I landed in Bangalore starved from the early morning flight and a lack of breakfast, and was greeted straightaway with something I thought was uniquely Bangalore – a branded variant of filter coffee. Hatti Kaapi even did the whole meter coffee ritual, and handed me a perfectly acceptable filter kaapi; only the double steel containers were missing. Of course, Bangalore also invented Cafe Coffee Day; that stared reproachfully at my fickleness from the other side of the parking.
Kaapi done, I discovered myself on the loose end after a friend ditched me for lunch. Given that it was going to be my sole lunch in Bangalore in a long while, I needed a touch of special. A bit of research dug up modern Indian at the Pink Poppadom, but it was dinner only. Caperberry and its molecular tapas beckoned, but I figured, do I really expect Ferran Adria to hang about Dickenson Road? I needed something Bangalore and bit of thought later I narrowed the choice to the biriyani at Nagarjuna Residency.
Its not much of an exaggeration to say that Bangalore is the centre of Andhra food (not to be confused with Hyderabadi food with its Nawabi airs). This cuisine combines Arab traders, Guntur chillies and Reddy palates into some of the spiciest food in the world; challenging most Indians and making even the average Thai sit up and take notice. For some reason Bangalore is the only major city that has Andhra food coming out of every pore while the rest of the country remains blisslessly untouched by it. There isn't a single Andhra eatery in Mumbai, and not that many even in Hyderabad. Nagarjuna, with its Andhra biriyani and thus seemed fitting.
Nostalgia aside, Nagarjuna is also one of the great biriyanis of the world. I've written about the Chennai biriyani wars and Cochin's choices, but Nagarjuna remains my favourite biriyani of its kind; short grained aromatic rice and noticeably different spicing from the dum variants further north. It comes heaped on a plate, with a raita and a kurma (a coconut based gravy) – a rich, subtle dish loaded with flavour.
Then there was Nagarjuna's Chilly Chicken where green chillies are used in the same way that lesser civilizations use onions (I counted no less than thirty in my four-inch plate); the result is a blazing fire of a dish. However, its not just fire for the sake of it; these Andhras really know how to sing while the fire is burning. For all the torture, the flavour is utterly addictive.
What would be your Bangalore onlymeal?