A Real Taste of Coorg: The Falls at The Tamara

A Real Taste of Coorg: The Falls at The Tamara

As I gently drift into my memories of the tranquil and uplifting Kabbinakad coffee estate which is home to one of India’s top 20 honeymoon destinations – The Tamara Coorg – my only wish is to be back into its rejuvenating landscapes, breathing in the fresh mountain air and listening to nothing else but the melodious chirping of birds, the soothing rustle of leaves as they dance to the tunes of the wind, and the harmonic gurgle of the stream that flows by the restaurant, ‘The Falls’. Pronounced as Taam-raa which means Lotus in Sanskrit, this majestic resort is an urban city dweller’s dream come true.

299a

299b

299c

 

My husband and I had been longing for a vacation where luxury didn’t have any concessions and privacy was not a thing of negotiation. Having lived the urban city life, we needed a break from the concrete jungle, leaving behind the busy city streets, the blaring of horns, the polluted air we breathe in, and the hectic lifestyle we lead. So an invitation by The Tamara Coorg, which is a resplendent resort located amidst coffee plantations in the stately Western Ghats, came as a welcome respite. Three days and two nights of discovery, adventure and nature-worship gave us the perfect reprieve we needed from an over-burdened schedule of work, meetings, parties and more work.

To marvel in the glimmers of this beautiful estate which is far away from the resounding city banter, is probably the biggest reason for people to visit the mesmerizing coffee plantations of Coorg.

A beautiful garland strewn with sweet-scented tuberose along with a chandan tilak and a refreshing cup of jaggery-cardamom coffee, welcomed us to the wonderment we were anticipating to experience at The Tamara. You can read more about our stay here. In this post, I will be reviewing the multi-cuisine restaurant at the resort known as The Falls.

299d

The Falls

299ee

Tanya Dhar with Executive Chef Rajarajan

299f

F&B Manager Arun Aiyanna with Hostess Yashika

 

The Falls constellates a number of cuisines varying from Indian dishes to International ones. Regional Coorgi specialities are also a favourite among the guests who enjoy experiencing the culture of the region through its food. The restaurant includes an impressive display kitchen and thoughtfully enough, includes a dedicated vegetarian kitchen too. But that is not where the exclusivity of this restaurant ends. The feature that has most of the guests awe-struck at this restaurant, is its dance floor. The glass floor at the center of The Falls is not just great for some exhilarating dance moves, but it also doubles up as a kaleidoscope for the most fascinating views of the flora beneath. And if you happen to visit the place during monsoons then you can enjoy your meals with a gorgeous view of the stream that playfully courses its path below. An open barbecue deck at the restaurant heightens the resplendence of the place, offering spectacular views of the estate, and a delightful ambiance in the evenings as we enjoyed leisurely multi-course meals. Our remarkable experience at the restaurant wasn’t just created by the beautiful views and the lovely décor, a lot of credit goes to the warm service and the pleasing hospitality of the staff.

Throughout our stay at the Tamara we opted for a table at the deck of The Falls for our meals. An agreeable conspiracy of the weather along with the chirpy insolence of the birds as they sang away to glory bringing alive the atmosphere at the deck – brought joy to hearts; so the deck had us as its permanent visitors for every meal. Playing along the same notes of the traditional Coorgi welcome we received, Executive Chef Rajarajan prepared a delectable meal which beautifully resonated the Coorgi culture in its warmth, and colourful & tasteful dishes.

299g

 

A note: The reputation of the Kodavas as sociable and amicable people precedes them. A popular phrase among them is that there is no occasion which is complete without kadi {food} and {kulu}. And I feel that they’ve rightly put in words a feeling that most of us inadvertently agree to. The harmonic rhythm of their seasons and the bountiful produce of their lands are merely two sides of the same coin which define their sumptuous and flavourful cuisine.

Now, without further ado, presenting the exclusive menu custom curated to our preferences:

Bella Kapi {Black Coffee with Jaggery}

The bella kapi has a long history. This cup of coffee, sweetened with jaggery, has been Coorg’s welcome drink for generations now. As I delighted in this hot cup of coffee, I also got to know a Coorgi kitchen ritual, according to which the household prepares this coffee as the last chore in the kitchen is completed, so that it can be served early in the morning to the family members.

Scoops of coffee powder is placed in a South Indian filter and boiling water is added to it before it is allowed to steep overnight. The next morning, jaggery is added to the dark liquid and it is brought to a boil before being strained through a muslin cloth so that it is devoid of any grit. This rejuvenating cup of coffee sends a wave of warmth through the body defying the early morning chill in the weather.

I enjoyed this delicious drink which was a brilliant start to a rather fabulous meal.

299h

 

Pandi Fry {Pork Pepper Fry}

If I were to list my favourites when it comes to pork dishes, then this aromatic dish would be heading my list. The uninhibited flavours of the ingredients used in the dish made it taste fantastic!

The whole spices used gives the dish a piquant flavour while the seasoning brings out the tenderness in the meat. Tastefully spiced with pepper being the primary spice, dark roasted curry powder and tamarind or goraka {a local souring agent} being the other ingredients which bring out the flavours in this dish – pork lovers are in for a treat with this Coorgi delicacy.

299j

299l

299m

 

Baimbalé Barthadh {Tender Bamboo Shoot Pepper Fry}

Baimbalé or kanile are the regional names given to bamboo shoots. They are a delicacy which the people of Kodagu enjoy during the monsoons. The logic behind having bamboo shoots during this time of the year lies behind the fact that it helps in regulating the body temperature during the rainy and windy days.

A savoury, crispy side dish which works as a palatable starter for vegetarians, the bamboo shoot fry is prepared from sautéed tender bamboo shoots. The shoots are cooked in a wok with a bit of butter and a generous amount of pepper. It is then seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chillies which brings a zesty flavour to the dish without relinquishing the authentic taste of the bamboo shoots. The crunchy and crispy texture of the shoots complement a number of vegetables and meats. Overall, I found the dish to be really tasty, especially considering the crunchiness of the bamboo shoots and the subtle sweet flavours of the spices.

299n

299o

299p

 

Akki Ooti or Roti {Rice Flatbread}

At the core of all Kodava dishes, lies rice – the heart of the cuisine. Rice takes a remarkably large number of forms and is processed and cooked to please the senses in many ways and in accordance with the changing seasons. From the soft and sumptuous akki ootis to the rich and fragrant oduputtu which owes its delightful aroma to the “banda” – the resin of the Indian copal tree, Vateria Indica – the meticulous creativity and ingenuity of the generations of cooks gleams proudly through.

Akki roti is flatbread made from rice flour. The dish is roasted over coals and is a personal favourite for me. The cooking is simple and the taste is amazing. With the right quantity of cooked rice and rice flour mixed with salt, this delectable flatbread can be eaten for lunch or for dinner with a variety of curries. For those who don’t know, akki ooti is one of the only kind of rotis found in this region.

299r

299s

 

Koli Barthad {Chicken Fry, another Kodava Staple}

This unpretentious dish somehow has the ability to transform your entire meal into an epicurean course. Coorg fried chicken is usually done with the skin on, as the skin gives the dish a golden brown colour, while the meat on the inside retains its tender and moist character.

Coorgi cuisine involves the use of an assortment of spices which can include cumin, pepper and everything in between. Ginger and jaggery are also a favourite among the people of Coorg – adding a sweetness to the dish and giving it a flavourful taste – so you will see a generous use of these two ingredients in Coorgi dishes. At The Falls, the chicken fry got its remarkable flavours from an aromatic Coorg garam masala which has the powerful abilities {I am told} to flavour just about any simple dish and liven up even the most mundane meals. It goes without saying that this modest dish is a favourite among many Coorg tables and its status seems to remain unshakeable.

299t

299u

 

Pandi Curry {Succulent Pork Curry}

Pandi curry is a Kodava specialty which represents Coorg’s affinity for spicy and sumptuous food. The individuality of this dish and its flavours combined with the fact that it is one of those rare South Indian pork dishes makes it special for anyone who is on a journey to experience Coorgi cuisine. That said, a true Kodava delights in the sizzling sound of rich wholesome fat as it drips from the meat onto a hot pan!

In this dish, pork cubes are generously coated in a peppery masala which is flavoured with kacampuli. The secret to the delightful flavours of this curry is the fact that the dry spices used in the curry – pepper, cumin, coriander among them – are roasted before being ground; giving the gravy a toasty flavour which is somewhat authentic to the region. While the roasted spices create a flavourful curry, the kachampuli {dark tart vinegar which is as precious as Modena’s balsamic vinegar and is used as a souring agent in the pork} gives the meat a piquant taste.

The Pandi curry we tasted at The Falls was every bit a reflection of the delightful Kodava hospitality we had received at the resort. To sum it up, the curry was fantastic and the spices were blended to perfection bringing out the deliciousness of the meat. A finger-licking pork curry indeed!

299w

299x

 

Kadambuttu {Steamed Rice Dumplings}

Coorg’s delectable repertoire of puttus, both savoury and sweet are always a joy for food aficionados who revel in Coorgi delicacies. The signature Kadambuttu is a variant of the puttus which is prepared from rice balls that are cooked in a steamer known as the Chekala or Sekala. These rice balls are made from thari {rice rava} and taste best when paired with the classic pandi curry.

299y

299z

299za

 

Koli Curry {Chicken Curry well-flavoured with spices}

The Kodava cuisine celebrates the bountiful presence of spices and fruits in the region by using them generously in the dishes. With a prudent use of spices and a delicious coconut base, this chicken curry is seasoned with the zesty kachampuli which brings out the flavours of the spices, making the dish absolutely delicious. I am not sure if it is the marvellous palette of ingredients or the perfectly balanced flavours or both, that had me brazenly scraping the plate for every last bit of this utterly delicious curry.

The versatile nature of this curry allows it to be paired with a gamut of offerings from rice to akki rotis to kadambuttu and a rather long list of puttus and appams, with the best combination being the sumptuous nuputtu {steamed rice noodles}.

299zb

299zc

299zd

 

Paputtu {Steamed rice cakes}

The Paputtu is prepared from steamed broken rice, milk and shredded coconut. They are a perfect accompaniment to the spicy curries served at The Falls.

299ze

299zf

 

Koli Pulao {Chicken Rice Pot}

You will find distinctive elements of the popular Karnataka style biryani and the Kerala style biryani in the Koli pulao. The Coorgi community simply prefers calling the dish pulao rather than biryani.

The use of fresh ingredients is what adds a special element of delight in one’s meals. For the Koli Pulao, Chef Rajarajan sends for some leaves from the allspice tree which he then uses to the season the dish. He also shows me the tiny, locally grown green chillies which are used in the dishes instead of the common variety. This pulao is not the only dish that has a vivid use of local ingredients in it. Most of the dishes served at The Falls are flavoured and seasoned by locally grown spices and ingredients. Most of the chutneys depend on these ingredients for the authentic Kodava flavour. I feel that it is the judicious use of these spices, understanding the amount in which they should be used and which dishes will bring out their flavour appropriately that makes them great and not just the abundant availability of these spices. So to say, it is more about the skill mastered by the people of Coorg in using the ingredients that makes their availability an advantage for their cuisine.

As our server lifted the lid from the dish, the fragrant aroma of the ingredients filled the air as a whiff of steam was released. The aroma worked as an appetite enhancer as I quickly finished the plate of pulao and eagerly asked for a second serving. This dish created a burst of flavourful spices in my mouth leaving me with just one word to sum up its deliciousness – Delightful!

299zg

299zh

 

Thari Payasam {Broken rice cooked in coconut and jaggery}

This hot dessert is prepared from milk, a small amount of semolina and a generous seasoning of nuts and raisins. Sweetened to perfection, the thari payasam was mouth-watering delicious.

299zi

299zj

 

Our unexpected culinary journey at The Tamara, in this beautiful hill-town in Karnataka, showcased the true essence of Coorgi cuisine – which delighted our foody souls! The wide spectrum of regional delicacies, the uninhibited use of spices giving way to a remarkable experience of flavours, the magical romance of a small-town and the cool mountain breeze whispering melodious tunes to you – could you imagine a better way of making 2017 more memorable for you?

 

End Note: Every cuisine is strikingly resonant of the culture, religion and geographical boundaries that it represents. But the unintentional distinctiveness in its cooking techniques and eating habits is a product of the ingredients that are available locally. You will find that these practices are often interwoven into the culture or borrow certain aspects of other cultures surrounding the region, further still, there may exist indigenous versions of these techniques which are tailor-made to suit the palate of the community.

Coorg’s enigmatic cuisine has the rich essence of exotic ingredients and a remarkable repertoire of delicacies which have been skilfully mastered through a Kodava’s unique lineage. We had reason to savour every meal at The Falls. Every bite carried in it the distinctive soulfulness of the hills, the zesty spirit of the coast and the rustic charm of the benevolent Kodava community. The delightful Kodava cuisine needs to be experienced to be believed.

 

*Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

Stay connected with me over Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest |

Written By

* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

14 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *