New Delhi, India
October 8, 2013
On the ground floor of the Ramanashree Hotel, Kudla is approached through a short, curving staircase leading up from the street. Inside, the restaurant has a low- wooden-beamed ceiling reminiscent of traditional old homes across Southern India. The walls are white-painted and textured, and decorated in places with a pale blue-green pattern of waves. Large, colourful South Indian masks hang on the walls, and the waiters wear traditional South Indian clothing, long white mundus (sarongs), crisp short tunics, a gold-edged white stole draped over one shoulder, and an interesting cap made of what looked like coconut fibre.
The menu at Kudla is a merry mix of North Indian, Chinese, and—thankfully—South Indian cuisines. In the latter, Mangalorean food (from Mangalore and its surrounding areas, along the border of Karnataka and its neighbouring state, Kerala) is the most prominent. There are vegetarian dishes, but pride of place is held by the non-vegetarian food, all the way from lobster and crab (both charged according to the size of the crustacean you choose) to mutton, poultry, fish, and prawn. After much perusal of the menu, some discussions, and the help of our waiter, we decided to order a crab masala fry as a starter, along with a fresh lime soda each as a drink. For a main course, we ordered a prawn curry and a vegetable sukka. The latter is available in a choice of three different types of vegetables, including cauliflower, okra, and green beans—we settled for the green beans. Our waiter suggested appams as the best accompaniment for the prawn curry and the sukka, so we ordered one each of the appams.
Our drinks arrived shortly after, and with them came a small metal plate heaped with very crisp and addictive deep-fried rice crackers. We were busy digging into these when the crab masala fry was brought. I have to admit to not really loving the hard work that goes into digging the flesh out of a crab, even though crabmeat is something I like. Kudla’s crab, served in the shell, took a lot of work. They did provide a heavy crab cracker, but even then it took some doing.
Despite that, the crab got our vote. It was gorgeously fresh, juicy and succulent and beautifully sweet. It had been cooked in a masala (a sort of thick gravy) that consisted of tomatoes and other ingredients, spicy but not very hot. Perfect.
Finishing the crab (which was quite large, and fiddly) took a fair bit of effort and time. When we were done, our waiter brought us fresh plates, fingerbowls full of hot water with a slice of lime each, and extra paper napkins so that we could clean up. Then came the main course. The prawns, fresh and juicy, came in a reddish gravy that was based on coconut milk, but wasn’t as mild as one would expect a coconut-milk based gravy to be. Not that it was very spicy, but it certainly wasn’t wishy-washy. The beans sukka was equally good: chopped green beans cooked with lots of grated coconut and a spice base that contained chopped onions, tomatoes, curry leaves, and so on. Both curry and sukka tasted excellent with the fluffy rice-pancake-like appams. The only fault I could find was in the texture of the appams: while the centres were soft and spongy (as they should be), the edges—which should be crisp and golden and almost lace-like—were also soft and not very golden.
The dessert menu at Kudla only featured one ‘local’ pudding, ragi manni (a steamed, cardamom-flavoured dish made from a batter based on millet flour). We tasted a ragi mannu the previous day at another restaurant (Sana-di-ge, and since the other desserts on the menu—mostly ice creams and sundaes—didn’t appeal to us, we skipped the sweet. While we waited for our bill, our waiter brought us a small tray full of paan fixings: a neat pile of fresh green betel leaves; a small pot of lime paste, to be smeared onto each leaf; and roughly chopped areca nut, which is supposed to be put on the lime-smeared leaf before it’s rolled up and popped into one’s mouth. We are finicky about the paan we eat (and paan with only lime, betel leaf, and areca nut can be very astringent), so we passed that up and just helped ourselves to some of the refreshing sugar-coated fennel seeds served alongside.
Our meal at Kudla cost Rs 1,965, inclusive of taxes. We added a tip to this. Considering we’d had a huge crab (which cost Rs 900 by itself), both of us were of the opinion that this meal was good value for money.
From journal Eating and Sleeping in Bangalore