If you’re stranded in Bangalore, you won’t go hungry. This southern city is rapidly becoming the wealthy, cosmopolitan face of India (even if the infrastructure and road system struggle to cope) and is blessed with scores of decent restaurants as a result, from swanky gourmet venues to trendy holes-in-the-wall. Its upwardly-mobile population is also adept at sniffing out good food and value�something that makes many restaurateurs use Bangalore as a testing ground for new concepts.
One such prototype is Infini-tea, tel: (9180) 5114 8810, a restaurant-cum-tea room marketed as the first of its kind in India. Gaurav Saria, the chef-patron, belongs to a family that owns several tea estates in Darjeeling. His mission is to cleanse the palate of a country used to thick, milky, spiced chai�hence a menu that includes ginger tea, white tea (brewed from the youngest tea leaves), and organic Nilgiri, Darjeeling and Assam teas, all served in white china, with an hourglass to measure brewing time. Reasonably priced European fare�quiches, bruschetta, pastas and such�is offered for lunch and dinner. Tibetan momo-dumplings and Thai noodles add some Asian pep.
At the other end of the price spectrum is Jamavar at the Leela Palace Hotel (theleela.com). The flagship restaurant of the Leela hotel group is opulently designed with chandeliers and exquisite Jamavar shawls. The focus is on North Indian and tandoori items, and thankfully most dishes follow traditional recipes, without any fusion deviations. Kebabs and koftas are beautifully done, the spiced lobster neerulli (that is, made with onions) is a specialty, and the biriyanis are outstanding.
When in Bangalore you have to try a dosa or an idli, the breakfast staples of southern Indians. Dosas are thin crepes made with a rice-and-lentil batter. The same batter is used to make steamed white dumplings called idlis. Both are served with coconut chutney and spicy sambhar (lentil gruel). Most of the restaurants specializing in these dishes are spartan but clean, and a really satisfying meal can be had for a song. The standouts include the Mavalli Tiffin Room, tel: (91 80) 2222 0022, a Bangalore institution, and Dosa Stop, tel: (91 80) 2526 6467. The latter’s specialty is a mighty “Family Dosa” that takes up the entire table. The brainchild of a couple who quit their IT jobs for the restaurant business, Dosa Stop is a bright and breezy eatery modeled after American fast-food chains�and in its combination of ultramodern d�cor and traditional Indian cooking, there is something quintessentially Bangalore. For a taste of modern India, start here.