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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anti Dentite

One of the significant challenges the market of dentistry faces is 'fear of pain'. Customers, surprisingly enough, don't want to pay money in order for them to experience incredible pain. They really don't want to fix an appointment to experience mind-numbing pain. This has led to severe erosion of revenues in this dull and rather smelly market.

Although dentists failed to become real doctors that they actually set out to become when they were in high school, they do have some reactionary ability. So now you see dentists giving you various options on how to reduce pain completely. This is their effort to prevent customers from running away.

It is not altogether surprising to note that they've changed the syllabus in the dentistry course. They now have a course called "How to avoid being a poor dentist". Controlling this "fear factor" must be the third lesson after precious old gems such as, "you need to clean your teeth professionally" and "you need your wisdom tooth removed, otherwise it will lead to abscess".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NYSE:C

Reminds me of a situation where the greatest Indian economist ever - Goundamani - was given "bedhi marundhu" type TARP funding by institutional investor Sendhil instead of Common Stock type "badam paal". Goundamani, after the Nth visit to the federal council bathroom, would come out saying "aiyaaa.... ammaaa... thaaaanga mudiyalaiyappa"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A.R.Rahman

From 5:32 Wonder Balloon in DD, as a side act to Rocket Ramanathan & Vivek, to the Oscar awards center stage alongside names like Peter Gabriel - it has been an incredible journey. Growing up in the 90s A.R.R and Sachin Tendulkar were synonymous with youth and the new found liberation. This certainly wasn't his best work by any stretch of imagination. But it is testimony to all the joy and the new sounds he has given us over the years. He changed the way music was done in India. In an Oscars that was as predictable as the days of the week, he was nominated for a movie that was cruel and conflicting to a die-hard fan of ARR. However, all that aside, the heart swelled in love as he said "ella pugazhum iraivanukke". What a truly great moment!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Slumdog Recursion

Story of a begging-mafia that made a lot of money by having young children enact "poverty porn" to shock the white man - was made into a movie that pretty much did the same thing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

T.E Srinivasan

Came across an interesting passage in Michael Atherton's autobiography - Opening Up - on the first league cricket team he played for - Wodehouses;

T.E Srinivasan, a swashbuckling batsman from Madras, also played for us. He was everything that Wettimuny was not - wild, aggressive, and totaly unorthodox. He was a stalwart for Tamil Nadu, in India, for many years and went on to play one test and two one-day internationals for his country. Many years later I asked Sunil Gavaskar about him and he told me he would have played much more had it not been for his low-caste status.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Pink Chaddi Campaign

In colleges and grad school parties, you often meet these guys who have too much hair gel, wear clothes that shine, and who dance like medieval maniacs to bhangra music. Over time it becomes easy to stereo type these guys as mindless, tasteless, bhangra dancing people who are only fit to work as clerks in a 7-11 store. They are especially a nuisance while watching cricket matches (or playing cricket) as they know of no other analysis outside of shouting "chuck da phatte" or "c'mon sachin" at odd times. The absence of creativity in them is directly proportional the bulge of their bank balance and shine in their gaudy bracelets. Imagine what would happen if they were required to do something intelligent.
That brings us to the point. The reasonably publicized campaign to send some political outfit in Karnataka pink chaddi's (to protest against that party's recent pub attack) is the stupidest campaign I have ever seen in recent memory. Among all protests done in the post-cave man era, this should be considered the least creative and most idiotic. It can only be created by these bhangra type chics whose only purpose in life is to fail 8th standard at least once, join some useless sociology type course in an arts college, dance to silly music, pay hefty dowry and marry a guy who owns a cloth shop. It is hard to understand what these pink chaddis indicate and what the general public or this political party should understand from this gesture. I am actually afraid to hear their explanation on what this all means.
Somehow it feels as if this political party and the stupid "Loose & Forward Pub going women" deserve each other.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to either love or sex. It is this "*.day" thing that is patently stupid. People who are opposed to the whole "Day" thing (from stupid "Valentine's" to a much stupider "Friendship" thingie) must be disappointed that a party trying to ape PMK has hijacked the anti-day cause for a religious/political purpose. This stupid party has ruined the anti-Day efforts by isolating Valentine's day from the rest. What about Mother's/Father's/Frienedship & Athimber day? Should they remain because they don't conflict "Indian moral traditional values"? This isolation has ensured that any semblance of intellignce in our society is sure to dissappear. Thanks to the Loose & Forward Pub going idiots, this party has shot to prominence. Their prospects of wining the next election must be very high. People who vote will not remember (or even be aware of) the "Chaddi" campaign. This "bhangra" type youth have no vote and will not vote even if they had a chance. The sex-starved people who vote (especially those in the IT sector) should clearly be in favor of Muthalaik. The math is simple.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Ultimate Snack

Mix some 'Pori' (Sort of Fried Rice) + 'Kadalai' (Fried Ground nuts) in plate and keep it before a person. You can bet that within a few minutes his/her hands will automatically move in the direction of the plate and grab a handful. Eating this mixture is an involuntary action. There is a good chance that the person will later deny eating a mouthful. There is something about this combination that magnetically draws your hand to reach out for it. Such is the allure of this ancient and wonderful snack

It is hard to say how the ancient man found this combination. Maybe they were frying rice and then ground-nut, one after the other. And this combination happened fortuitously. Sort of a fickle twist by nature to gift mankind such a rare combination. It is the most ideal snack for watching a cricket match (or a tennis match). Even more ideal if you are with a group of people "racaunteering" old tales. Some day this magical combination will take over the entire world. People in the west will condemn Nachos and Cheese and start taking Pori & kadalai into cinema theaters and football games.