A narrow flight of stairs leads up off Koramangala 10th Main to what is the most improbable of places for a Chinese restaurant, tucked away as it is between large compounds with even larger houses. “Hornbill Café is actually a restaurant, and has the name because when we started, we just had a few snacks and tea,” says Kaihe, the co–owner of the place.
A few years ago, Kaihe and his shy cousin Ashihe John set up Hornbill Café, named after the State bird of Nagaland, where they are from. John, who studied hotel management, has always had a culinary bent, and initially picked up several recipes from his mother, who he cites as his inspiration.
Short and sweet
John has chosen to keep the menu limited to what he can deliver best within the constraints of time and price — all his dishes are in the range of Rs. 30 and Rs. 150. The good thing is that he doesn’t scrimp on the vegetables and meat in your fried rice and noodles.
Unlike in many other Chinese restaurants, you won’t find the overpowering taste of MSG here; John claims to use a secret ingredient instead. The ‘Hornbill special noodles’ and ‘Hornbill special fried rice’ are probably the most interesting items here — they bring together Chinese flavours and essentially European vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage to produces dishes that do justice to the colourful bird they are named after.
The manchow soup is also a combination of a number of ingredients that go well together, and unlike its popular adaptations, is not irritatingly tangy. Non-vegetarians should definitely try the pepper pork, which is delicately spiced with finely-chopped ginger, coriander and the perfect amount of pepper, which doesn’t leave one gasping for air.
The time it will take for your food to arrive should give you enough time to take in the canvas paintings on the walls artist depicting the hilly Naga countryside, thrown into focus by the restaurant’s simple ambience.