Friday, June 19, 2009

Madras Café

We love our Italian (more specifically, Porto Romano at Mont Kiara). And Chinese as well. You can say that we are a gluttonous family. But we do have disagreements come dinner time. With momma around, Indian food is out of the question (although she wouldn’t mind a piece of roti canai with dhal curry or thosai for supper) while dad will avoid the famous fried chicken like the plague. And they can count me out with everything durian. Pretty much dysfunctional, aren’t we? Now, pass us the quattro stagioni pizza.

There came last Sunday when momma had dinner plans.

Indian rice!

We jubilated, in Cantonese.

The initial plan was to check out Indian Kitchen at Bangsar but traffic can get really congested at dinner time. Instead, dad suggested our usual stall next to St. James Kindergarten along Jalan Ipoh, not far from the Sentul police station. As much as I love the food there, I thought we would be better off checking out a more special place since we don’t get to do this often. So, came my idea of revisiting Madras Café, which is a few hundred metres away from St. James.

Just the location itself brought back some good old memories. As kids, my friends and I would peek into the Sri Dhandayuthanapani temple right across the café, from the overhead bridge. Between the grills, we were able to an interesting variety of birds, including peacocks, housed in temple’s garden. Most of my childhood friends got their primary education from the school (of the same name) next to the temple. I was one of the rare ones to have gained admission into a missionary school. And when the first air-conditioned minimarket starting running somewhere behind the café, we would be there everyday. Just the purchase of some cheap ice cream sticks or chewing gum would make us happy. It’s the LED and beeping of the cashier machine that intrigued us more (until the day we discovered barcode scanners). I can go on and on about this place but well, let’s just focus on the café for now.

It’s one of the oldest Indian restaurants in this area. According to dad, it was a favourite lunch spot among the workers at the KTM station in Sentul. As the years progressed, the restaurant was upgraded and had even installed an air-conditioning system. The façade we see today is rather classy, with the erection of a stall selling Indian snacks and mee goreng. Somehow, the bright and loud Mathura’s (a large Indian convenience store) had silenced the presence of Madras Café.

Ask any of my Indian classmates and they’ll rave about this restaurant. The poor students that we were could only afford to dine here on special occasions. Ever hungry, our arm-length banana leaves were often topped with a mountain of white rice. And we would flood it with free flowing curried gravies. But now that we’ve started making a decent living, we can’t afford the time. Nor the occasion.

I’ve noticed changes on the night of our visit. It was quieter, as compared to a decade ago where the streets would be filled with small eateries and loud Tamil or Hindi music. Instead of locals, there are now groups of foreign workers mingling around the area.

Smilingly, the staff who attended to us offered to reheat the some of the dishes. We cook it hot-hot again, he said. Indeed, the cabbage and potato cubes looked steaming hot on our banana leaves. We started off with our favourite amuse bouche of all time, rasam. Then, small plates of pre-ordered dishes started filling up the table. They should have refried the peria and cauliflower as well because the batter was already rather soggy, despite the good taste. I should compliment the mutton varuval for its spiciness. And when served with a slight smoky taste (which I have no idea where it came from), was ambrosia personified. Wish I could say the same about the chicken varuval though. When the white rice stopped pouring, came a big splash of chicken curry to bind them all with a spicy, aromatic flavour.

They said it was a special cup of masala chai. Well, perhaps they thought that I had never tasted masala chai before. Nevertheless, it was a good cup of tea, with just the right proportion of cardamon, ginger and sugar.

On a Saturday night, it was rather empty. But business can't be bad, judging from the generously wide range of dishes on display. The café must be catering more to the lunch crowd, I guess. The meal cost us about RM28, which was more expensive that our usual banana leaf rice set. Then again, with ambiance of nothing less than of a café (complete with air-conditioning), it was worth the revisit. Think of it this way; just a plate of spaghetti carbonara will cost one more than RM10 these days.

If it's all about bonding over good food, then we had celebrated this year's Father's Day at Madras Café.

Happy Father's Day.

Madras Café
(Next to Mathura's, before turning into Jalan Kovil Hilir at the traffic light)
Jalan Ipoh
Batu 3
51200 Kuala Lumpur.


550ml jar of faith said...

Your bit about viewing birds through the grill brought me back to early readings of Indian authors... kinda like a view of a privileged outsider with private access to the backyard secrets of its wonders!! Deeee-lite!

qwazymonkey said...

Bro, this is such a wonderful post. It's a delight to be reading this first thing on a Friday morning. And trust me, your family's just as normal as any of ours. I reckoned if they were any less dysfunctional, they wouldn't be called a family now would they?


Life for Beginners said...

Next time you're in town, bro... Do take the Devil out and persuade him, coerce him, initiate him to the thrills and chilly chills of Indian cuisine?

Danke, danke in advance. :)

UnkaLeong said...

Your family is finelar. Wait till you meet mine. ROFL.. Got my parent's thinking of BLR as well, due to me going on and on about Kavitha's. Heheh..Lovely post, as usual ;)

Selba said...

Ice cream sticks or chewing gum would make you happy in the old days? Well, even until today, if someone offers me an ice cream stick or chewing gum, I will be happy ;)

I'm craving....

ck lam said...

Should you be in Penang, do try out the various Indian food around town, with some items that cannot be found elsewhere.

Xiu Long Bao said...

Double high 5 to your mum.

ladyironchef said...

"we cook it hot-hot again!" ROFL!

I didn't know you don't eat durian, me too, me too :)

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Great post! Love that pic of the masala chai with the slight froth. =)

If you do visit Indian Kitchen, try their Chicken Amritsari & Baingan Bartha (dry eggplant curry)...these are my must order when I go there.

Sugar Bean said...

Celebrated in a place which reminded you of your childhood? Nice. :) We hardly have good Indian food when we're in Malaysia. Guess we really should visit them when we're back.

ps. ice-cream sticks and bubble gums make me happy too! ^^

thenomadGourmand said...

aiyoo.. i se indian food again..and Kavitha comes into thks to someone ;)
hey, really nice way of spendin Father's over good ole simple food and good conversation yeah?

evan 이벤젤린 said...

once again i must say i totally love the last pic, the bubbles glistened like pearls. i thought it was teh tarik at 1st, so it was chai tea!

mimid3vils said...

I don't like banana leaf rice to be frank :P But interested to know what is rasam,varuval & etc~~

Jun said...

how can u not like durian!!?? *horror*

~Christine~Leng said...

My dad loves Indian food :) haha...
But now he have to avoid them.
I would love to drop by this place :)

Your mom made a good move. Choosing the Indian cuisine :)

Hazza said...

Sitting here salivating just looking t your pics!

CUMI & CIKI said...

so touching hairy! you took such pains to write this is can see.. :) the bubbles on the teh tarik are dying to be slurped up.. lucky dad yar:P

backStreetGluttons said...

Its always nice when the good olde Matriach relents and say tonight , dear ...lets play ( err we mean eat )

and so Madras here we come, banana standing low and hot ! rice for 3 .Good olde Happiness for all

a fleeting moment indeed

Selangor Food Festival said...

We are pleased u to join our second Selangor Food Festival 2009 (SFF 09) at SACC Mall, Shah Alam begins from 16 till 19 July 2009. Here u can discover the excitement of Selangor’s unique cuisine and food culture. We promise u the best taste ever of Selangor’s food flavours!! So let’s get something yummy!!

Jason said...

Love the bubbles on the tea. ;)

Nic (KHKL) said...

550ml jar of faith, omg, u know, i've never really thought of it that way! and that makes it even cooler..hehehe..well, towards the end of our childhood, we actually got to enter the compound. :)

qwazymonkey, woah, thanks for the compliment, bro! u hv a point on being dysfunctional there. i guess there's always unity in diversity! :D

kenny, i think i will need a few designer items to get the ball rolling la..hehehe..oh, the items are for the devil, not me. hehehehe...bila nak pergi makan? :D

unkaleong, haha, yeah, i think u told me before. hehe...where's is this Kavitha's ar? nak pergi, nak pergi!!! oh, and thanks for the compliment, bro!

selba, chewing gum was all the rage back then, wasnt it? hahaha! i still like my cheap jagung ais krim. i think it's one of the best flavours ever. :D

ck lam, thanks for the info! yeah, i was reading the food bloggers crawl @ penang with motormouth. will definitely do a crawl there sometimes! :D

xlb, dont let a bad experience traumatise u la. give it sometime and u will learn to like blr again. call me when u wanna go eat. :P

ladyironchef, yeah, i realised that a lot of ppl dont take durian as well. what a revelation! haha!

bangsar babe, thanks for the compliment, babe! yeah, i was actually inspired by your post on Indian Kitchen. got Amritsari chicken pulak tu!!! must go try la!

sugar bean, yessssss. i think we are really blessed to be in a place where food is aplenty and delicious. you'll get hooked on the spices of India. do, i mean MUST check it out!

Nic (KHKL) said...

tng, wei, where is this kavitha's. i'm getting restless d..hehehe...ya lor, great outing. we din even celebrate on the actual date..haha!

evan 이벤젤린, thanks for the compliment!! :D the lighting was rather dim that day, so i guess that made the bubbles kinda misty. i liked it myself. :D and yupe, that's masala chai. :D

mimi, how come u dont like blr? or maybe u had a bad experience with it. the best blr comes with good rasa,, varuval, etc. give it another try la. :D

jun, hahahaha! i tried before and thought it tasted weird. i so strange hor? hehe

christine, haha, actually, my mum was away. so, it was dad and i who chose Indian food, our favourite. i think Indian vegetarian food is very healthy. that, i think your dad can take. :D

hazza, thanks dude. you know, i had very good Indian food in London which still tastes fresh in my mind! haha!

cumi $ ciki, thanks so much dear! :D actually, no lar, no pain one. cos it was a true account. but am very happy that i can recall my childhood la. it was a good one. :D oh, lucky son too! :D

backstreetgluttons, what's even better is when the food is good. finger licking good! there's something about blr that's so captivating. i think it's the variety of spices. the spices of happiness..ahhhhh

selangor food festival, have fun and all the best!

jason, thanks, dude! i must thank the hot-hot and the dim, misty interior..hehe

Anonymous said...

this is a dingy old restaurant la, be ready to catch a cockroach or two creeping over the walls, and dont sit under their ac units, expect a drizzle. and if u planning to wash ur hands better wear an oxygen mask as the washing area smells like you are treading over some sewage gas. Or you might just lose ur appetitie. The food is average but price, wow, grossly over rated. The manager is an arrogant SOB and service is very slow and stunted. Only reason the restaurant goes on is coz it is where a lot of dirty old MIC 'politicians', wannabes and their cronies group , the owners himself being one, so just another suckball joint. If you are going for dinner, except Indian prostitutes plaguing the building next to it.

You can find better places along jalan kasippillay which are cleaner, hv better quality food. Imagine paying RM13.50 for a sorry vegetarian meal at Madras cafe when u can get one for RM4.50 at eg. My Banana Leaf where u get to choose your dishes from its vast variety . FYI, My Banana LEaf is at at Putra majestic building, or Nirmala or even the nearby sentul stall (at the junction of small road heading into Sentul curry house) for the best of chicken varuvals!!!