Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mathura Restaurant (Tarapore Towers)

As far back as I can remember, Mathura is the first restaurant that I visited, which had (a) forks (b) Chairs with cushions on it and (c) A/c. Forks are queer things to get introduced to. They have no value whatsoever in the world of Indian foods. That too in the 80s - with no clue on how to use them or understand why they were there in the first place, I kept making eating gestures in the air with those forks (imagining myself to be David Frost having breakfast prior to a Guinness Records show presentation). In the late 80s it was the only restaurant a middle-class family could visit, pay Rs. 87 for four people and come back with a feeling of having eaten in a high class place. A huge jump from the Rs 27 that such families paid at Drive-in but worth it nevertheless. The first time I visited Mathura - some part of Tarapore towers was still under construction - and the 2 decade long (spanning close to a thousand visits) association has continued. I have been meaning to write about Mathura ever since I started this blog. With the recent visit still fresh in my mind, now is a good time as any. So let me start with what I consider(ed) to be the best restaurant in Madras.

Starters: "Best" can have so many connotations. So let us not digress and simply condemn that word as "his opinion". The first thing about Mathura is the wait. It isn't that bad nowadays. But in the 90s, the head-waiter would take down your name and usher you into their huge balcony overlooking mount road. Sometimes a trip to Mathura is worth for the time spent waiting in that terrace-like balcony. A place like that in mount road is simply unimaginable. Once you get a seat, the first thing that strikes you is their interior design. Especially the glass-like pillars and lighting. Now it isn't a big thing but many years ago it was really cool. Tomato soup in Mathura is always special. It has a life of its own. It tickles every part of your food pipe before going down. I've never ordered any other soup there so have no clue how they taste. I don't know what balance they strike to get the soup so right. But that kind of soup, I've only ever had in Panagal-park Hot Chips. Masala Pappad, Spring rolls, and Gobhi 65 are other starters that are very tasty here. Many people sing praises of HSB's sambhar vadai. However, one has to concede that Mathura is equal if not better than HSB in this category. Both have taken the art of putting 'optimum' quantity of jaggery in Sambhar to a scientific precision. It is disgusting when some over do the jaggery.

N. Indian Food: Mathura's strength is its variety/taste of North Indian food inspite of Mathura being a S. Indian restaurant. While it is besides-the-point, they do have non-Indian food that is very good. NRI type people sampling the non-Indian food - beware! What is out there is the Indianized version of pastas and augratins. Don't expect the authentic (whatever that means) versions of these items. These items are tasty stand-alone. Period. However, Mathura's strength, as I said before, lies in making the regular S/I Indian food tasty. Although they do have a lot of exotic items in their menu, that is not the reason why people go there. My favorite among their breads are; Masala Kulcha and Aloo Paratha. They do have all the usual breads. There is only so much you can do to spoil the breads. Among the 'special' type breads - Kashmiri Naan is always preferred by people who like Mathura.

They have about 30 side-dishes for these breads. Some of them fall under the category called "Esoteric Dishes". That is how their Menu Card classifies them. Baron's "Word List" jokes apart - esoteric it is, as only a chosen few find it awesome. Vegetable Imperial in this category is my favorite dish. The waiter always warns that it is not spicy but sweet (they do this for every 'sweet' based side-dish). It is a milk based dish and so throws off most people. However, I recommend people try it at least once before condemning it. Their Navarathna Kurma used to be good, once upon a time. Nowadays the Navarathan has increased and Kurma is nowhere to be seen. Most of the other regular dishes, they hit the nail on the head. I wish they reduced the size of their paneers in paneer butter masala. It is almost as if they wrote Paneer is font size 120, butter in font size 30 and masala in size 2. Where is the masala dude?

South Indian: Just eat their Paper Masala Dosai. It speaks for itself. I would rate them as better than HSB in every dosai category. As it has been mentioned repeatedly, Mathura's sambhar has to be tasted for one to believe its awesomeness. Note: 'Raayars Mess' type old people will always pick a fight on this issue.

Rice Varieties: Their simple vegetable biryani is tasty, filling, and more than adequate for one "normal" person. The thing about Mathura is their consistency. All their rice varieties Fried Rice, Mixed Rice etc are so good. I have always baulked at the Kashmiri Rice varities, which has so many nuts, fruits and other such gaudy things. I have heard from people who have eaten this that Mathura is really good at this rice. So if you are that type then hey..

Dessert: Basundhi. I'll leave it at that.

Disclaimer: There is a popular opinion, not without merit, that the quality here is decreasing. While many called me back and said they liked the recommendation, a few came back deflated and underwhelmed. I'll leave it to the reader to judge that.

25 comments:

rads said...

The name is so familiar, but I am finding it very hard to place it. Nice review, and really, pshaw@quality and such statements.

Somewhere along the way, you have got to write without the audience in mind rt? :-)

venkiraja said...

Still have they got any competition for the ultimate HSB 14 idli? Plus, HSB's service is first-class, undoubtedly the best middle-class place I'd been served.

Mambalam Mani said...

I know Tarapore towers. Thats the building that shows the temperatures. Feels good to know the official confirmation that you are frying while walking on Mount Road

Anonymous said...

Do you remember Nagaas near Good Shepard School. We used to go there all the time. Food and interiors were both great there and quite affordable too. Also, I used to frequent Hotel Blue Diamond ("Jewelbox Restaurant")on Poonamalle High Road near Sangam theatre. It was good for Non-veg.

Gradwolf said...

Mathura is a very very good place. I have never heard negative reviews about it. I've gone there a hundred times. The only reason anyone wouldn't go there is that they only went there last month, the month before that and so on.

Another much underrated, frequented place is Palimar near Anna flyover.

@venkiraja:

HSP is not a middle class place. 70 bucks for an effing ghee roast. Everything else there is awesome, I agree.

Gradwolf said...

HSB*

Extra-Ordinarily Ordinary said...

Hawkeye,

Mathura was one helluva restaurant. But sadly, I don't it think it exists anymore - at least in the glory we have been used to. I always loved the northie stuff there too.... The last time i visited the old sweaty, I tried to visit that place and ended up having food at Gyaan Vaishnav :(

Maald said...

For those not ready to turn LOOSE

Mothers Against 'Loosers'

http://maald.wordpress.com/

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Weird, I was just thinking about this place the other day, for absolutely no reason (haven't seen it in some 6 years). I ate there in 2003.

Amrutha said...

I so totally get it! Brings back so many childhood memories... :-)

Anonymous said...

I've been to this place just once - a college farewell or some such - and don't remember anything about the food, but the husband talks fondly of this restaurant. Must visit it the next time we are in Old Sweaty (to use E-O O's sobriquet).

Mamatha

Alan Smithee said...

Have you seen idiots who eat rice with fork? Why not eat with the spoon? Or for that matter, if you can eat chinese food with chopsticks, why not eat Indian food with hand?

sreekrishnanv said...

As long as you stick to S/I and selected N/I it is good. Channa Batura was good then.

I think Mathura - as you mentioned is the first restaurant where i saw Fork and Spoon. Importantly, the FingerBowl as well.

I think they still have a decent ambience, food quality and profit may be (i find it occupied whenever i go !)

Anonymous said...

jaggery in sambar? in tamil nadu? comeon!

Babs said...

Oh man..u have made me nostalgic now...the first time i visited was when my sis got into Medic school, and she threw big party for friends and family...we were 40 ppl....laughing and cracking jokes all the while....
Then it became a religious place for our clan (OPS)..dont ask what clan, etc....u probably know our community

Bharath Sattanathan said...

How can you forget the huge electronic display of temperature and time. That used to be my favorite if I recollect.

It used to be Alankar/Devi cinema and Tarapore towers dinner. Sadly both don't exist today!

FS

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. It was and still is a place for a special occasion. As Sreekrishnan has pointed out, no post on Mathura is complete without a mention about their finger bowls. It was also the first place where I came across an usherer. Love the food and the ambience.

http://slowelectron.blogspot.com/

Anu Russell said...

Damn damn damn! I am uber nostalgic now!!!! All the things u said and all the places the others mentioned bring back ore the fond feelings!!! Cha...idha ellam dhan miss panren naan apart from other reasons...

In the 90's my friend and I would go there to eat the malai kofta, paneer butte masala and naan...ayoooooooo mouth watering experience...

Very bad job...first thing in the morning i am reading about food and salivating...idhu seri illa hawk! not fair!

Karthick Prabu said...

(un)fortunately I am on diet from today. After reading this post I feel like eating one full plate of Veg briyani, Aalo Paratha followed by Basundhi :)

nrimaami said...

I used to love the French Onion soup at Mathura... My friend introduced me to the place, and every other birthday treat was given at Mathura.

Anonymous said...

Mathura was in Anand Theatre complex for some part of time as well correct? Or was it some other Mathura? After Mathura there was an "Srilekha intercontinental" restaurant IIRC.

SnS

Pradeep Kumar said...

Your posts makes me feel I should be in Chennai now. The nakkal panradhu, kevala padutharadhu,asingama comment adikaradhu and related stuff does not exist much in other cities or cultures. Really miss those. The set of friends (which is usually the 12th standard gang or Engg college hostel gang) one gets is also one of the purest/most genuine. Have'nt made many friends after that whom I can chat with for hours together.

Nostalgic. :(

Hawkeye said...

rads,

:-). Its bang opposite to cosmo.

venkiraja,

Mathura's service is as good as HSB. And I think HSB is as expensive if not more than Mathura. It used to be much less expensive once upon a time but now now.

mani,

adhe adhe.

anon,

yup. know nagas.

gradwolf,

i was surprised when a few people came back and said 'no way'. because it was usually a reliable recommendation.

palimar is not the same after its re-modelling. now it looks less posh and more cheap.


LKS,

it does exist. ate there recently. but i hear ya!

sirensongs,

its got the effect on people. makes them think about it at arbit moments.

amrutha,

:-). exactly mathura has that 'old grandpa' effect on you.


mamatha,

again go in with low expectations. you CSE folks had a farewell :-). for some reason I didnt think so.

alan,

'kai'ye thunai thamizhanukku.

sreekrishna,

i forgot to mention the finger bowl. how could I?

anon,

adhisiyam anaal unmai

babs,

same here. entire family, sub family, distant family has now begun to use mathura for occasions.


bharath,

mathura exists. nothing has changed. i ate there recently. only alankar gone away.

anon,

amaam i apologize for missing finger bowl.

anu,

with the image fresh in my mind.. i am salivating every morning. what to do - karma!

KP,

it feels like i am permenantly on diet but i want to eat the same too :-(

nrimaami,

yes same here. every bday, wedding day, monday sunday, anyday was an occasion to go to mathura.

never ventured beyond tomato soup though. very focussed.

Sns,

maybe it was another mathura. enakku therinja mathura idhu dhaan.

pradeep,

/* The set of friends (which is usually the 12th standard gang or Engg college hostel gang) one gets is also one of the purest/most genuine. Have'nt made many friends after that whom I can chat with for hours together */

very true. cant speak totally frankly to anyone else. vesham podanum. especially in bschool.

AV said...

I remember running about the glowing room as a kid in the late eighties...the chandelbras and wood interiors were unique then. NO other place in Chennai was such a treat to eat at.

When I was a kid i din't try any other soup but tomato at Mauthura, but Mathura's french onion soup, which i discovered in my teens, wins hands down. The best cream based soup in the whole wide world, and I have had soup in many parts of it :)

And the Veg. Imperial - is the yummiest concoction any chef could come up with. Is the gravy made of cashews, almonds or just flour, butter and milk? I have been trying to find out the recipe, but no waiter nor host at Mathura reveals any detail about the recipe. It's like their state secret :(

King Vishy said...

My friends Kaushik and KP have often quoted you in our discussions abt blogs.. But this is the first time I landed here..

Firstly: I have gone to Mathura only once: a few months back, one of my best friends from school had come back to Chennai for a short break. We were meeting after long, and wanted to go to a place with good ambience to have a nice hearty meal. He suggested Mathura and we went there.

The moment we seated ourselves and had a look around, my friend himself admitted "Saary ba.. Today the ambience is like Ranganathan Street" :D Found it so damn crowded!!! dunno abt the food though - i am bad at tastes..

BTW can totally relate to your comment on B-school life - vesham podanum.. Soooo true!! To my arms, comrade! :D