My blog might be replete with posts of eating out at fancy places but trust me that’s restricted to once or twice a week. The rest of the times (ok, I do eat out a lot) are confined to no-frills places with simple but satisfying meals. A restaurant that sees me going back a couple of times every month, ever since I moved to Koramangala, is the Odiya restaurant called Dalma. I was first introduced to the secrets of this place by an Odiya colleague who insisted I try their absolutely scrumptious Rasagullas. After listening to (in length) the story of how the rosagulla actually originated in Odisha and how the Bengali’s usurped this sweet, made it whiter and more spongy and popularized it as their own, I was more than intrigued to taste the original one. And so one fine day, a couple of years ago I stepped into the building at the Titan Eye signal that declares in bold red font – Dalma, tasteful Odishan cuisine.
Orissa and West Bengal are located next to each other on the map and people might find quite a few similarities in the cuisine of these two states. But similarities does not mean they are identical and you will create the biggest verbal battle if you even imply that to a Bengali or an Odiya. However since I’m not either and this is an independent blog, I can tell you that they both like to deep fry stuff, they both call cutlets or croquettes – chop, they both love rice more than rotis, they both adore fish and mutton over other meats and they both like a little bit of sweet in all their dishes and of course they both love their rasagullas!
Don’t be put off by the rundown building, or the slightly derelict interiors. The crowds that throng this place, day and night are a fair indication of its popularity and authenticity. Besides, I always think slightly lived in places have so much more character than ones with snazzy, spotless interiors! There are two clearly demarcated sections – Non AC and AC/Family hall. Clearly the AC section is more popular not because they keep the AC on, but because it is cleaner and well lit! The menu is divided into Starters, Main course and Dessert. They offer a decent vegetarian selection but the non-vegetarian are going to be thrilled to find Chicken, Mutton, Fish, Prawn and Crab delicacies listed! Over three years I’ve tried quite a few things on the menu but will focus on what I ate in my last outing to give you a feel of the cuisine.
I generally order the Prawn Pakoda (Rs. 85) or the Chicken Pakoda (Rs. 75) as a starter. Both are generally coated in a light chilli spice mix and batter fried. I especially recommend the Prawn Pakoda which offers 6 pieces of succulent golden fried medium prawns. This time however, I choose to go with their Baigan Talla (Rs.50). Thick slices of Aubergine, coated with red chilli powder and then batter fried like a bajji. They serve it with ketchup but I strongly suggest you resist the temptation to bastardize it.
Keep an eye on the hand written board at the entrance, for an idea of the day’s special. Pomfret Masala Fry rings special bells in my head and I just HAD to get it. I was really skeptical of the size of the fish, but the waiter in his broken English and Hindi-Oriya assured me it would be bigger than my hand. My hand is fairly small, but it’s still a reasonable size for a pomfret costing 200 bucks! The fish came deep fried to a fiery red crisp but retained a plump juicy interior. The casually scattered onion rings, tomato slices and coriander provided the necessary drama. Ask him for a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the fish – it definitely makes it special.
I generally eschew the main courses and order the Thali with a few sides, but Arv is partial to the Mutton Kara (Rs.190) here. Very similar to the Bengali Kosha Mangsho (I said SIMILAR), it is a dark, thick and rich masala coated lamb to be eaten with hot Luchhi (Puri) or steamed rice. I personally enjoy it with the Puri, but pretty much can’t eat anything for the next two meals – it’s that heavy! The portion size is reasonable for a single person maincourse with rice, but if you are going to share, definitely get another starter/ maincourse.
Coming to my standard order at Dalma – their Veg Thali. At Rs.95 it is an unbeatably wholesome and homely meal. The items in the Thali vary on a day to day basis, but the kind of dishes remain the same. You will always have a portion of steamed rice, a dry vegetable, a greens stir fry, a vegetable curry, a chatni (sweet chutney), the Dalma (dal) and finally a payesh (sweet). Dalma, after which the restaurant is named is a comfort food for the Oriyas. The lentils are cooked along with various vegetables in season (notably pumpkin, brinjal, squash, potato) and seasoned with Panch potona (five-spice mix from Orissa), hing and dry red chilies. If there ever was a one-pot meal, this would be it. You can also order the Mutton/ Prawn/ Crab Thali (Rs.190) or the Chicken/ Fish Thali (Rs.150) and make a quick meal out of it on a busy day.
Another popular Thali with the Oriyas at Dalma, is the Pakhala Thali (Rs.130). Instead of the steamed rice, you get a big bowl of rice fermented in buttermilk, flavored with cumin and mint leaves. Apparently eating Pakhala, prevents heatstroke and I can imagine it garnering favour in the 40°C heat of Orissa.
The restaurant has a whole list of sweet treats available to finish the meal. Most of it finds it roots in Chhena (ricotta like cheese). You will always have the Chenna Poda (Rs.30) available and pretty much recommended as a must try by the waiters. I however find it insanely rich and choose instead to eat their sublime Rosagullas (Rs.10 for small, Rs.20 for big). They make a fresh batch everyday and if you walk in for lunch you will still find them warm. They are soft, spongy and have just the right amount of sweetness to them. They might not be florescent white like your Bengali rosagullas but the taste is so much more luxurious. Sigh…there have been days I have strolled into Dalma just to polish off a few and head back home in sugary bliss.
Dalma makes you feel like you are having a home cooked meal. At Rs.60, their weekday mini thalis are an excellent option for office goer’s vis-à-vis the food court meals. And for those days where nothing but dal and rice will cut it, but even making that seems like a tedious affair – you always have your friendly neighborhood restaurant serving ‘Tasteful Odishan cuisine’.
37, 100ft Road, (after Titan Eye near the Signal)
6thBlock, Koramangala, Bangalore – 34.
Ph: +91 80 41660921
Timings: Lunch 12:00 – 4:00 PM and Dinner 7:30 – 11:30 PM
Cost: Rs. 500 for a meal for two.
Parking: Some space for bikes and for one car.