Location: Goldfinch Hotel, Near Shivananda Circle, Seshadripuram, Bangalore
Cuisine: Coastal cuisine from places along India's Konkan coast (West Coast). A good mix of Maharashtra, Goa, Mangalore, Kerala cuisines.
Price Range: Rs 2000 for two (approx)
The term 'Sana-di-ge' stands for 'ceremonial brass lamp' in the Tulu language and should not be confused with 'sandige' which are a kind of mini poppadums that are popular in Mangalore.
Last month, while we vacationed in Mangalore, we decided to make a quick trip to Bangalore. The hubby and I hadn't been there in years and it was a great way to show our kids around the city which was home to both of us when we kickstarted our careers. One of the perks of being in the garden city was that my friend and I were invited to lunch at this lovely coastal restaurant, an offer we simply couldn't refuse. Being Mangalorean foodies we enjoyed the time we spent at a place that was done up so tastefully keeping in mind the West Coast of India, especially Mangalore of the yesteryears.
The landscape along the path leading to the restaurant had statues depicting the rural life of the Coast - a hopeful fisherman casting a net over the water, a sari clad lady holding pots of water, a farmer holding his plough, perhaps heading towards the field and a fisherwoman squatting behind a basketful of fish ready to bargain prices with viable customers. Every statue told a story and one could silently let their imagination sail on, pretty much like I did.
What caught my attention was that the wooden doorway was designed to keep traditional Mangalorean homes in mind. The interiors too were simply beautiful with pillars made from Mangalorean red stone. The entrance was adorned by an aquarium accompanied by a fresh fish display counter and the whole dining area had been divided into two to make room for diners according to their seating preference.
While beautiful artifacts including traditional copper cookware adorn the walls on one corner, there is an appam counter strategically placed behind a faux fireplace to provide some live cooking action and fresh and piping hot appams. The Non AC seating area enjoys natural light from the ceiling making it super bright and cheerful.
Sana-di-ge offers a wide range of drinks that are categorized under 'coolers', 'beverages', 'mocktails' and 'cocktails'. While some quirky ones like the 'At Panambur Beach' (a mix of khus syrup, crushed ginger, fresh ginger, fresh chilli all blitzed together with sprite and soda) instantly caught my attention, I stuck to something more delightful called the 'Thenginkai Rasa' a lovely concoction of tender coconut water, Sprite, fresh ginger and honey that perked up my tastebuds in a heartbeat. It arrived in a copper mug with a tiny umbrella stirrer. My friend tried the Soul Kadhi which is not a Mangalorean drink as mentioned on the menu but is a very popular along the Western Coast especially Maharashtra, Goa and the coast along Northern Karnataka. Sol Kadhi is a thirst quencher made of Kokum (botanically known as Garcinia Indica, a red, sour fruit belonging to the mangosteen family) and buttermilk and can seriously refresh your senses especially if you have spent a lot of time in the sun.
The menu is pretty impressive and exhaustive with a wide range of categories that do justice to both the vegetarian and non vegetarian palate. As a complimentary starter to the meal we were served an hors d'oeuvre of fried poppadums or fritters made of rice and onion batter that is sun dried for days before being deep fried. The 'Sandigey' as they are called in the local languages of Mangalore arrived in a cute little wooden bullock cart.
We being die hard 'seafoodies' decided to try out the Prawn Ghee Roast, a delicious dish with prawns coated in a fiery red masala. I can never tire myself of the ghee roast preparation and hence enjoyed the prawns thoroughly. The portion size was decent too.
The Mutton Pepper Fry that arrived in quick succession was perhaps the star of the afternoon. The fiery pepper marinade had permeated through the meat so well and the meat cooked to perfection that it simply melted in our mouths. We shamelessly went for second and third helpings despite the fact that the gastronomic array of delicacies in front of us was already making us burst at the seams.
Since I wanted to try out something in chicken, we were recommended the Chicken Chilly Fry which in my opinion tasted a lot like a South Indian take on Indo-Chinese food, a food culture that is very prevalent in Mangalore. We love to include a chicken or pork chilly fry in our celebratory menu to excite our taste buds so this dish won some brownie points with me.
While we pondered over the veg category for starters we came across the Kaju Sanadige which piqued our interest enough to order it. To our surprise, what arrived was a bowl of whole cashewnuts roasted with slivers of copra (dried coconut) and seasoned with curry leaves and red and green chillies fried to a crisp, a distant cousin of the chivda I would say. This in my opinion would be a great accompaniment to hard drinks, more like a 'chakna' and is not much of a vegetarian meal starter. It was tasty nevertheless.
For the main course we opted for the Sanadige Basket that had some typical Mangalorean rice breads handpicked for us. From Sanna (rice cakes made of fermented batter) to Moode (idli batter steamed in tubular screw pine/kewra/pandan leaf moulds) to Pundi (rice dumplings) to Neer Dosa (plain rice crepes) to Appam (frilly pancakes made of fermented batter) this basket promised to delight the lover of all things nice and made of rice (which is me!). The appam was made to order, fresh from the counter behind the faux fireplace and was a delight to watch.
While the Mutton Stew paired well with the appams, the Kane Ghassi (Ladyfish Curry), a coconut based spicy curry was very impressive and was swiftly and eagerly mopped up with the Moode and Neer Dosa. The show stopper though was the unassuming Drumstick Pulimunchi that I totally underestimated. Drumsticks cooked in a delicious fiery, tangy gravy base was simply spectacular. Drumsticks are a personal favourite so I quite liked this dish. While Puli Munchi (which means tamarind and chilli in Tulu and roughly translates to a 'hot and sour' preparation) is usually synonymous with fish curries made with mackerels or sardines, the drumstick version was new to me but didn't fail to impress!
By the time the desserts arrived we could barely breathe. It was impossible not to gorge on all that delicious food and still have place for more, but since we love food as much as we love ourselves we decided to please our palates one last time. The Elneer Payasam was served pretty as a picture in a faux tender coconut shell with a steel container nestled firmly inside. It was a delicious, liquidy and light pudding made of tender coconut and coconut milk. The Ragi Manni, a typically wobbly pudding that takes the shape of the container it has been set in is made of whole ragi (finger millet) ground to extract milk which is then slow cooked along with jaggery till a glutinous consistency is achieved. It is then poured in moulds and cooled until set. These two super delicious desserts brought a sweet end to a massive coastal fare.
Since Mangalorean cuisine is so close to my heart I was more than happy to do a review and was quite satisfied with the whole experience of dining at Sana-Di-Ge. The place is as beautiful as its name and the decor truly upholds the culture of Mangalore. Some paintings that decorate the walls are lovely. A couple of them depict South Kanara's favourite seasonal sport, a buffalo race called the Kambala which usually takes place in waterlogged paddy fields.
Sana-Di-Ge is the kind of a place I would recommend to people who are not familiar with the cuisine of the West Coast of India. I am sure they would truly take delight in the variety on the menu and not to forget, the decor.
Full Disclosure: My friend and I were invited to try out the food at Sana-Di-Ge, Goldfinch Hotel, Bangalore. The meal was complimentary. All opinions expressed above are my own.