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NEW LOOK, refreshing taste

The success of a restaurant depends on its masala dosa, believe those who run Konark. But there's much more here

VEGETARIANS USUALLY get a raw deal when they venture to eat out. They are confined to eat spring rolls and vegetarian noodles at Chinese restaurants, thindi or south Indian oota at Udupi hotels, and a very limited range at the more expensive joints. Konark, the landmark vegetarian restaurant on Residency Road which opened in 1985, not only underwent a facelift, but overhauled its menu as well, earlier this year. It now sports a coffee-shop look with air-conditioned interiors designed by Studio One of Hyderabad: paintings on the walls, wood and steel chairs, strategic lighting, music for easy listening, leather-bound menu, paper napkins in sleek metal holders, snazzy salt, and pepper shakers.

Old and new

Konark has something old, something new, to attract new customers and retain its old faithful. A stream of customers pour in steadily from 8 a.m. to 10.30 p.m., and while office-goers (including software and corporate executives) dominate the first half of the day, families come in the evening and night, as well as on weekends, from far-flung corners of the City. Roughly 600 to 800 people eat here daily, with a spurt on weekends.

Dosa is one of the highlights of breakfast, and there's a special "dosa of the day" on offer, such as the butter masala dosa, vegetable spring dosa, open dosa and so on. "The success of a restaurant depends on its masala dosa," says Ram Murthy, Managing Director and Executive Partner. He explains that of all the items on a menu, it is the masala dosa that cuts across all ages, classes and professions.

No less than 250 dosas are made daily, and they are available all day, except between noon and 3.30 p.m., when lunch is served.

While the restaurant seats 96 on the ground floor, it throws open its first floor to cater for the lunchtime rush (this 1600 sq.ft. space is hired out in the evenings for birthday parties, weddings, naming ceremonies and other functions). You can have the typical South-Indian meal for Rs. 50 or the Konark Special for Rs. 75. Those in a hurry can grab that quick bite from the separate self-service outlet outside, which dishes out anna-sambar, rave idli, poori-bhaji, and other south Indian fast food items. Here, you get them for lesser.

Jain style

One of Konark's specialties is its choice of dishes cooked Jain-style, that is, minus garlic and onions, which suits not only Jain palates, but those with conservative tastes as well. Among chaats (available from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.), for instance, the Jain Pav Bhaji is a big hit. Mr. Murthy has employed four experienced cooks: one for chaat, one for south Indian, and two for north Indian.

"No artificial colours, preservatives, or essences are used," Mr. Murthy points out. "And the spices are freshly ground." Therefore, much to one's relief, fingers don't take on yellow and orange hues, and none of the sweets contain the horrible taste of chemical essence.

There are 85 varieties of north Indian curries to choose from, if you're going for the rotis, naans, and parathas. A popular starter here is the vegetable cola (!) (Rs. 65 for a plate of five pieces), which has vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower, mixed with paneer, shaped into balls, deep fried and served with mint and coriander chutney and tomato sauce. Many customers are getting health conscious and high-protein baby corn dishes are popular among them.

Methi rotis are made "just like at home", with fresh leaves mixed into the dough. They go well with the Konark special curry (Rs. 70), which has a gravy base with mushroom, vegetables, and cheese.

The dessert menu is vast. Fresh cakes and pastries are supplied by Konark's sister concern, Surya Bakery on Mission Road. (There are 60 to 70 kinds that you can place orders for, for birthdays and other anniversaries and occasions.)

Dazzling range

The ice-cream range is dazzling. The Earthquake. Let us take a moment to list the ingredients: pista, mango, chocolate and butterscotch ice-cream with green pineapple sauce, mango pulp, chocolate, and butterscotch sauce. Wait, there's more. It comes with fruit salad comprising black grapes and other fruit, raisins, nuts, almonds, and black currant ice-cream with cream, topped with cherry and wafers. All for a mere Rs. 55.

Traditional sweets are a must-try, from Mysore pak to basundi to wonderfully soft-centred crumbly gulab jamun in light sugar syrup.

A couple can dine here heartily for Rs. 150, says Mr. Murthy. His father-in-law, Naramballi Krishnamurthy, is the founder of Konark and Surya. A Dakshina Kannada man who comes from a family of Udupi hotel owners, he started Swati and Sudha restaurants in Hyderabad in '68.

Konark can be contacted on 22240865 or 51248812.


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