I haven't had good south Indian food since medical school, and I wasn't prepared for Mayura. All this food comes with a flood of memories, of so much heritage and culture fed to me by friends. The recipes were definitive, but they were never set in stone. My friends would make the recipes their mothers and grandmothers had passed down, adding an occasional extra shake of the spice spoon to add their own personal touch. Impromptu post-exam dinner parties, idly on a whim, I had almost forgotten all that, and I almost forgot how much I miss them all.
"ID-LEE. Think Freud meets China." My first pronunciation lesson, and my favorite south Indian staple. Idly doesn't look like much, just round white-flour cakes of lentils and rice (pictured on on the appetizer basket below). Steamed with varying degrees of fluff, dipped in a hot, spicy Sambar and cool Coconut Chutney; warm, wet bites interspersed with comparing our answers for questions #42.
Someone says C, but I think the answer is A. A for Assorted Appetizer Basket, a plate of all things deep fried. The onion pakora could top a delicious veggie burger, the mixed vegetable pakora are pillowy fritters of orange and green. There is a samosa with peas and mashed potatoes encased in a chewy skin. The vada are new for me, dense, deep fried, savory lentil donuts.
5 Cocktail Uthappam is a platter of minis topped with variations on a theme; tomato, carrots, green onion. It comes with channa, a dense stew of chickpeas, a thicker, equally spice-ful variation on the sambar theme. I used to literally break this bread with my med school BFFs, and now a table full of residency BFFs break bread again. Same uthappam with the same camaraderie and warmth; the bonds of those who trudge the trenches together are not so easily cracked.
The Masala Dosa is a must. A crispy crepe with spiced mashed potatoes; what's not to like? Theirs is good, but the last dosa I had was made by my friend's mother, and I'm pretty sure her spices had crack in them because I still dream about her dosa.
Still, I can always handle an extra dose of dosa, and I'm never had Paneer Burji Dosa before. The sweeter, milder Indian cottage cheese has a Tempurpedic pillow-y texture, filling but light.
A sizzling platter of Tandoori Mix & Kebab is full of flavorful chicken, glowing red-hot next to thick chunks of spicy kebab.
The Kerala Special is new for me, and it is exceptional. The kerala chicken curry is spicy, an indescribable spice-mix in a savory curry. It fills every nook and cranny of the fluffy rice pancake it comes with.
The Bhindi Masala breaks up all that meat. The okra is stir-fried dry (in a good way), and the tomatoes suck out the slime.
Dessert is a round of take-home boxes. Like every south Indian I've ever known, they are very generous at Mayura. They dish it out, and they pile it on, and everyone at the table has a light lunch. Indian food tastes just as good the next day, as each cube of chicken soaks in all its spices.