While south-Indian food is available everywhere, Tamilian South-Indian food in Bangalore is not that easy to locate. There are a couple of chains such as A2B (Adyar Anand Bhavan) and some outlets of Madurai Idly, and a fine-dine restaurant here and there. However, there are no well known joints apart from these, only some small hidden gems here and there that are discovered serendipitously by those seeking Chennai flavours in their idlis, dosai and sambhar. The Chennai Express is one such Tamil joint serving soft idlis, flavourful sambhar, thin dosais and other dishes like koota and Vadakari that are more popular in Tamil households.
Twelve years of working in different IT MNCs didn’t make his college dream of opening a food joint hazy. With relentless passion on his side, Srividya Sagar decided to call it quits at his corporate career and deep-dived into the world of starting up a food joint in April 2015. He pulled in five partners, one of whom has deep experience in the food business, and launched The Chennai Express, with the aim of providing home-style Tamil food to Indira Nagar residents and office-goers.
A mild-mannered, polite gentleman, Srividya has learnt the ropes of the trade by being present at the outlet from 5 AM to 12 PM. ‘From when the cooks come in to when the cleaners leave’, he says. Quality is his focus – he is willing to do what it takes to ensure that the food is fresh and nutritious at all times. His passion and love for serving the best to customers is evident, as he describes the difference between the lunch sambhar and the tiffin sambhar (the latter being thicker because it has pureed pumpkin, drumsticks and coconut). He knows everything there is to know about running the outlet successfully and tells me how the learning curve has been especially steep on employee retention.
Srividya has perfected age-old family recipes to ensure that the idlys are as soft as butter and the vadas as crispy and light as they should be. The sambhar is different each day, being made with different vegetables and the meals are complete – they include sambhar, rasam, koota, poriyal, chutney, buttermilk, pickle, papad and rice. Special items such as adai and paniyaram are served on weekends only. Vadakari is a another specialty made of powdered lentils that are streamed and crumbled to make a curry. Palak Masala Dosa, Mysore Masala Dosa, Ghee Podi Dosa, Idly with Ghee Sambhar and Tamil-style Pongal are among the fastest selling items on the menu.
The Chennai Express has its regulars, those who understand the love and care that goes behind each dish being turned out perfectly. And those who love the fact that they can get food that tastes just like what their grandmothers made back at home in Tamil Nadu.
The Chennai Express comes hugely recommended. Do stop by for a lunch sapadu or just some home-style tiffin when in Indira Nagar.