What would be your reaction if I told you that there was a place in Delhi, where you can eat fresh and authentic Mangalorean style seafood? While the authenticity bit can be claimed by many others, but is it fresh? As I walked into Sana-di-ge, their manager tells me that try to bring the first catch of the day to their patrons in Delhi, which sets it apart from all the other establishments in Delhi. I nodded in disbelief, but my friend and a professional from the food industry confirmed this. Honestly, if a place serves fresh seafood in the landlocked city of Delhi, they deserve a round of applause just for the effort for staying true to their customers.
Sana-di-ge, means lamp in Tulu. Tulu is the language of the Tulu community which is spread over parts of Karnataka. The restaurant in Delhi, is a first of its kind in North India (third after Bangalore and Mangalore) which brings Mangalorean cuisine straight to the heart of the capital from the coasts of Karnataka. Mangalorean cuisine is an umbrella term given to the food of various Mangalorean communities and includes Udipi cuisine as well.
My only compass to judge the authenticity of the food was my experience and experiments with Malabari Cuisine. Though the dishes, flavours and cooking style differs immensely, being a Delhiite I did not have much background to go by, except that it should please my taste buds.
We were greeted with a kokum drink which had a beautiful pink hue. After gulping down this cool refreshing drink we headed for the first course. For the starters we had Mushroom Pepper Fry, Anjal (Kingfish) Tawa Fry, Chicken Ghee Roast, Prawn Butter Pepper Garlic and Mamsa (Mutton) Pepper Fry. Each dish had its distinct flavour which sets it apart from each other. What stood out most was the semi-dry masala coated chicken which was mildly spicy but had very rustic and earthy flavours. The prawns were crunchy and buttery garnished with green onion. Had I been alone I would have licked the last drop of that gorgeous butter curry off my plate.
Along with the starters I was offered two of their best mocktails, the summery melon and the virgin mojito. The summery melon is a cool watermelon based drink, which is a blast of tropical flavour with no added sugar! The virgin mojito is a twist on the classic mojito. They have very carefully replaced the soda/limca which is mostly used, with coconut water. Its healthy, tasty and very unique!!
For the main course I tasted five different curries with two different types of appam and a thin rice dosa.
- Vegetable Stew: The vegetable stew had long sliced vegetables in coconut milk curry. The vegetables were cooked just to leave them crunchy enough, while the curry had a sweet hint of cinnamon. Without a doubt this is the best stew I had ever had.
- Goan Fish Curry: This was a goan style fish curry prepared with Anjal (Kingfish). it had the nutty flavour of coconut oil and was absolutely balanced in terms of spices.
- Chemmeen Ularthiyathu: This was the prawn preparation with baby onions. I helped myself with a second serving of this one, which very well explains my emotions for this dish!
- Mangalorean Mutton Curry: The mutton pieces were bite sized juicy and tender. The curry was mild in terms of spices which were very distinct from the regular north indian spices.
- Kori Kundapuri: And finally there was the chicken curry, which is made with lots of special Kundapur Masala and love. The use of ghee brings out the flavours in a manner I could never imagine. The chicken was so tender that the meat was slipping from the bones.
For dessert I had their famous Payasam, which our server very confidently said was the best in town. I guess he was being humble. I would rate it as the best one I have ever had, despite all my travels to various cities in India (North and South) and eating all types of food!
It was served in a coconut like bowl with a lid. The presentation itself was very imaginative. Inside was the cool payasam which was a perfect balance of sweetness along with coconut and nuts. But the best part about the payasam was the fresh coconut malai. The texture was smooth and had no grains of the lentils/rice which usually forms the base.
The elaborate meal, the service and the ambience (well-lit interiors with no noise or disturbance of loud music) makes Sana-di-ge a perfect fine dining in the heart of Delhi. I will be bold enough to say that their’s isn’t a “fine dining” restaurant but a “finest dining” experience!