Earning the best Benne Masala Dosa in Bengaluru – Central Tiffin Rooms (Shri Sagar)
Good food is always a foodie’s dream come true. And if it is also tasty to the core, all the more merrier. What better way than to talk about Bengaluru’s myriad restaurants that serve the one most admired dish that every Bengalurean has no qualms eating at any time of the day or night – Crispy Masala Dosa !!
When it comes to serving the most tastiest Dosa, there are three restaurants that come to the mind for any true blue Bengalurean – CTR (Central Tiffin Rooms or Shri Sagar), Janata Hotel and Vidyarthi Bhavan. One can most comfortably say that Amma’s dosas are only next best to these restaurants!
Of these three restaurants CTR surely has everyone drooling for its most famous butter dosas or Benne Dosas. And eating one there is never an easy exercise. Maybe easier for the real Namma Bengluru guys living in West Bengaluru – but for the so called “IT Posh Crowd” on the eastern boundaries of this city – these great dosas need to be earned.
It means getting up very early in the morning, commuting a great deal, reaching a place, jostling to stand in the queue and go through an excrutiating wait to get the dosas that melt in your mouth with that heavenly taste. For people living on Outer Ring Road towards the IT side of the city in places like Koramangala or HSR Layout – the easiest way to reach Malleswaram is to either hire a cab or auto and get straight there.
However the nearest metro station is either Indiranagar or Jayanagar/Banashankari. For the former there is a change over from Purple Line to Green Line at Majestic station and for the latter it is just one train straight to Malleswaram station. The best part about this station is that it also has a direct entry into Mantri mall from the station itself. Now beat that !
If you are in the mood to test out the metro be warned that on weekend mornings the trains are crowded with people going to Majestic to catch outbound trains to other cities. So jostling around the crowds within the trains are the norm. It takes about an hour or more to reach Malleswaram after which it is a walk from the Metro to Margosa Road – CTR.
The restaturant itself is very small. The benches are really small which have of late been a bit remodelled to accomodate people to sit properly. That however does not spare your meal from being overlooked and discussed about by the standing queue of wishing to be dosa eaters right behind you. The madness starts as soon as you enter the restaurant in trying to find a place to secure to stand (not sit yet) in order to secure the place to sit next. Once you slot yourself into position the next obvious thing to do is keep staring at the guy eating on the table in anticipation that the fifth dosa he ordered would be the last for that day so you could get that prized place on the table.
If you are the one seated on the table be prepared for loads of comments from people standing besides you which may seem intimidating for you. They would keep repeating your order to the waiters even if you dont because – hang on – they just want you to eat your grub fast and get out of the table. You can find people strategizing across two tables and taking bets which one will get empty first so the losers can dart to the winning side to grab that table. Sometimes people can even step on your feet to make you feel the pain of wanting to earn your dosa there.
It is absolute chaos and for people who prefer a silent leave-me-alone-to-eat restaurant – please look elsewhere. In fact the moment you sit on your table that you managed to usurp from the outgoing king – the time bomb begins to tick – for you to be eliminated next. The trick is to keep ordering something so that your table always looks full. That is the only way to make sure you have your seat even if you are not really eating. There is also the first floor where you can sit and eat in peace but I have never even bothered to look at that as there is a bigger queue for you to even get a table there.
Having talked about the restaurant itself the only other thing left to talk about is its menu – the perfect benne dosas in particular. The fact that they do make poori’s or idlis and vadas does not matter for anyone. The dosas here are so good and the main reason people flock to this restaurant for – so much so that if you do not say what you want it is assumed that you want dosas and if you do not quote how much it is automatically assumed to be one plate. The buttery dosas are made small and crisp that it literally crunches and melts in your mouth. The accompanying Chutneys are sometimes off the mark and sometimes good so it depends on your luck.
The dosas here are worth all that travel and wait and are really sumptuous to say the least. You would definitely leave the restaurant smiling no matter what the cacophony was around you. Of course there is a parcel facility or you could stand out and eat as well if you’d like to. Much more simpler if you would ask me.
One more thing : This is perhaps one of the hotels in Bangalore where you would get this quality of dosa for a meagre Rs.25/- even in 2017. That is because the hotel is there for a tradition not for profits.
On a bit of history about this restaurant, someone by my name started it way before I was born or my father was born even – nevertheless its good to know a bit on this.
This hotel was started by Y.V. Subramanyam and brothers (Y.V. Srikanteshwaran, Y.V. Krishna Iyer and Y.V. Ramachandran) in the 1920s. They hailed from a village called Yelagondana Halli, Mulbagal taluk, Kolar district, whose residents are Ashtagrama Iyers of Tamil origin. It is recorded that during the visit by the Maharaja of Mysore, Y.V. Subramanyam supplied and served breakfast in traditional attire. They opened another hotel in Krishna Buildings, Avenue Road. This was a famous meeting place for writers and artists in the 1940s and 1950s, and its name is mentioned in many books and articles. Y.V. Ramachandran, the youngest of the brothers, was a Freedom Fighter. Subramanyam was the founder president of the Bangalore Hoteliers Association in BVK. Iyengar Road, which later became the Karnataka Hotel Owners Association. Changed circumstances in the huge joint family caused Subramanyam to sell his hotel in as is condition in the mid-1950s. It still has a vintage wall clock and rosewood furniture with Italian marble table tops. It is said the brothers passed on tips about preparations to the new owners along with advice to take care of workers by not overburdening them. It was established as Shree Sagar in 1950 by Raghavendra and the management was passed on to Ramakrishna Holla in 1952. It was bought by Sanjeeva Poojari in 1992 and was renamed Central Tiffin Room.
I am assuming your taste buds are already active and ticking. So what are you waiting for? Head over to the CTR (also known as Shri sagar) in Malleswaram and enjoy crispy dosas and some great filter coffee to go with it. And if you do get time check out Janata Hotel nearby or Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavanagudi.