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37, 6th Block, 100ft Road, Koramangala, Bangalore 34
Meal for two: Rs 350
With arterial MG Road taken over by the Metro project, yuppie Koramangala has a hip new eatery around every corner, serving everything from gongura maamsam to sushi to oxtail soup. Dalma—its ‘East Indian’ tag is misleading, it focuses on Oriya food—is a bit of a misfit here, its sprawling interiors more reminiscent of a highway Udipi than a haute cuisine outlet. Basic chairs and four-seater tables, ill-trained waitstaff and jumbled-up menus further accentuate the amateurish air.
But let the food arrive, and you’ll be thinking unassuming, not uninspired. Dalma sticks to its core competency, stripped of all frills: the food is honest, down to earth and mostly very good. We avoid the thalis (veg, mutton, chicken, crab, fish, starting from Rs 72) and order rice (Rs 30), the eponymous dalma (Rs 30), saaga (greens and potatoes, Rs 40), dahi baigana (eggplant in a yogurt curry, Rs 40) and a fish curry (Rs 80). Portions are strictly one-person, so the two of us need another serving of rice and a chanka tarkari, a mixed vegetable curry. The moong dal dalma, dressed up with veggies, is excellent. The dahi baigana is overpowered by the roasted jeera powder, making it resemble a dahi vada, and the fish is over-fried and tough. But the chanka tarkari has deep undertones of paanchphoran and, like the kheeri, a jaggery-sweetened rice payasam, is delicious.
It helps if you have a passing acquaintance with eastern Indian food—don’t expect much assistance from the waitstaff—but if you want to roll up your sleeves, dig in with your fingers and be pleasantly surprised by the bill, Dalma is the place to go.