Being South Indian and living in Goa, the options of dining out on South Indian food, and vegetarian at that, are very limited. Mostly, one has to choose between the ubiquitous Udupi style restaurants that offer rather uninspiring fare, though there are a couple of pretty good South Indian restaurants in Goa that are an exception to this rule.
So when we discovered that a South Indian restaurant had recently opened its doors, we thought it worth driving 40 minutes down to Candolim to try it out. Located on the main road on the ground floor of the Zense Resort, South-I Resto Bar (the I is short for Indian) has ample seating space both outdoors and indoors. They serve a variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, from across South India. They do also serve North Indian and Non-Indian cuisine but the South Indian food is the focus of the restaurant.
South-I, run by the same people that own the Mumbai Mahesh Lunch Home, and a part of the Banana Leaf chain of restaurants from Mumbai, is not a fine dining restaurant of the “gourmet style food that’s all about visual pleasure” variety but the kind that serves affordable and tasty traditional South Indian food, sometimes with a twist. The restaurant has a lovely ambiance and you might find yourself hesitating to end your leisurely lunch. One thing I find worth mentioning is that the Chef and his staff at the restaurant are quite open to accommodating requests for special diet choices like a vegan option, no eggs, no garlic, no onion, etc if it possible.
As is my practice when invited to review a restaurant, I asked them to choose what they wanted me to try out. We started with a variety of Idlis (steamed rice and lentil cakes). We tried the Coorg Idli, the Chettinad Idli, and the Andhra Chilli Idli which all came with a green coconut chutney and Udupi style sambhar on the side. All the three dishes were basically really soft and spongy pieces of Idli coated in differently spiced cooked masalas. So the first one was enveloped in a Coorgi style cooked masala, the second in Chettiar style masala, and the third one was covered with a surprisingly not so spicy green chilli masala.
If you know South Idian food, then you know it’s not quite there without Idlis and Dosas (mildly crisp savoury rice and lentil crepes). So we were next treated to what were essentially Masala Dosas, first the Rajni Dosa and then Khanagiri Dosa. The Rajni Dosa, named in the honour of Rajnikanth, the famous and larger than life Tamil film star, was a filled with potato masala with crumbled paneer and a little cheese while the Khanagiri Dosa was filled with capsicum, cucumber and cabbage with spices. One thing I was pleasantly surprised to see being served is the Inji Puli/ Puli Inji/ Pulikatchal. This is a sweet, sour and spicy chilli and ginger chutney/ pickle which one doesn’t see very often in restaurants.
Of the options they offered for the mains, we chose the Appam (Lacey Rice Crepes from Kerala) and Vegetable Stew because though we’re from Kerala, this is something we can rarely resist whether cooked at home or in a restaurant. We were also served Idiappam (South Indian steam cooked rice vermicelli) with this.
We decided to try the Kori Roti and Curry as well because that’s something we had never eaten before. It turned out that the Kori Roti is a Mangalorean dish of thin crisp wafer like shards of rice (I was told by the Chef that Kori means crisp) normally served with a chicken curry, but for us they made a vegetarian version of it.
The Appam and the coconut milk based Vegetable Stew didn’t disappoint at all but the Idiyappam wasn’t quite up to mark as it was rather dry rather than soft and moist which is how it should have been. I didn’t quite like the Kori Roti either. I think it might have been because the Chef made us a curry with soya chunks which is something I’m not very partial to and tend to avoid if I can.
By this time we were feeling rather full, and decided to head straight for dessert much to the disappointment of the Chef and his serving staff. We had mini serves of four of their desserts – Yelneer Payasam (pudding with made with tender coconut and milk), Belle Payasam (lentils cooked in jaggery and coconut milk), Mannapuram Halwa (a pudding with semolina and saffron, I was told) and Akhrot Halwa ( a western take on an Indian halwa with walnuts and chocolate).
My personal favourite was the Yelneer Payasam with the Mannapuram Halwa a close second. We ended our lunch with some excellent South Indian Filter Coffee, and then headed home.
South-I offers a lot of the other South Indian restaurant staples including plain Idlis and Dosas, Uthappam, Medhu Vadas, Rasam, a variety of Curries, different kinds of flavoured rice, flat breads like the Malabar Paratha and Neer Dosa from the four South Indian states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and even a couple of dishes from Goa.
There’s only so much one can eat at one meal so we promised ourselves that we would visit again to try out some of the other dishes on their menu. South-I is open all day for breakfast through dinner.
Address : Zense Resort 1088, Escrea-Walddo, Opp. Novotel Shrems Hotel, Candolim Goa, India, Aguada – Siolim Rd, Goa 403515
Please note : The information in this post was current at the time of writing it, and may have changed since.
Disclaimer : This review was done on an invitation from SouthI. Due judgement has been applied and I have done my best to remain objective and unbiased while writing this review. This revie
w is my personal opinion so please exercise your own discretion.