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'Healthy food can be tasty too'

Leela Francis, Alok Jain | February 06, 2006

Readers continue to send us more reviews of restaurants across the country. Their favourite places to chill-out, fast-food haunts, fancy dining options -- the stories are pouring in.

Bangalore has lots to offer to adventurous foodies; we feature two radically different restaurants in this city -- one serves vegetarian north Indian cuisine, the other replicates the feel and food of those famous shacks down in Goa.

Mast Kalandar

imageWhere it is: On Bannerghata road

I would often hear my husband crib about how eating out daily played havoc with his stomach. Such statements ensured I felt guilty and miserable for some time but, after a hard day's work at the office, cooking was often the last thing on my mind. We experimented with restaurants daily, searching for the right place where we could enjoy the food without worrying about quality or our pockets.

Our search ended the day we walked into Mast Kalandar -- a vegetarian restaurant serving north Indian cuisine (essentially the entire north of the Vindhyas, not just Punjab). Though the cheerful ambience was relaxing, we were not ready to be easily impressed.

The menu was certainly different -- with names of paratha-and-rice combos like Fully Loaded Mix Veggie, Takatak Mooli, Give Me Green, Biryani with a Twist and Balle Balle Punjabi Cholle. Thankfully, nothing like the shahis and kadhais available at most other places with names that remind you of the ounces you will gain after you have them.

Having tried several restaurants and eating through the tall claims most of them make, we were cynical. No added colours or flavours, said the menu. Could a restaurant survive without food colours, we wondered.

Putting our cynicism aside, we ordered an Aam Ka Panna, a Rajasthani drink made from the juice of raw mangoes with some spices. It was refreshing, and we loved it. Next was the main course -- we wanted something green and low cal. We didn't expect the food to be tasty; when did health ever go with taste?

So my husband ordered a Give Me Green Parantha Combo without too many expectations. I decided to go for a Low Cal Palak Mushroom Corn Curry Combo served with Dal Tadka and tandoori rotis. I was sure the Green Palak Curry would bust that 'No added colours' claim.

But, surprise, surprise, it was the same colour as the palak I cooked at home!

The Dal Tadka was superb too -- just boiled dal with a jeera tadka. Simple and light. My husband added that his paratha combo was the best he had ever had.

One look at the food served at Mast Kalandar and you know it has been cooked with a lot of care. You won't see oil floating on your curries, no excess masala, no butter or ghee dripping off your parathas. It is solid proof that healthy food can be tasty too.

Finally, dessert. We ordered a traditional Gajar Ka Halwa and it is now my favourite dessert at the restaurant.

Mast Kalandar has ensured that we eat out almost daily without feeling guilty about our weight or cholesterol levels. Another thing we love about it is the price factor. The platters are a complete meal for a single person and are priced between a decent Rs 50 and Rs 80.

One last thing: The restaurant is opening branches in Kormangala and CMH road soon. Bon appetit!

-- Leela Francis is self-employed and lives in Bangalore.

The Beach

Where it is: 100 Ft Road, Indiranagar, opposite the Reebok showroom.

Phone: (080) 41261114/5

Being a 'sun, sand and beer' person, the one thing I have always longed for in Bangalore is the Goan way of life. Thank God for The Beach.

The minute you walk in, you find yourself on an artificial beach, with a lighthouse, water bodies, the feel of an ocean and other things familiar to Goa. The shack-like bar and seating options also add to the feel of, well, a beach.

The menu is essentially multi-cuisine, with an emphasis on Goan and Mediterranean food. The bar menu is vast, with varieties of cocktails and standard drinks that are all reasonably priced. The cocktails rarely go beyond Rs 200, which is a good find in Bangalore. The Long Island Iced Tea and the Mojito are great and real value for money.

image And as for the servings, they are generous. Which is what you will find the minute you pick one of the many awesome starters on offer. I always pick the Indian and Goan ones. My favourite starters are the Chicken Masala Fry and the American Cheese Balls. 

For the main course, despite the many options -- Continental, Indian or Chinese -- that all pass muster, I recommend the Goan Chicken Cafreal and the Xacuti. I have tried these dishes at almost every restaurant and shack at Goa, and The Beach matches up to the best of them. The Chicken Maskabus, a lamb-stuffed chicken sizzler is also a winner.

The prices, again, are down to earth. Starters come at a tag of Rs 110 for vegetarian fare and Rs 150 for non-vegetarian dishes. Main courses are uniformly priced across the various cuisines. All chicken dishes come at Rs 160 per dish, mutton dishes at Rs 170 and seafood at Rs 180.

This bungalow-turned-restaurant is a great place to spend an evening with family or friends. Best of all, you go home feeling as if you have just returned from a vacation.

-- Alok Jain is an online marketing consultant.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or cuisine? Or have you sampled the latest haunt on the block? Be it Manali or Kanyakumari, Kashmir or Goa, Jaipur or Nagpur -- we would love to know more about the eating out options in your village, town or city. 

Self-confessed foodies, 
recommend a restaurant. Rate the food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), ambience, service, accessibility and whether you plan to head back.

Don't forget to add the restaurant's address and phone number, along with your full name, age, the name of your city, your profession and contact details.

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