To capture the cuisine of the eastern states on a single menu requires some mix of courage and folly. But here is EatWater, a modest restaurant on Lavelle Road, attempting just that. Referencing the Bengali colloquialism of ‘eating’ everything [ref: cha khabo], EatWater’s menu features food from Odisha, Mizoram, the Naga hills, Assam and Bengal.
A word on the decor, which may deter you: the dining space borders on drab when compared to posh neighbours across the street; it’s saved only by a cluster of bamboos that rustle cosily outside the window. Red brick walls frame an open kitchen and the staff hover nervously, not inspiring much confidence.
Fear not: instant consolation is to be found by swiping up mustard-aubergine dip with crisp banana chips. This delicious meeting of India’s most communist cuisines scores full points on flavour. Alas, a dash of liquor to complement these ‘touchings’ is sorely missed. We make do with a tamarind and chilli mocktail, the Krazy Imli, sweetened with dark jaggery.
Aam Pora Sarbot however, is best avoided: it’s made with roasted green mangoes, entirely out of season, and not improved with the addition of an over-enthusiastic hand of chaat powder. But stay for the dips, again. A portion of maida namkeen accompanied by mustard-and-poppy seed dip is sharp, pungent, and entirely addictive.
Bangalore weather demands that whenever possible, every meal begin with a warming soup. Mutton mince and mung lentils soup answers nicely: thick, creamy and delightfully smoky, even if you’re left playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with the mince.
If in the mood for a starter that is a little unusual, we suggest you give the “bitter and blossom” a go. Spiced banana blossoms are stuffed into bitter gourd and served with a pungent lemon-mustard sauce. Delicious and unusual, it’s the sort of dish you’d expect in the hands of a canny grandmother trying to use up all the produce in her kitchen garden.
The kukkuda sorisa, an Odishi dish of slow-cooked chicken in mustard paste, comes with a portion of perfectly cooked basmati rice. Pungent from the mustard, this is the dish to order if your sinuses are in need of clearing. For a more soothing option, prawns in coconut cream and cashew sauce is an excellent choice, fresh and richly textured -- not easy to come by in Bangalore.
These fruits de mer are far sweeter than tender coconut ice cream, which leaves much to be desired. Frothy instead of creamy, the texture is that of a nitrogen experiment gone wrong. It does get brownie points for using a generous portion of real pieces of tender coconut – always a redeeming quality to our hearts, and a reminder, once more, to hug this coastline.
Getting there: 25/5, Near Lamborghini Showroom, Lavelle Road, Bangalore. A meal for two costs Rs. 1,000.
Accessibility: A short flight of stairs leads to an elevator.
This review as contributed by Anisha Rachel Oommen, food journalist and co-founder of The Goya Journal.
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