I finally made it to bon South for lunch this afternoon. On entering, my first impression is that it’s small and intimate. I’m wrong about the “small” and right about the “intimate”. As you enter, a foyer separates two modest and tastefully designed dining areas. The one on the right contains the buffet island, so if you like being seated close to the food, head there; the one on the left is a little quieter, but you have to head across the foyer each time you want to refill your plate. Not a problem, just a piece of information. An elevator leads to the upper floor, where there’s a live appam counter, indoor and terrace dining areas, a small and well-stocked bar, and a private dining room. All told, the restaurant can seat a total of 165 people.
bon South displays some arresting works of art. I have a question about one of the pieces on the wall, and owner Vijay Abhimanyu, who happens to be sitting at the next table, takes the trouble to come over and explain. The restaurant seeks to celebrate South India through its art forms, and to explore the relationship between art and food. “Oh no,” I think to myself. “This is one of those places that serves plated art!” I can’t believe that Chef Venkatesh Bhat, who struck me as a down-to-earth sort of guy, would ascribe to this concept. Turns out he doesn’t.
Instead, the idea, once explained, actually appeals to me for its simplicity: food is all about texture, and color, and form. So is art. Food is an expression of a a culture, a place, a time. So is art. I admire the way traditional art seamlessly melds with technology to stunning effect. Photographs, paintings, and digital art transform mundane South Indian motifs into images that invite you to gaze not once, but twice. And then a third, or even a fourth time.
Much as I admire it, I’m happy to say that this is one restaurant where the art stays where it belongs: on the walls. While the presentation of the food is elegant, it is not pretentious; I see no evidence of anything resembling art on my plate. The food, as expected, is very, very good, barring the occasional shortfall.
Despite an exhaustive a la carte menu, bon South offers only a buffet or a “set menu” at lunch time. I opt for the latter; my husband and son choose the buffet (during weekday afternoons, the buffet is not served upstairs; you may, however order the set meal there). There are a generous five non-vegetarian items on the buffet: kozhi mellagu saaru; nethili meen fry, masala fried anchovy-like fish; kozhi chettinadu, a chicken curry; pomfret meen moily, a coconut-based fish curry; and an Andhra-style mutton biriyani. Thanks to an array of condiments and accompaniments, the vegetarian spread seems much larger: kollu saaru; gobi malligay; avarakkai pulussu; thotta koora vepudu; kai kari stew; and batata pattani kurma.
You’re served hot coin parathas and appams at the table. Special mention must be made of the kozhi mellagu saaru, a delicately flavored clear chicken soup with a healthy kick of spice, and of the parappu pradhanan, a dal payasam that rounds off the meal nicely.
At Rs. 295 for the whole shebang, that’s a steal.
My set meal is more leisurely. I begin with a clear mutton soup, tiny shreds of mutton served separately. It’s very tasty, but the kozhi mellagu saaru on the buffet was more flavorful, I think. My starters – kaane bezule (fried ladyfish), sambar thoppu erachi (dry fried mutton), and Syrian veg cutlet – are delish. The cutlet, in particular, is very satisfying. In essence, it’s a slightly spicier masala dosa filling shaped into a square (which, for some reason pleases the non-conformist in me) and fried in a perfectly crisp crust. Not a drop of extra oil. Not a grain of “filler”. Perfect.
This is followed by four little bowls of curry: kozhi varthiracha curry, a dark, smoky chicken curry; Alleppey fish curry; ennai kathirikai, a tomato-based aubergine curry (must admit to not having touched it); and kaya kooralu igguru, a sort of mixed veg kootu. Of these, I found the fish curry to be outstanding. These are served with coin parathas and appams, both of which are perfect. The parathas are flaky and hot, soaking up the gravy quickly. The appams are neither too sweet nor too sour, and marry perfectly with the fish curry. Portions seem small to the eye, but by now, my stomach disagrees vehemently with that notion – “I’m full,” it screams, its voice muffled under layers of good food.
Desserts, a double whammy of an unusual akki payasam and the jaggery-based parappu pradhanan again, are delectable. As if to deflect guilt, bonSouth also serves fresh fruit. The set meal costs Rs. 495.
Is there a wine list? Yes, and it is exhaustive. I had a glass of Sula Chenin Blanc with my meal. It complemented some items, and did not go so well with others. I think diners would appreciate some guidance there.
Service at the restaurant is helpful and eager to please, true to Venkatesh’s vision of “service from the heart.” In true South Indian style, you’re made to feel welcome no matter how you’re dressed , who you are, (or who you are not!); you’re set at ease without being fawned over; and you never have to ask for your glass to be refilled. Welcome to the neighborhood, bonSouth! I’m glad you’re here.
- 749, 10th Main, 4th Block, 80 ft. Road, Koramangala, Bangalore
Phone: 080 40543436