Where, I have asked myself for the past six months or so, are you liable to get the best Puneri food in Pune?
I take, as you well know by now, food rather seriously. And it is relatively easy for me to tell you where to go for, say, good Thai food in Pune (Thai House in Khadki, or Baan Tao at the Hyatt near Kalyani Nagar).
Or good croissants in Pune, for that matter (for my money, the French Window in Koregaon Park, and Flour Works does a decent job). But when it comes to true blue, authentic Puneri fare, I have struggled a little bit.
There are some obvious candidates, of course. Direct people to Chitale for the bakarwadi, or to Appa’s for sabudana khichadi, or to Bedekar’s for their missal. But each of these are snacks, and that is the problem. If you are in the mood to thulp down an authentic Puneri lunch or dinner, where to go?
The problem is compounded if one thinks of the distinction between Maharashtrian fare and Puneri fare. Fish Curry Rice is an excellent exemplar of coastal Maharashtrian cuisine, but not of Pune per se.
Ditto for J1 – it’s great food, but Puneri fare it is not. And so your columnist has pondered on this conundrum, and racked up the miles, and for your sake, expanded his waistline a little bit – and in this column lies the answer.
A good plate of Puneri food must contain the following non-negotiables: well done chapatis (polis, really), a dry vegetable, a rassa vegetable, an amti, koshimbir, and rice (and none of the high falutin’ basmati, please).
In addition, we will nod approvingly if you also add on to our plates a nice coriander/mint based chutney, maybe a pickle, a nice vati of curd, and we wouldn’t be averse to a glass of buttermilk.
Sweets are always welcome, of course, and if you insist on piling on a helping of kadhi, well, why not. None of these items, if you truly want a Puneri meal, can be spicy. They cannot be excessively oily, although a hint of sweetness is acceptable. The amti must have notes of sourness and sweetness at the same time, and fresh green chilies in the koshimbir are par for the course.
Now, with that exacting list in mind, where to go in Pune?
I will here tell you my top three, noting that the list is not exhaustive, and that some obvious candidates do not make it to my triumvirate. That doesn’t make them bad – they just happen to not be on my list, that is all.
First, Asha Dining Hall, on Apte Road. It is by far and away the cheapest of the lot, at a 150 rupees per plate, and the chapatis tend to be a hit and miss affair – but the amti alone is worth the trip. Second, Janseva Bhojanalaya, near Garware Bridge. This is a little difficult to find, but the food is uniformly excellent. It is slightly more expensive, at 230 per, but well worth the money.
And at the top of my list lies Krishna Dining Hall, off Law College Road. The most expensive, at 330 per, but every single item is worth savoring, and repeatedly.
There might be people, I know, who will bay at the moon for I having missed Durvankur and Shreyas – and I feel guilty about the first of these.
It deserves to be included, I agree. Shreyas, I am sad to report, is not what it once was, and can be safely skipped.
But if you happen to have people visiting from out of town (and who can resist the charms of this, the most beautiful of all cities in India?), and they happen to ask you to take them to an authentic Puneri lunch – look no further, and pick one of these three.
Or head over yourself for lunch to one of these places. And if you happen to see a slightly plump, mostly bald individual with a beatific smile on his visage, drop by to say hello, won’t you?
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime