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Mangaluru: It’s been over three months now. It’s never been that long, not for over twenty years. Three months since I went through this doorstep, an activity I usually perform six times a week. Things are different. There’s a hush, a quiet, not least because there’s merely a handful of customers there, each lost in his own reverie. These aren’t normal times and the buzz is missing.

The waiter is a familiar face and he greets me with a broad grin, through his mask. He knows me well. Everyone here knows me well. That’s what happens when you visit a place every day. You become an inalienable part of it. The coffee arrives. It’s in a styro-foam cup today and served along with a napkin. Everything’s different. He urges me to have a snack too but I decline.

I sip and I think. I first came here in 1983, a lad of eighteen and I stood at the self service counter, feeling all important in my white medical college apron. I remember when coffee was a buck twenty five and came in that trademark steel tumbler. It’s thirty rupees now (in AC section), thirty seven years later. Fair enough. It still tastes the same, the first kick and then the mellowness.

I pay my bill and tip the waiter. One of the managing partner/director pops in to say hello. We talk of this and that and hope that things pick up. I sense the anxiety in his eyes and I know he sees the same thing mirrored in mine. These are testing times and things, they are different.

And as I walk out I look around. I know these are times when one shouldn’t touch anything but I can’t help myself. I run my hand over the familiar granite top of the table. A flood of memories – of podis, biscuit rottis, buns and coffee. Always that trademark coffee. And I realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same….

In stress, the mind seeks out the familiar. The Taj Mahal Cafe has been more familiar than anything else I can think of. And in that familiarity is that warm cocoon of comfort and safety that I cling to today.

Some things- the very best things- don’t change. And that, indeed, is what makes life worth living….

Author : Dr. Ajay Kamath is a Ophthalmologist practicing in Car Street, Mangaluru, and is also Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Kasturba Medical College, Mangaluru.



By Alfie D’souza- Team Mangalorean

Mangaluru: My day never starts with a hot brewed famous Taj Mahal Coffee, and to go along with it, either a Theek Rotti or Biscuit Rotti of Idli Thove- and sometimes I savour all these three items. Yummy, and they fill my tummy! Here you’ll find yummy breakfast,sweets and the special brew of coffee and lots more. Prior to moving to USA in 1990, I was a regular at the Taj Mahal restaurant in Car Street- and after it closed down, it shifted to Kodialbail, near Hotel Ocean Pearl. Right from my college days, and after graduation, ever since then, the craving for authentic and delicious items at TM has only increased. Years ago, the restaurant used to open at 5 am in the morning, and there at the crack of dawn, not surprisingly to a packed restaurant. Filter Kaapi (Coffee) at New Taj Mahal Cafe is serious business

This is a restaurant which draws its lineage way back to 1926. It is the “filter Kaapi” (Filter Coffee) at the restaurant which draws its regulars here the most, and this is where you can get your fill of the Konkani Mangalorean vegetarian fare which goes well beyond the idli dosa vada that we are exposed to in other South Indian restaurants. Those days there was no written menu as such, though outside a white board with specials for the day was written, no one was interested in that.The regulars know which day what special item is served. My favourite like many other food lovers is Theek Rotti- as the name says, it is a spiced poori, crisp on the sides and soft in the middle, accompanied by thick coconut chutney. Or you can have it with Potato bhaji. Next my favourite item is Biscuit Rotti , with a filling spicy and sweet and the Rotti crisp and hot!

OMG, the buns are awesome- the size of my palm ,pillowy soft inside with the right hint of banana and just sweet enough to pair with chutney, which truly is a treat for our palates. They are puris made with a maida and banana flour which makes them chubby and cuddly inside and crisp and crunchy outside.

And in the evening for tea, I can’t resist having the Thuppa Dosa (Ghee Dosa)-the Thuppa Dosa was so tasty and delicious during those days, however, the present taste of Thuppa Dosa lacks very much compared to the one I used to have in the 80’and 90’s. The present Thuppa dosa is slightly bigger in size, and not quite satisfactory, I feel. It has lost the old authentic taste. My other choice at evening tea time, is either Bisi bisi ( Gulla Podi (Brinjal Fritter) or Genasu Podi (Sweet potato fritter).

Only folks who have grown up eating in these food spots will feel comfortable in places, like Taj Mahal, and I am one of them. Whenever I used to come down from USA, my first place for breakfast was Taj Mahal. Dining there used to bring back old memories of having the food arrive in time, having specific waiters checking on you for next rounds and finally wrapping up the bill. And I used to take at least 3-4 kgs of their home-made coffee powder, and a couple dozen of Biscuit Rotti.

Even today, I can’t miss having my coffee, 1 Biscuit Rotti, 1 Theek Roti or Idli Thove as part of my daily routine. At present, due to the Covid-19 outbreak and increasing number of Covid cases and deaths in Mangaluru, Taj Mahal Cafe near Hampankatta ahs been serving snacks and coffee in paper plates and cups- but I always carry my porcelain cup-since I hate having such a delicious coffee in a paper cup. When asked why they are still serving on paper plates and cups, Ramanath Shenoy, one of the Director of Taj Mahal said, “It is for hygiene and safety of our customers, due to the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths. And also our restaurant being closer to Wenlock Hospital, where a large number of people are coming for Virus tests, and many show positive results, we took preventive measures, and our regular customers are happy with it. It even saves labour time washing the regular used plates and cups. Once the virus pandemic decreases, we will switch back to our regular steel plates and cups”.

Really a good initiative taken by the management for the safety of their customers, while many other restaurants don’t even follow the Covid-19 guidelines. Due to the fear of the pandemic, many of their customers are reluctant to dine. On a given day, you can see a bunch of doctors, namely Dr R L Kamath, Dr Ganesh Pai, Dr Narendra Kamath, Dr C K Ballal, Dr Errol Pinto, Dr Ajay Kamath, among many other physicians- and also PG’s and doctors working at Wenlock hospital. You could also see entrepreneurs, builders, and people of other professions patronizing Taj Mahal Cafe for their morning/evening coffee or tea, and their favourite snacks.

The dishes at New Taj Mahal Cafe are usually served with a coconut chutney but they are happy to give you a sambar if you ask for it. They don’t skimp on the coconut in their chutneys here and it is ground fresh everyday. The sambar is hot and tangy one and not sweet as it is of the Konkani style and not the Udupi Brahmin one. Do try out the Jeegujje Podi (fried breadfruit slices) there too. Ground coffee powder, Banana/wheator badam halwas make for good mementoes to take back home. Be warned that the coffee does not taste the same when not brewed in the cavernous quantities that it is in at the restaurant.

If not for the present lockdown situation, the restaurant is perpetually crowded which indicates the popularity. Many people will wonder why this hotel is rated as excellent. A vintage restaurant that just focuses on catering to their fans generation after generation. Wonderful place to try a variety of unique sweets especially Goud Saraswati Brahmin (GSB) Sweets. One must try their Banana Halwa, Sugar Coated Cashews, Khadi, Saat, Tukdi and many more. And for out of town visitors, If you’re in Mangaluru, and you don’t visit Taj Mahal, then you’re definitely missing out. Their “thuppa dosa” or the ghee dosa, and various bhajji’s in the evening are very popular. And their coffee is very famous, local people still need their daily morning dose of this coffee to start their day, including Yours Truly! Best Breakfast and South Indian lunch. Especially the closest you can get to Mangalorean GSB food !

This century old place is no doubt a landmark of Mangaluru, well known for its thuppa does and coffee, and the Meal, side curries, buns, goli baje etc names still will impress you. This restaurant has been there from my childhood and is most famous for their local dishes. But don’t expect services like a 5-star. They’re nearly always busy, you have to share a table with people for your food, which is worth the taste. A coffee house where the food will make you do a jig of joy too… New Taj Mahal Cafe. I am Taj Mahal Food addict- Are You?

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1 Comment

  1. I agree everything Alfie-maam wrote except
    I don’t like Chutney at Tajmahal. It is overly tangy.
    But more seriously speaking, Tajmahal rates are so high that ordinary people cannot afford. Earlier I used to see even daily wage earners used to eat. Today it is not affordable to common man. Too sad. That may be because they have too much business.
    Before you show me a daily-wage earner or two in the restaurant, let me tell you confidently, they are there because of their addition to the excellent unmatachable ‘ Tajmahal Kapi’ but probably forego snacks that they used to eat with that.

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