What’s on Mysuru’s menu?

Satiated with Bengaluru’s iconic food joints,the writer goes in search of Mysuru’s share of fare

Reasoning out the best way to pursue my gastronomic interests in Mysuru was by walking, I joined Mysuru’s morning walkers around the broad avenues surrounding the palace, who ended their exercise with a heavenly cup of frothing filter-coffee at Om Shanti, in Nazarbad, a bustling, tidy and vegetarian-only eatery wholeheartedly recommended by Mysureans.

While the filter coffee was an absolute delight, I couldn’t resist their vada sambhar and khara bath, both equally famous. This left me with the free rest-of-the-morning to find out why the aroma of melted ghee and roasted gram flour hovered around a particularly famous small shop, Guru Sweet Mart, on Sayyaji Rao Road near the Palace precincts. The person at the counter was friendly enough, but snobbish — 250 gm of the divine yellow stuff was the minimum I would have to buy and it would be packed in a cardboard box with the tag line: ‘Sweets that melt the heart’. Apparently, the shop is owned by the direct descendant of Kakasura Madappa, a royal cook to the Mysore maharajas, and his great-great-grandchildren have taken it upon themselves to make magic out of melted sugar, gram flour and ghee, — and Mysuru’s most celebrated contribution to Indian sweets — the Mysore Pak.

Eating Mysore’s delicacy comes with its share of difficulties, your hands are dripping with ghee, and what of the extra cholesterol? Work it all off by walking to the nearby Brahmin Soda Factory, a legacy of the old times.  

On Old Bank Road, this is another ‘great-grandfather to the present generation’ type of foodie station where the man behind the counter offers you a variety of sodas, ice creams and fruit salads. Ignore the decrepit surroundings, the glasses and the furniture, and have some of the celebrated, refreshing home-made summer specials!

The Wodeyars were known to visit Dasaprakash, another old-worldly,courtyard-facing restaurant at the Gandhi Square that served halbai, a melt-in-the-mouth halwa made with rice flour, jaggery, coconut milk and ghee. Alas, this was closed for renovation and the delicacy’s flavour was left to my imagination.

Tea time or ‘tiffin time’ had me trek to Gayatri Tiffin Room on Chamundipuram Main Road.

The famous black tokens of yesteryear with numbers, to be purchased at the counter near the entrance, are now replaced by the humble paper receipts, but the famous liquid soap bowl with a spoon at the washbasin continues to exist. The special seating area, where only ‘ladies and accompanied by ladies’ were permitted, reminds one of the good old times!

The place was teeming and I had to push my way through GTR’s (as the Gayatri Tiffin Room is known) loyal crowds to hog their famous idli-vada, khara bhat and masala dosa!

Dinner time had me looking out for another famous landmark, Hotel Vinayak Mylari, on Nazarbad Main Road, that serves sagu-dosa, with a dollop of butter, so crisp on the outside and so soft on the inside. It comes with vegetable filling instead of the usual potato masala. Perfectly spiced, thick coconut chutney is ladled out in unlimited spoonfuls. Make time for its 80-year-old legacy, with a recipe protected and passed on by the current owner’s grandmother, who used secret ingredients to get that ‘melt in the mouth’ dosa texture! 

Like one another

The celebrity status and the fan-following this Mylari dosa has achieved has spawned tons of competition. Quite close to this nondescript hotel is the ‘original’ Vinayaka Mylari Hotel, with a sagu-dosa equally great. The owner told me that the dosas taste the same (apparently both have got their hands on the same famous recipe), only, his Mylari Hotel happens to be the more-illustrious one! Choices exist for non-veggies, too. Hotel RRR at Gandhi Square is witness to how much Mysureans love their biryanis. Due to its proximity to the palace perhaps, this restaurant was dreadfully crowded.

Non-veg fare

Crowds started gathering in front of the hotel half an hour prior to its opening, but after you get pushed in through the narrow entrance, it seems ages before you can get your hands on to a plantain leaf full of RRR’s Andhra-style delicacy!  

Perhaps the slow pace of this town-city steeped in colonial architecture is better experienced through its culinary accomplishments. Even though masala dosas and the vadas and the idlis should be more or less the same everywhere, when compared to Bengaluru, the food delights of Mysuru have etched out a separate identity of their own. 

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