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Utupura – Kerala on a Plate

Last night, Vidya and I dined at the new kid on Hyderabad’s Kerala block, Utupura.

We had heard about the place from many different people, and the reviews had been uniformly good. To me, most Kerala places are good, since they serve porotta and beef roast. The real test is whether it would stand up to Vidya’s vegetarian scrutiny. We were hopeful on that front too, as one of the glowing reports was from a vegetarian friend.

Finding the place was not too difficult, nor was it easy. The closest description of where it is located is “in the lane opposite Rainbow hospital, on Road no. 10, Banjara Hills, just before it hits the City Center junction.” However, it turned out to be in the lane just before. So, a more accurate description of the lane would be as almost, but not quite, opposite Rainbow hospital.

The restaurant is really a converted house – it is on the first floor, reached by a spiral staircase. Once you are inside, the cane furniture and smell of appams take you right to the southwest. We were greeted by Jagadish, the friendly maitre’d from Alappuzha, who was delighted to find that Vidya could speak Malayalam. The menu, titled Trial Menu, was not very extensive – it had maybe thirty items in all – but it had the most extensive fish menu I’ve seen in any Hyderabad restaurant. They had karimeen, pearl spot, mackerel, seer fish, anchovies and sardines. The last two are typically Keralan, called nethily and mathi, and I have yet to see them on any other Hyderabad restaurant menu.

The menu also included beef fry and roast, discreetly called meat fry and roast, in deference, I am guessing, to people’s religious sentiments! All the staples of Kerala cuisine were represented – appam, porotta and puttu.

I cannot but talk a bit about the porotta here. The Keralan porotta (also called barota in Tamilnadu) bears very little resemblance to its North Indian cousin, the paratha. The basic difference is that while the paratha is layered horizontally, the porotta is layered spirally, making it both soft and crisp at the same time. Of course, it contains way more oil than is healthy for any two people put together, but that’s what makes it so tasty! This, in combination with the Syrian beef curry is definitely on the table of my culinary heaven.

Coming back to Earth, and zooming in to Utupura, Vidya started off with a couple of appams and egg curry, while I had a couple of porottas and appams along with beef roast and an omelet. The appams were soft and sweet, while the porottas were crisp, but could have been fresher – they had clearly been made earlier and reheated. The beef roast was delicious, strongly spiced and spicy to boot, while the omelet was typically oil-dripping and delicious. (Of course, it cannot hold a candle to the one conjured up by the cooks at Chennai’s Nair Mess, but that is another story for another day). Vidya found the egg curry disappointing – “Sweetish,” she said dismissively when asked.

For seconds, Vidya had puttu and kadala curry, another typically Kerala combination. While she did not particularly fancy the puttu (“Lumpy”), the kadala curry scored a lot of extra points to redeem the combination. For my part, I had a plate of fried anchovies, the nethily of Kerala fame (though Jagadish called it netholy). The fish was really fresh and tasty, spiced well and not at all oily for something deep-fried. Vidya topped everything off with a ‘chaaya’ – Malayalam for tea, while I washed my meal down with a Sprite.

At the end of the day, the operative question that determines a restaurant’s success, “Would you go back?” has varying answers. While I would go back any day (the beef and fish keep beckoning!) Vidya is more careful with the answer, and says she will go back for the Onam sadhya (the traditional many-splendoured spread that is the pinnacle of Keralan cuisine that happens once a year), but will not return otherwise till the vegetarian menu is expanded.

We had a good dinner, and Jagdish’s friendliness and service had a lot to do with it. If you are not a vegetarian, the place is a definite must-visit.

Vital statistics:

Utupura Kerala Restaurant,
Eden Gardens,
Road No. 10, Banjara Hills,
Tel.:2335 2719
Mobile: 9885919498

5 thoughts to “Utupura – Kerala on a Plate”

  1. My husband and I went to this restaurant just yesterday and had a hellish experience, from which we are still recovering today-We ordered the porotta, chicken roast, idiyappam, anchovy fry. This took more than 20 minutes to arrive, and when it did, the porotta was so undercooked it was nothing more than maida slapped onto a tava and taken off in a hurry, so raw it was, that we sent it back to be fried again, only to get it after another 15 minutes with nothing more than a few brown spots on it to show that it had been plastered on a tava for a few seconds-then why did it take them 15 minutes to give it back? The chicken roast was overspiced, undercooked, the gravy was almost raw and burnt our throats off! The anchovies could not have been more than about 15 lil’ morsels on a plate, which cost Rs. 70! The maitre’d, to whom we had complained about the chicken roast in the first two minutes itself, took the chicken gravy back only after repeated requests, and obviously we thought he was taking it back and would return it after proper cooking, but even after I finished my meal (with just the chicken piece, no gravy) the gravy did not make its appearance from the kitchen….Inspite of this, they charged us the full amount on the chicken and in fact, took about another 15 minutes to return the change on the bill, presumably after arguing with the cashier/manager about whether or not to charge us for the chicken! The service was apathetic, slow, the food was absolutely horrible….I pity the people who go there expecting that they will get authentic Kerala cuisine..obviously they don’t know they are being duped!!!

  2. There is a new cook in this place and dishes have become more tastier than ever. Also over the period their service quality/response time has improved. They are planning to expand/upgrade the place in the near future.

    Give it a try now and you are really going to like it.

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