On the menu it’s called Kane Lady Fish. What arrives looks like two catfish rudely interrupted during their discussion on world’s climate condition the placed on a fresh banana leaf. The rawa coating is crisp but doesn’t crackle keeping us focused on its insides: fillet with a hint of chilli to prepare our taste buds for what’s to follow. King Fish Masala Fry served next is not subtle by any definition. The flavours might remind you of your forgotten rendezvous in coastal Karnataka. These and more appear at Sana Di Ge restaurant in Delhi’s heart, specialising in seafood from the coasts of Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Kanara.
Sana Di Ge—named after multi-tier bronze lamps found in south Indian homes—has a focused food menu. We can’t say the same thing about the beverages though. We were served Kokum Kadi, a Mangalorean homemade drink along with a passion fruit cocktail under the soft gaze of Gaurav Shetty, MD of MRG Hospitality & Infrastructure that owns 11 restaurants including Sana Di Ge. “We first took north Indian delicacies to the South. Now we want to bring the best of south Indian cuisine here,” Shetty says. What’s new? “You can count authentic south Indian seafood restaurants in Delhi on your fingers. Of which mostly are in hotels,” he adds. What he and his team Nilesh Sharma, Abhinav Upadhyay and Neeraj Sharma have brought to the city is a standalone space sprawled over three floors (a hydraulic lift in addition to stairs is thoughtful) with coastal fare served in a setting reminiscent of south Indian homes. Walls adorned with carved wood panels and huge bronze installations add to the grandeur. Shetty emphasizes that it’s not just about telling people that south Indian food is so much more than idli-dosa. It’s also about tantalising taste buds while giving out a back story on each recipe. Maybe it’s his briefings on food philosophy that runs through the other two outlets in Karnataka as well, that the waiter decides to share information on fish, ingredients and preparations. “I was trained for two months in our Bangalore kitchen before I joined here,” Satish says. He serves us Maanji (tawa fry pomfret) and Tawa Chicken grilled with homemade spices. For main course, a bread basket of a third kind comes. Instead of the usual dosai and idli what we get is paper thin, soft Neer Dosa (rice pancakes), Mangalorean Appam, Pundi (steamed semolina balls), Moode (semolina balls steamed in coconut leaf pocket) and crispy Kori Roti. “The best way to have these is to pour vegetable stew or Mangalorean Chicken Curry over it and have it with hands,” he says. As we discuss what makes for a good meal, Elaneer Payasam (made with coconut cream and pulp of tender coconut) come hidden in coconuts (fake, of course). For five minutes, while we savour the dessert, there’s absolute silence. Just what we needed.
Sana Di Ge, it seems, has managed to make a statement that south Indian fare is no longer beholden to timorous palates.