Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tuck into a roadside legacy

Tuck into a roadside legacy

The food here is not just fit for kings, but for kingdoms to come, swears Gurudarshan Somayaji, after feigning 'not hungry' at home to try the staple idli-vada

Gurudarshan Somayaji

If roadside eating is not your cup of tea, then Malleswaram is just where you should stray into for quaint old-time eating joints or shopping, for that matter. Housed in this home of temples with its old-world feel, Veena Stores is not exactly out of place — the only known landmark near it is the Malleswaram Telephone Exchange on Margosa Road.
As the name suggests — Veena Stores is a shop. But unlike 'any' shop, this one is a place bound for history books. This store started out as a condiment store in 1977. Thirty-two years later, it still sells condiments, but 'tiffin items' are its mainstay. The food here is not just fit for kings, but for kingdoms to come, for, this is one of the best places in town to tuck into some serious south Indian tiffin.
No more than 200sq ft in size, with a mezzanine floor as well, you might worry about space issues. Yes, every square inch of the shop is kitchen floor. But your place is really the roadside. Peer over the high counter, and you see 10 workers sweating it out to bring to you the simple, no-nonsense tiffin. Screaming incorrigibly at each other over loud groans of the electric stone grinder, the hissing steam cooker and splattering hot oil, they work in a synchrony that is unfathomable. Open between 6-11 am and 3-9 pm, this place is packed to capacity on an average day.
Unlike other eat-outs, the idlis here are soft and melt in your mouth; the vadas, crispy golden brown — not the usual flaccid cold bit of dough with the chutney. You can taste the freshness of green chillies and coriander rather than the bitter unsavoury taste of urad dal.
That is why, skipping breakfast, feigning "not hungry" at home, I went for the staple idli-vada. Over loud screams of Ondu idli vada kodu illi, I was handed a white plastic plate with a plastic spoon instead of small steel plates and cutlery — the only thing to have changed. Steam from the idlis fogging my glasses; I went over to another counter for unlimited supply of chutney. Counter is an optimistic word to use here — it is actually an old TV stand, where one waiter is exclusively designated to pour chutney on to an unending stream of plates.
With space for more, Chow-chow Bath — a scoop of Khara bath and another of Kesari bath was next. Finally, some place where you taste the 'baths' rather than the oil. Kesari bath, in particular, is a must try; with just the right amount of sugar, bits of pineapple and raisins. There's more on offer: Puliyogare, Vangi bath, Bisibele bath and Avalakki bath. Law of diminishing marginal utility doesn't apply to the food here. With every bite, you crave for more, despite the incessant one-way traffic or weather gods.
For your date with best idli-vada:
Coordinates: No 183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleswaram, Bangalore — 560055.
Timings: 6.30 am to 11.30 am; 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Open only in the mornings on Sundays)
Wallet factor: One plate of idli-vada costs Rs18, while a plate of Chow-chow bath is Rs15. For more information, call: 23344838.


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