In preparation for a Sunday fix of Andhra thali and biriyani, this writer starves on the morning before lunch; then builds character standing under the sweltering sun outside an ‘Andhra meals’ establishment; then promptly loses said character in sly – and almost always vain – attempts to cut the line and is banished to the back of the queue, staring longingly into the entrance at Bheema’s or Nagarjuna.
For the next few weeks, before you start to traipse in, we’re hoping to skip the routine and head to our new find, Andhra Ruchulu in JP Nagar. In this small nondescript restaurant, we have found everything we need: slightly tacky furniture, suited stewards, bow-tied waiters and the magical ‘masala stand’ with four containers filled with pickle, gongura, chutney podi and fried chilies.
Small & Medium Andhra-prises
We double down and order all of lunch in one shot, as is the unspoken law of all ‘meals-ready’ places. Beginnings are auspicious: a young banana leaf is placed in front of us and like the dance of the seven veils, the ceremony of the thali begins. First, there is a rainbow of small bowls featuring a drumstick sambar, tangy rasam, buttermilk, curd and papad. Next comes the deft apportioning of coconut-peanut chutney, a leafy pappu or dal, and usli with urad dal. Then the grand entrance: a shower of white rice in a generous heap of white rice, topped with a dollop of shining ghee. Hello, belly dance.
Beginnings are auspicious: a young banana leaf is placed in front of us and like the dance of the seven veils, the ceremony of the thali begins.
Utterly spoilt by Bangalore’s pretty solid tradition of Andhra meals, this is more inspiring in print than in person, we confess. The meal is a vapid affair, perhaps meant to cater to those who want the comfort of an unexciting mid-day meal every day rather than a special something. Even a shot of the gongura, with its dark sparkle, doesn’t help transform the thali. What does do the job is the server’s recommendation of a plate of tender, peppery ‘mutton dry,’ so good it encourages us to bring on round two of the rice and ghee.
While we’re filling ourselves to bursting, chicken biryani arrives at the table with a side of the day’s special, “Amaravathi” chicken. This, happily, is where Andhra Ruchulu wins big points. The long grains of the biriyani are well-separated and delicately spiced; a whiff of its aroma has us reeling with joy. There’s no excessive heat to aid its scary southern reputation, either. For that, there’s Amaravathi’s chicken, hunks of meat cooked in a tomato chilli marinade and salted, among other things, by our tears. We’re satisfied at last – after all, for an outsider, the key to a good Andhra lunch is that it must make you cry.
Our waiters, quick to see our struggle, bring us a sizeable portion of Nizami gajjar ka halwa that works its magic with adequate ghee and sugar: just the cool-down we need. We head back with takeaways of the biryani and a mild sorrow that we’re giving up this sort-of secret in a review. When our next craving for biryani strikes, we’re heading here. If you could just let us to the front of the line?
Getting there: 1319, 100 Feet Road, Phase 2, JP Nagar, 08049653035. A meal for two including a thali costs approximately Rs 1100. Thalis are served for lunch and dinner.
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