Homely food for homesick at new Oriya eatery

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In the world of food reviews, multi cuisine restaurants – with varied foods struggling to come out of one kitchen – usually get a rap on the knuckles. Oak Leaf, the new restaurant in town, does not meet that fate. At least, not just yet. Launched just a week ago, it’s early days for this unit of Green Oak, a company that is keen on establishing a presence in the city’s hospitality landscape.

Oak Leaf
278, 7th Main, Mico Layout, BTM 2nd Stage
Tel: 42166666/ 7

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Meal for one: Rs 300 to 350
Food: ***
Service: **

With 12 rooms and a 150-seater eatery, the kitchen is the thrust of this boutique hotel. The aim is to please everybody, which is why Indian, Chinese and Continental find their way into the menu. The Continental part has not yet been established so you’ll have to wait a while to tuck into spaghettis and risottos. But there’s a wide choice in Indian and Chinese food which form the large chunk of the menu. The Chinese food here is so-so, the Indian food is good; there’s no need to wonder which to order.

Pic: Theresa Varghese

The biryanis are fluffy and light, really well executed. Mention must be made of specialities like Raan-e-Sikandari, Maa ki Dal and Masala Kulcha. You can also see Executive Chef Iftekhar M Shaikh’s creativity coming to the fore in starters like Palak Papdi Kebab – pureed spinach and cashew pieces covered with roasted papad and deep fried. Very innovative and very good. The menu even has a children’s section, which is good news for families. The one drawback is the lack of choice in desserts. Currently you get only ice creams. The check says, this will be rectified soon with an array of Indian sweets.

Given the largely Indian ethos of the restaurant, the name seems incongruous. However, according to the management, the oak tree and its leaves portray a figurative filter against the vehicular pollution of Outer Ring Road, which is close by. The thing is: it’s so calm and peaceful inside Oak Leaf, it’s difficult to believe that the city’s frantic traffic and nerve-wracking noise are only five minutes away. The concept’s working. Even if the tree is not there.

Kalingas

One can’t but be impressed by Satyavrata Pradhan, a man who left the comfort and financial safety of a salaried job for the exhaustion and uncertainty of running an eatery. A native of Bhubaneshwar, who came to Bangalore in 1996, Pradhan did his MBA and worked with Citibank, ICICI and GE before chucking up the corporate life to pursue his dream. The result is Kalingas, a restaurant that serves authentic Oriya cuisine. Just six months old, Kalingas has no dearth of patrons; especially on weekends when homesick Oriyas throng the place.

Pradhan had no formal training in catering, but armed with his mother’s recipes, he initiated cooks of north Indian origin into the cuisine. He had no background in running a business either. But he did have a mantra: to provide great tasting food, made with the best produce, at affordable prices. With this philosophy, Pradhan has made Kalingas into the kind of place that people visit because they miss their mother’s food and because they want to introduce non Oriya friends to the cuisine. Pradhan is fervent about this particular aspect. “My success will depend on people from other communities coming here to eat,” he says.

Kalingas
25, 16th Main, BTM 2nd Stage
Tel: 26786688, 41503447

Meal for one: Rs 80 to Rs 150
Food: ****
Service: ***

A look at the menu shows familiar Chinese and north Indian dishes in between unfamiliar Oriya names. Pradhan explains rather apologetically that this was done to give non Oriya diners an option. Apparently, the biryani here is good. But then, you can get biryani anywhere. So ignore such distractions and concentrate on Kalingas’ USP.

If you are not familiar with the cuisine, your best bet is one of the six thalis that are available for lunch and dinner on weekdays. It’s a great way to taste various dishes, especially the fresh water fish that the region is known for. By the way, the crabs and the prawns come from Chilka Lake.

There is a wholesomeness to the food that is appealing. Just try a dry side dish called Badi Chura where the main ingredients are urad dal and white pumpkin. Various textures and tastes unfold in the mouth, making this simple dish a delicious experience. And for those with a sweet tooth, Kalingas hits the right spot. The Chhena Poda, Orissa’s signature sweet, is excellently made. As are the Rabdi and Rasagola.

Apart from lunch and dinner, there’s also breakfast and evening snacks, both of which offer some interesting specialities.

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About Theresa Varghese 20 Articles
Theresa Varghese is a independent writer and ardent baker who loves all things to do with food.

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