One of the best-known restaurants in the city, Karavalli is an unexpected oasis of tranquillity in the heart of Bengaluru’s commercial district. It is just a stone’s throw from the congested and gleaming thoroughfare that is Residency Road, but this restaurant still manages to evoke an older, quieter, more relaxed Bengaluru.
Inspired by a traditional Mangalorean house, Karavalli has a rustic air about it. A pebble-stoned passageway leads into a brightly-lit, thatch-covered, courtyard-like main dining area. The pale lemon walls, dark wood chairs and polished tables, and traditional artefacts make you feel you have entered a home rather than a restaurant. Outside, in the garden, are tables for those who prefer alfresco dining, while an enclosed room offers a different set of comforts.
Not only does Karavalli look exactly as it did 21 years ago, when it opened, it has managed the rare feat of serving almost the same menu all through while maintaining consistently high standards.
At Karavalli —which means ‘land by the shore’ in Kannada and Tulu — the effort is to recreate traditional dishes from the cuisines of Mangalore, Goa and Kerala. The emphasis is on home-style cooking and the aim is to prepare dishes that make the guests feel that someone’s mother or grandmother has cooked the food.
The restaurant has managed to achieve this by carefully picking its cooks (and all the important ingredients) from the regions themselves. The palm vinegar for the balchao and sorpotel come from Goa; all the coconuts come from Kundapur in Mangalore; kudampuli, a souring agent in Keralite fish curry, comes from Kerala, as does the ada (flakes of rice pancake) for the ada pradhaman (a rice-based dessert). Additionally, most of the recipes have come from housewives who also imparted additional training to the cooks. That the majority of the kitchen team has been at Karavalli from the time the restaurant opened has helped ensure a consistent quality.
With a number of stellar contenders on the menu — like kori gassi, Coorg fried chicken, Alleppey fish curry, pachakkari stew and avial — it might seem a bit difficult to choose one dish that qualifies as a standout, but that makes Karavalli all the more alluring.