One Direction: South High talks the talk, but cannot walk the walk
The menu is massive, but its ambition costs it authenticity. By the end of a meal, it was not clear what separated Coorgi from Mangalorean from Andhra.mumbai Updated: Aug 19, 2017 11:48 IST
- Rating: 2.5 / 5
- Where: Ground Floor, Trade Tower, B-Wing, near Smaash, Kamala Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
- When: Noon to midnight
- Cost: About Rs 2,000 for a meal for two, with one drink each
- Call: 6558-8866, 6568-8866
South High’s menu makes your mouth water when you first read it.
It features dishes from the four states of the Deccan. Some are familiar – golibajje, ghee roast, paniyaram, poriyal.
Many are traditional, but uncommon in Mumbai’s restaurants – chicken tengapal in a coconut rasam, Neloor mutton kadi, matti kunda chicken cooked in earthen pots.
Others are playful riffs – cheese corn medu vada; Rajni dosa tacos with potatoes, cheese, and chillies; chicken tossed with mulgai (gunpowder), ghee and chunks of idli.
This whimsy extends into the airy blue-green room. A mischievous Kathakali mask makes a mural, the booths are punched metal benches.
Mains are called Kambo Plet (‘combo plate’). Even the air conditioner vents are filigreed to fit South High’s Deccan vibe.
“Why would a restaurant like this be empty?” asks my dining companion. Perhaps not enough people knew about the place yet. Perhaps the blaring ambient muzak’s soaring, wailing tracks foreshadow what follows.
R&R at South High translates to rasam and rum, a cocktail that is true to description: sharp, tangy, chilled, boozy rasam. Alongside, valai vada (spicy but delicate raw banana tikkis, held together with a veil-thin semolina crust) make for fitting chakna.
According to the menu, muttai dosas are stuffed with Andhra-spiced bhurji and served like tacos. But my dining companion takes a first bite and comes up with a mouthful of chicken.
Even when the correct plate is eventually brought out, we discover that ‘Andhra masalas’ only means a sprinkle of podi on the eggs.
Whenever we ask any of the service staff what makes a dish Coorgi, Mangalorean, or Andhra, the most detailed response we receive is, “the masala”.
Descriptions at South High are loose. The Mysore chicken soup is described as having creamy coconut and turmeric. What arrives is slightly chunky, contains a tablespoon of chicken mince, and is deep jade green from cilantro.
Malabar’s famous layered bread is indistinct in the kuttu parotta, all of the dish’s elements have been cooked together into a soggy, lumpy, red slop.
Kerala mutton pepper fry’s spice is softened with coconut milk as promised, but its large chunks of sinewy meat are unyielding rubber. Pork Mangaluru, we assumed to be that region’s warmly spiced, tangy, tender bafat or dukra maas.
Crab milakai is said to be cooked in green chillies. In fact, both are as salty as seawater, the flavour of crumbled shellfish and chewy meat, respectively, drowned in salinity.
We ask for the bill, and we get a bowl of complimentary nougat ice cream over jaggery payasam with it, because too many nearly full plates have left the table.
The combination of sweets is splendid, to be fair. It opens up the possibility of revisiting what now looks like an ambitious menu at a restaurant that’s trying to execute it in a difficult city.
(HT reviews anonymously and pays for all meals)
First Published: Aug 18, 2017 20:23 IST