Masala dosa in Pune
I'm going to miss all the eating joints here. Most cities are defined by the kind of eating accorded there, and so goes for Pune. I'm going to miss all the Shetty hotels here, 'hotel' of course defined in the Indian idiom as an eating place, not for staying.
I may be a citizen of the world at heart, but am a South Indian by stomach. Though I like Chinese/Mughlai/Continental/Punjabi and so on, It is idli-wada-dosa that I always come back to.
Firstly, I'm going to miss Cafe Siddharth, in N.C.L. campus on Pashan Road. I'm going to miss it simply because I have grown very used to it. The food is of standard Udipi hotel quality, neither too good, neither too bad either. And the service, though lackadaisical, is still better than Abhimanshree nearby.
Then comes Anubhav, on the University circle. Standard fare, slightly better; I'm going to miss it simply because I got used to it. Both places lie on the N.C.L.-N.C.C.S.-Unipune circuit I have been working in so far, so that's all the reason why.
Hotel Srikrishna Palace, at Pune station (Sassoon Hospital Road), is next in line. I used to have a snack here before catching the beautiful Indrayani Express to Thane Friday evenings. I go to this place by choice, because I like the batata-wada-sambhar and the masala dosa, and the coffee is potable. That is saying much for the coffee in Pune. Ever since leaving Bangalore, I've not had good coffee anywhere. Home is of course heaven.
Then let's talk of my favourite Modern Cafe at Shivajinagar, near the Institution of Engineers. The uttappa is yum, so is the coffee. The lighting is very dull though, in an attempt to look a bit more upmarket. The prices of course, reflect that.
I had the nastiest experience in a Shetty hotel on the river side of the station, near the big Sohrab Hall building. The masala dosa was so sour, I had to look for another place and another masala dosa to get rid of the taste. Sadly I didn't find any, so I have since restricted myself to south Pune.
Near Kasba Ganpati temple, on the way to Appa Balwant chowk, is another place whose name I've forgotten. Though the fare is not remarkable, the chutney was the best commercial chutney I have ever had. It had real coconut in it, not just a little too much urad dal.
If this seems rather a one-sided taste, sadly, it is. I've had stuff at Cafe Coffee Day, Barista, Pizza Hut, Smokin' Joe's, McDonald's and the lot, but they are not for me. The taste is too bland for my kattar Indian palate, and I think its just tomato ketchup all the way. Though I must say here that quite a strange thing happened to me in Delhi. I scoured the entire megalopolis for masala dosa without success, and had to survive on McDonald's all the time. Thank God they're the same everywhere.
This obsession with masala dosa seems quite in line with my South Indian-ness. In fact, I find in all my travels, that wherever you land up, if there is a Shetty hotel around, and you can establish a rpport with him by speaking colloquial Kannada, he'll make sure that you'll the best masala dosa he can whip up. And with the rice flour and potatoes providing you all the carbs and fat you need, it is really quite mourishing. That is not so much one can say about other 'fast foods'.
My taste does extend to Marathi food, and I'll include three folk here. First is Shreyas, which need not be talked of. It is the Pune restaurant. Next comes N.C.L. canteen. I'm seriously going to miss the three great eats - poha, shira and sabudana khichdi. It tastes better at Ganesh Amruttulya. This is slightly more than a shack at University circle, frequented by University students and their parasites alike. The tea is mast, so are the kanda bhajis apart from the shira-poha. Kanda bhaji is also great from the hawker at Moti chowk, Budhwarpeth where I visit my gold-dealer uncle sometimes.
Last, but not the least, the cheese-toast on the Indrayani express is great, but that deserves another mention elsewhere.
Saying bye to Pune is going to be hard on my stomach and through it, my heart!