Monday, April 19, 2010

Kudle Beach, Sunset Cafe and Old L.A. Pizzeria: Gokarna Part II

The cool bit about Gokarana is that you can trek across to the various beaches and each has lovely beaches and good food to offer. Of course, the weather and inherent laziness ensured that we didn't go beyond Kudle. While we stayed at Namaste Cafe on Om Beach, we ended up spending most of our time at Kudle. There is a tried and tested, easy and infinitely shorter path to get from Om to Kudle (just take the steps at the entrance of Om and keep going). Of course, if you are feeling adventurous and are up for some physical exercise, you can
take a small, battered lane from Om Beach that disappears into the hillock. You will reach Kudle through a longer but more picturesque route. This route will also take you through a cool shack perched on top of a cliff which has a stunning view. This shack is available for stay and looked infinitely funky. Unfortunately for us, we had already fixed our acco. if any of you do try this place, let me know how it is. If you are feeling super lazy you can take the boat to Kudle (around Rs. 200) but the trek is infinitely funner.

Once you get to Kudle, you will know that all the trekking has been worth it.
The beach is gorgeous and a lovely sapphire blue (the sort that you only see in promotional photos of Mauritius). The sea is also really shallow, so you can paddle out fairly far without going under. There are no lifeguards around, so be careful (there are, however, many able bodied Baywatchesque young men on the beach who may be willing to swim to your rescue). It's also one of the few places in India where foreigners outnumber the locals.
We spent much time frolicking in the beach and having a total & complete blast (At one point Ghatotkach and I enacted operative parts of a masaledar Bollywood movie).

Even if you don't feel like getting into the water (why you wouldn't is beyond me), there are loads of beach sports you can play. There are a number of shack cafes where you can get
chilled beer, awesome food, and quietly read your book. One such place is the Sunset Cafe where they serve some decent sizzlers. The Chicken Sizzler here is pretty good, though it could do with a little more salt and spice. The Kalamari Sizzler was very bleh. Not bad, not good it just was :( The veggie pasta was pretty decent and not a bad option if you don't feel like a sizzler. Ghatotkach and I also ordered the Chocolate Grapes in Rum Sauce. Only when the dish was brought to the table did we realize that what that meant was Chocolate Crepes in Rum Sauce. This involved very little chocolate and lots and lots of rum. Needless to say, we were very very happy at the end of the meal (there was that much rum in it). We spent a good part of the afternoon lounging there, playing card games, truth or dare and engaging in much silliness. We also ordered the chocolate
pudding at some point: Avoid it.

The other place that we hung out at as was the Old L.A. Pizzeria. As the name suggests they serve some wonderful wood fire pizzas. We tried the Olive, Mushhroom, Cheese (and tons of other toppings that I can't remember right now) Pizza and it was yumm. It was quite big (enough for two) and just Rs. 85. We also had the noodle soup there which was rather tasty and filling. The momos were nice as was the prawn dish that A ordered. We also ordered loads of juice to cool us down and that was pretty decent. This was another establishment where we spent the entire afternoon playing exciting games and laughing about a million things. We also encountered many cats, dogs and cute baby that scared the cat away.

If you can, avoid Dolphin Cafe on Om Beach. The veggie and non veggie food at
this place was quite bleh (except for the prawn fried rice which was surprisingly good). We also made the monumental mistake of ordering a Banana Parota here. This basically consisted of bad batter fried and stuffed with squishy, spoilt bananas. While we couldn't stomach this, the cow (yes, you read right: A Cow) that we fed the offering to seemed to quite enjoy it. For the non bovines, Dolphin Cafe gets a thumbs down. A meal shouldn't cost you more than Rs. 150 at any place (and a big meal at that).

Little Piece of Trivia: I recently discovered that 10kms from Gokarna is the Hegde Village from which all Hegdes (from 'bad joke' spouting to tea giving: all of them) originate. Apparently, some king in the 13th century put them all in this village.

P.S: A small request to all Indian men, please do NOT enter the sea in your banian and underwear. Invest in a pair of trunks or swimming shorts. They are not at all expensive and are much appreciated by others at the beach. Traumatic visions of middle aged Indian men frolicking in their unmentionable still haunt us!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breakfasting at Namaste Cafe: Gokarana Part I

Due to the self imposed embargo on eating out, I'm going to post some reviews that have been long due. At the very beginning of the trimester Chunnilal, Ghatotkach, A and I decided to visit Gokarna and see what all the fuss was about. 10 hours later we knew why everyone couldn't stop talking about this place: lovely beaches, unbelievable food and some very good looking people. The beach is also very safe and we were incredibly comfortable there. So if you are of the letchy variety, please don't go there and spoil it for the rest of us.

The truly awesome bit about Gokarna (apart from the blue blue beaches) is the food there. International cuisine at very cheap prices, I died and went to heaven. We were
staying at Namaste Cafe (one of the few places with attached bathrooms in Goks) and the breakfast here is great. On the first day, I ordered the Israeli breakfast (Rs.100). Order this only if you are feeling really hungry. This consists of a huge pita bread, hummus sauce, hashbrown, falafel, israeli salad, egg of choice and juice. That is a LOT. I loved the pita bread and sauce, though there was too much of it and I couldn't finish. I wish the hashbrown had been hotter. It was rather cold by the time it got to my plate and not so appetizing. The falafel was nicely done as were the eggs. It was not the best breakfast I've ever had but it was pretty decent. Ghatotkach and A ordered the famed Nutella Pancakes (Rs.70). I know a lot of people are not going to agree with this but I don't think the pancakes were all that great. The pancake was a little undercooked and little raw at places. The nutella was undoubtedly yummy. They also ordered the Cheese and Mushroom Omlette which I thought was very nice. The omlette was fluffy and the flavour really good.

The next day, I ordered the Banana Pancakes (Rs. 50) which were very good though I still think the pancake could have been cooked a little bit more. Ask them for honey, which th
ey provide on request (in generous quantities) and add this liberally to the pancake. Yummmmmy! Chunnilal ordered the Special Breakfast which was the highlight of breakfast. Salad, Egg of Chocie, Toast, Hashbrown, Juice and something else that I can't remember. She requested veggies instead of the hashbrown and they served some of the nicest grilled potatoes I've ever had. The scrambled eggs were wonderful and it was one of the few times that I thought the toast deserved mention. The others ordered omlettes which were very tasty. We also tried the Lemon Mango Lassi which was surprisingly good.

The place has a wonderful view of Om Beach and you will find many people enjoying a leisurely breakfast, reading a book and just soaking in the atmosphere. There are lots of interesting people around, so if you are a people watcher there is plenty of fodder. Wildlife is aplenty in most Gokarna establishments so there is no getting away from the dogs and the cats :( Namaste is a great place to stay at and eat (the acco is a tad expensive), but don't spend all your time there. There are LOADS of other awesome place in Gokarana. More on that later.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ratna Cafe

A few weeks back, I decided to go on a road trip with the family (and what a character building experience that was!). Of course, visiting another city always means new places for my blog. As a part of this pursuit I dragged Johnny along, early in the morning to visit Ratna Cafe (After a traumatic beach walk where we were chased by a 'Cujo'esque dog). Ratna Cafe is a small little South Indian breakfast and tiffin joint with branches in Triplicane and T Nagar. The ambiance is nothing great but the food rumouredly is. Its recent popularity has ensured more crowds and higher prices.

I ordered the uttappam (Rs.26, I think) and Johnny ordered a plate of idli (Rs.21). The idlis were HUGE. Quite different from the ones in Bangalore. I don't think they were the softest or nicest but they were pretty decent. But what you must watch out for is
their superlative sambar. Thick, tasty and slightly spicy: it was totally yummy. It's only when you taste that, that you can discern the difference between the Kannada sambar and the Tamil Sambar. The former always has a bit of jaggery in it, slightly sweet and angry red in colour. The latter is thicker and spicier. The uttappam I had was quite good. They doused it liberally with molga podi and I loved the spice in the dish. Of course, team this with the sambar (actually, team anything with the sambar) and it's quite heavenly. We also packed a plate of poori-sagu (Rs.30) but if you visit this place, I recommend that you try something with the sambar. Everything else is more or less normal fare that you can obtain at a gazillion outlets across South India.

Unfortunately, they didn't have anything sweet so I ordered a coffee instead. There are very few places that go wrong with filter coffee in Madras and Ratna Cafe isn't one of them.
Strong and hot filter coffee might not be the best option to beat the heat but it sure does wake you up. (Incidentally, this is the only 'dish' that we got a photo off since we were so hungry we just pounced on the rest.)

Service is efficient and fast like most of these idli-vada places. I do think the place is a tad pricey. Rs21 for a plate of idlis (no matter how big) seems a little high. But I suppose such things are inevitable when an establishment becomes famous. While the original branch is in Triplicane, I visited the one in T-Nagar and this review stands only for that branch.

Location: Venkatanarayana Road, Next to TTD Devasthanam, T Nagar
Pricing: A meal for two here shouldn't cost you more than Rs.100 (at most)