Friday, November 16, 2012

A (Mostly) Vegetarian Excursion to Mysore 02: Sree Annapoorna Hotel

[Continued from Part I]

From Tipu Sultan's tomb, we went straight to Mysore. Mr David's friend and mentor Prof Chandy had invited us to stay over at his house. Unfortunately he himself was out of town at that time, something he expressed much regret over. His general factotum Peter took every care to see we had a comfortable time. After a quick wash-up we headed out to see the Mysore Palace all lit up for the occasion. We first viewed it from a vantage-point halfway up the Chamundi Hills. The vista was truly stunning, but I was unable to do justice to it photographically as I had left my zoom lens behind in Bangalore. We then proceeded to the palace itself, to see the decorations close up. Very pretty it was too. But let's face it, there's only so many times you can stare at a bunch of lightbulbs: you've seen one you've seen them all. We spent half an hour or so there, took lots of pictures, then pushed over to Sree Annapoorna for a much-needed dinner.

Sree Annapoorna is one of those places whose looks alone leave you intrigued and eager for more. It is housed in a beautiful old building right next to the State Bank of Mysore head office. The interiors are equally impressive, running to high ceilings, warm tones and arches everywhere - windows, doorways, even the colonnade outside. The dining area, though, bears signs of an identity crisis. Watercolours of old Mysore vie for attention with near-naked tubelights and funny s-shaped tubes suspended from the ceiling which don't seem to serve any functional purpose, and have in all likelihood spawned out of some misbegotten designer fantasy. But this is a minor nit. A slightly bigger nit has nothing to do with the place itself, but how it's been written about. Given the circumstances I had presumed the place was both old and popular, and so bound to have loads of articles published on it. I was surprised to find all of one brief mention, in a blog run by a Canadian Mormon "senior missionary couple" (as they call themselves). And even that brief mention is interesting for quite the wrong reasons. I understand the authors are visitors from abroad, and thus entitled to some latitude when it comes to details. But even so, and especially when they've already spent some four to five months in Bangalore, a description of "igly" [sic] or "white rice pattie" served with a "spicy curry sauce" and (horrors!!) "dahi (yogurt)" does come across as startling. As Adithi points out, "coconut chatni ki dahi bana dii, literally!"

The biggest nit, gripe, whatever you call it, remains reserved for the food they served us. It was fully as disappointing as the building was spectacular. We had ordered several varieties of dosa - coarse-textured Rava Roast Dosa for me, Benne Dosa for some (don't recall who), regular Masala Dosa for others. And they were all disastrous, every single one of them. My Rawa Roast was overcooked, and had transited crispy into a state of outright hardness. It was also singularly devoid of flavour. The other dosas tasted sour, most likely because the batter used was so stale it had started to ferment. The coconut chutney was thin; the sambar was decent but nothing exceptional. Ironically, the saving grace of the entire meal were the quasi-Chinese dishes we had ordered as sides. The Chilli Mushroom was particularly delectable - succulent mushrooms, chillies just piquant to make things interesting, and overall a judicious use of spices and condiments. The Mushroom Manchurian wasn't bad either. But nice as they were, they were hardly enough to redeem the meal in its entirety. Which meant five very disappointed diners at the end of proceedings. Five because Mr David didn't feel like joining us, and said he'll pick up something for himself on our way back to Prof Chandy's house.

This "something" eventually materialised into Biryani and Kalmi Kabab from a joint called Biryani Paradise. They took some time to process the order, time we spent chatting with the owner, an affable gentleman named Abdul Khader. I wish I could be rude to veggie fanatics and gloat over what a thumping success the stuff was. But no, no such luck. The Biryani was just as disappointing as the Dosas had been, the Kabab better but still mediocre.

[Continued in Part III]


Nikhil Dayakar said...

Nice writeup Abhik !
Awaiting part III

Abhik Majumdar said...

Thanks for the comment, Nikhil! Have finished writing most of Part III. It's a big one, that's where I encounter Mysore's legendary Hotel Original Mylari. Easily the best dosas I've had, bar none. Say, perhaps we should organise a dosa-catching expedition soon!