Over the last few years, my travelling assignments have taken me over the western coast of India spanning from Maharashtra to Kerala a number of times. And as I am habituated to savouring local food wherever I go, I used to feast on exotic coastal food. The mesmerizing flavours oozing out from the kitchens of local eateries and houses use to pull me in every now and then.
Contrary to a common belief that the coastal food is only about seafood, I found that the food all along has a lot of vegetarian options too.
And while in Delhi, I always was in the hunt for authentic coastal food from Goa, Mangalore and Kerala. There surely are a few eateries catering to coastal food, but like others, they have made changes so as to suit the north Indian palette.
The search continued, and eventually ended when we visited one day for lunch to Sana-di-ge which is located in one of Delhi’s greenest and richest neighbourhoods, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri. This coastal speciality fine dining restaurant is spread over three floors and has a gorgeously-lit terrace. True to its name and meaning – brass lamp in Tulu (one of five major Dravidian languages), we found a huge lamp right at the entrance.
Splendid ambience, diverse blend of Coastal, North Indian and Chinese Cuisine on the menu, excellent hospitality, and extreme professionalism are some of the factors that have helped them win several accolades and set the benchmark for coastal restaurants in the business.
With a seating capacity of 120 people, the open seating area has a charm of its own. The gold, brown and off-white interiors are given a classy and sublime touch, with comfy seats. “You see, the ambience of the restaurant plays a significant role in elevating the overall dining experience,” says Akshay Shetty, group general manager of hospitality at MRG Group, owners of the fine-dine restaurant brand, Sana-di-ge.
They source all their spices from the regions which the recipe has its origins from. Shetty adds that “Sourcing plays an important role in terms of serving coastal cuisine, and at Sana-di-ge we are very careful about what we serve. We get fresh seafood flown from Mumbai and also bring in ingredients like byadgi chilli (commonly known as Bedgi) from Mangalore every other day. All raw materials undergo strict quality control checks after arrival.”
Sana-di-ge has two other outlets, in Bengaluru and Mangalore and they have plans to come up with more outlets soon.
Coming to the food and drinks part, the food is served artistically over banana leaves in traditional brass thalis. Besides serving authentic coastal food, the restaurant also offers a range of cocktails and mocktails with classic twists to give them coastal flavours.
During our visit, as soon as we made ourselves comfortable, Chef Prasad Poojary joined us and briefed us about the dishes on the menu, and walked us through the spices that they use in their dishes. We started our meal with a selection of special Sana-di-ge beverages: mocktails with coastal twists– Kokum kadi, a Konkan speciality – a lovely amalgamation of coconut milk and dried kokum, and a lovely concoction called Elaneeru Shunti Nimbehannu; tender coconut water flavoured with pressed ginger and lemon juice (a Karwar speciality).
Currently, they are running the Mango Festival where they have prepared dishes which use mango as the main ingredient. So we also tried their Mavian Kesar Lassi, a refreshing blend of fresh mango and yoghurt.
Yes folks, it really is the best time to relish some exquisite mango-based coastal food, drinks and desserts at Sana-di-ge.
Continuing on, starting with starters Chef Poojary now started sending dishes to our tables. We started with a basket full of fried rice papad and a tray full of six glasses with their signature chutneys/dips – Tamarind, Coconut, Roasted bell pepper, pickle, mint and tomato.
The coastal region is where the majority of cashew nuts and coconuts grow in India, and the next dish, the Kaju Sanadige was a true representation and perfect accompaniment to munch on with our drinks. An interesting mix of fried whole cashew and dried coconut slices tossed with crushed pepper and salt imparted a new definition to both the nuts and added taste to the already tasty drinks.
We are vegetarians and knowing this chef Poojary kept on sending vegetarian starters one after the other. In quick succession, we savoured four starters including their signature Ghee Roast. They serve ghee roasts in vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian varieties. We had the Paneer Ghee Roast which was soft paneer coated with fragrant masalas, flavoured with deep red bedgi chilli, and fried in ghee. It was served with Neer Dosas (made with rice and water batter). The dosa thinned down the spiciness and added flavours to the absolutely spectacular Ghee Roast.
An absolute must-have dish at Sana-di-ge.
Then followed Varuval (deep-fried mushrooms tossed in south Indian spices), Lotus stem Kali Mirchi (deep-fried lotus stem and then tossed with black pepper, onion, and garlic), and Baby Corn Butter Pepper Garlic. Each and every starter was super delicious and after the second one, we stopped judging them and simply enjoyed the flavours as the dishes melted in our mouths.
We were served small portions only as we were here for a review, but still, by the time we were through the starters, we were quite stuffed and wanted to call it a day. But the fragrances oozing out of the main course including the famous Malabar Stew, a fresh mix of vegetables with coconut milk and curry leaves, Kerala Paratha, a multilayer pan-fried paratha made with flour and ghee, and Avial, a Kerala delicacy that is a mélange of local vegetables tossed in a paste of coconut, cumin and other spices, Mangalorean Appam, a fluffy, thick soft pancake made with fermented rice batter, Kerala Appam (a thin, bowl-shaped rice pancake), and special mango dishes from the Mango Festival menu including Mango Pulisseery, a Kerala speciality of ripe mango cooked in curd and spices, and a rice dish, Mavina Kai Chitranna, rice flavoured with raw mango, seasoned and tempered with mustard seeds and bedgi chillies forced us to dig in and finish the servings.
I was careful to still have some space in my stomach for their authentic signature dessert, Ellanneer Payasam, and also Mango Kulfi.
Ellanneer Payasam is a tender coconut pulp and cream dessert, sprinkled with pista and cardamom and is served in a Karikku, a special plastic version of tender coconut. The mango kulfi though very creamy and full of flavours was not up to the standards that Sana-di-ge has set.
Our tip: When visiting a speciality restaurant, I strongly suggest sticking to their special menu, but, here Sana-di-ge also offers a range of North Indian and Chinese food, so you might as well try some of their Paneer preparations from the North Indian offerings.
Recommendation: Paneer Ghee Roast paired with Neer Dosa, and don’t miss on Elaneer Payasam.
Verdict: A delight for coastal cuisine lovers to have one of the best coastal food experiences in Delhi without travelling to coastal destinations. Attentive staff – friendly and well-rehearsed with the menu and specialities.
Location: 22/48, Comm. Centre, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
Average Cost: INR 3,000 for two people (approx.)
Opening hours: 12 Noon to 3:30 PM, 7 PM to 11:30 PM
Our Rating: Food: 4.5 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.5 | Overall: 4.5