nice but nothing to write home about. The brown rice was nice too, a refreshing palate change for us, as we are used to eating other varieties of rice. But the person accompanying me on that meal, a Tamilian chef, felt it was not cooked properly and could have been a much better experience. The Buttermilk was the best, nice and thin with big chunks of ginger, green chilli and coriander. It was perfectly flavoured with the ingredients mentioned and at the same time not with overpowering notes of the spices or even sourness.
The portion sizes were good and sufficient for 2 good eaters. Moreover, the quantity and quality of meat in both the dishes was substantial and very good. I would really call this a value-for-money place and must be a home away from home for all the Keralite folk in Pune. The biggest let down for the place was that none of the food, including the parottas, curries and the rice, came piping hot. All the supposedly hot dishes were a tad above room temperature. I really wonder why, it would have been such a better experience with hot food.