Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Masala Dosa beckons

The Masala Dosa beckons
New Indian Express

In this era of multi-cuisine restaurants, it would be quite baffling to a newcomer to Bangalore, as to how a hotel offering only South Indian and just four dishes at that is so famous, that long queues form outside its door just to savour its famed masala dosa and vada.

After 35 odd years of service, Janatha Hotel located at Malleswaram indeed remains the favourite of the Bengalooru janatha.

The Janatha Hotel was established in 1971 by H Seetharam Rao and his brother H Pranesh Rao. The Malleswaram branch in fact, while being the more famous one, was established later. The first Janatha hotel was established in 1965 at the Visveswarapuram, Sajjanrao Circle.

“My father, Pranesh Rao and Sitaram Rao are from Koteshwara, at Kundapur, where they worked as cooks. They later worked in Shimoga at a relation’s hotel as cooks after which they started a canteen at Kargal at Linganamakki dam project site, before establishing Janatha Hotel,” says Veerandra, who along with his brother Sudhindra now oversees the working of the hotel, with their father at the helm.

The hotel’s claim to fame is not that it has expanded to form a chain of hotels or introduced a new menu or has renovated its interiors. It is simply their masala dosa and vada, which is known for its taste and quality.

The hotel in fact remains the same as it was 35 years ago — right down to its traditionally clad waiters. “Our challenge is to maintain it as it is. We haven’t refurbished, expanded or done anything new. Even our furniture and fans are 35 years old,” says Veerandra.

So what makes the seemingly common masala dosa and vada so unique at the Janatha hotel? The question baffles Veerandra. “We put the same ingredients, make it the same way as others. All I can say is that the taste is god given,” he says.

They have just four items on their menu. Other than the masala dosa and vada, there is the kesari bath-khara bath combo and pulav, and four items again in the evening that includes Manglooru bajji.

Janatha Hotel is one among the few hotels in the city that closes at 12:30 p m and open at 3:30 p m as well as have a weekly holiday. “These are traditions that have endeared us to people. We believe in giving rest to our staff and giving them a weekly off,” says Veerandra.

Speaking about the food culture in the city, Veerandra says that the fast-food culture and international culture cropping up in the city has not eroded into their business. “At the end of the day people will come back for the traditional menu,” he says.

And with many traditional rivals in Malleswaram itself, there seems to be stiff competition. “When we started, we were the only hotel in Malleswaram, now there are 15 hotels here. But our customers keep coming back, especially when it comes to the dosa and vada,” says Veerandra.

As for the future of the Janatha Hotel, Veerendra says, they will run it as long as they are there on the same base it was founded on — quality, taste and hygiene. And the rest of the trick is of course done by the smell of the crisp masala dosas.

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