If you are looking for the coastal cuisine of the West coast of India on one single plate, then Sana-di-ge is where you should set sail.
Sana-di-ge which means a ceremonial brass lamp in the Tulu language, is situated on the ground floor of the Goldfinch hotel and apart from being accessible via the main lobby, it also has its own exclusive entrance at the end of a little path lined on either side with depictions of coastal and rural scenes.
A statue of a fisherman with his nets, a fishmonger with her basket of fish, a farmer with his plough and a lady with pots of water, usher us in on our culinary cruise through coasts of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
The outer section is separated from an inner dining space by a wooden doorway flanked by typical Mangalorean red stone. Coastal and rural themes rule the décor of the outer part and traditional ambience is maintained with carefully chosen artifacts and olden day cooking implements and utensils that line the walls along with some antique kitchen equipment lying on red oxide platforms bordering the stone tiled flooring.
In one corner of the room, are old fashioned wooden stairways leading one to a private dining perch on the mezzanine level.
Charming glass jars hanging from the ceiling, playing the role of lamp shades and multi hued bottles bestow the façade on the well stocked bar that stands at the far end.
A faux fireplace hides the live appam counter and a tall brass lamp (the Sana-di-ge), stands sentinel beside it.
My friend and I were delighted to be invited to lunch and being Mangaloreans, we needed no prompting to accept a meal that was close to our palate and heart. The menu as I have mentioned, pretty much covers a large part of the West coast but we were keen to try out what we were familiar with and hence we anchored our plates close to our own native beach and tried not to stray too far away.
The bar has interesting cocktails with even more interesting names that tempt you to try out the drinks laced with Indian condiments but we Mangaloreans are naturally high on life and so we stayed with the non alcoholic beverages
Thenginkai rassa with tender coconut water blitzed with sprite, crushed ginger and honey, came in a copper mug and was delightfully refreshing and so was the bottle of Punar Puli, the deep red kokum juice which is one of my favorite drinks. The Sol Kadi however, which is again Kokum juice blended with coconut milk, failed to touch the Soul since it could have done with a little more tang.
We were served Sandigey (which are fryums of sorts and not to be confused with Sana-di-ge) in a gorgeous miniature wooden bullock cart which we had to restrain ourselves from stealing
Being seafood lovers, we needed no bait to get us to have the Prawn ghee roast. The sight of absolutely fresh prawns lying languidly in their intensely red ghee laden masala, was enough to make anyone emotional Needless to say that fingers were licked guiltlessly, for Ghee does play a smooth role in lubricating pricking consciences.
The Chicken chilli fry was spicy enough for our taste buds and was nicely done. I am not a fan of chicken so I turned my attention to the mutton pepper fry, with its dark, pepper coated cubes of mouth meltingly tender mutton. This was easily one of the best items and one should not miss ordering it here. We also ordered the kaju sanadige from the vegetarian starters but only so that the vegetarian menu would not feel left out This is basically fried cashewnuts with slices of coconut sprinkled with crushed pepper. More of a ‘chakna’ or something to have with a drink and less of a starter as we define it. However, this was our idea of vegetarian and we are sticking with it
In our defence, the Pathrade was not available, being a seasonal item.
At the main course, one can choose the Sanadige basket which is a convenient mix of most of their rice breads like Moode, Neer dosa, Pundi and what they called Mangalorean appam (but actually termed Polo in Mangalore). These go well with most of the curries and we Ladies opted for the Lady fish dish called Kane Gassi which is a mild, coconut based curry, which was of perfect flavor and texture.
The appam lover in me could not resist the ones being freshly made at the live counter, mere inches away. Stew and appam go hand in hand or plate in plate and we decided to try the mutton version. This stew was a different from what we have been used to, being a bit thinner in consistency and rather crowded with a distracting number of chopped onions and I must say that I preferred our own regular version with thick coconut milk and fewer sliced onions. The mutton though, was faultless and cooked well like all their other meats.
We were urged to try the vegetarian Drumstick pulimunchi (meaning tamarind and chillies) which is a tangy, spicy curry usually made with non veg. This version was brilliant though and we were quite impressed with the outcome.
Dessert choices are pretty comprehensive and I Neerly’Yelled in joy on spotting my favorite Yellaneer payasam and Ragi Manni !!! The former is a chilled sweet made from blended tender coconut and coconut milk and served here in an artificial tender coconut shell. Ragi manni is a delicious and healthy jelly, made by slow cooking finger millet milk and coconut … again !!! Yes that explains the nuttiness in me.
Call me partial but these Vegan desserts are sure to please every palate.
Service is attentive and the waiters clad in the traditional white Mundu (a garment worn around the waist), are eager to guide you through the meal.
The menu is vast and one will need several visits to be able to complete this voyage !!! Platters and Thalis are available for those who prefer such combinations. Prices are on the higher side but the catch is fresh and the Net result will be a satisfactory one (excuse that final shot at a pun).
For more pictures see My Facebook – Sana-di-ge
July 7th, 2016