There are some things in life that the mind has the capacity to recollect without much contemplation, and taste, I must say, ranks remarkably high on that list. It was over 30 years ago that I remember last gorging on an MTR dosa, not just any dosa but a unique Udupi-style marvel.
And so it was, with heightening anticipation and an extraordinary sense of deja vu, that I entered MTR’s restaurant in Bur Dubai, feeling extremely self-assured and fairly fortunate. Thirty years is a long time to wait for my latest tryst with the legendary eatery’s signature dosa.
As I enter through the glass door, my senses surrender, ever so willingly, to the exhilarating aromas of Indian spices. And at once, I feel the urge to explore the menu to its full capacity.
MTR, an anagram for Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, which has its origins in Bengaluru, India, serves glorious South Indian vegetarian food — delicious vada (savoury snack) and idly sambar, poori sagu, bisibelle bath (lentil rice), chow chow bath, lunch and dinner platters and a variety of dosas, which by far are the restaurant’s unique selling point.
I am a fierce pro-South Indian cuisine supporter and share a great affinity with this tiny eight-inch marvel which is often mistakenly described as a pancake. It may look like a pancake but that’s where the similarities end. What sets a dosa apart is the potato stuffing, accompanying chutneys or sambar. But in MTR’s case the very consistency of the dosa is completely different to others. Their variety of dosa is made from urad dal (black gram, flown from India). It is delightfully crispy on the outside and soft on its belly and is served with a medium-spiced potato stuffing, sambar and tangy coconut and mint chutneys.
Its size, look and taste are unlike any other dosa. But chances are, once you sample your first bite, you will be hooked. With my son in tow, I ordered dosas, vadas, rava idly (a speciality of the house) and bisibelle bath in staggered sections, which I’d advise, as the kitchen staff performs with clockwork efficiency. A meal for two comes in around Dh40.
The dosas tasted divine and were devoured in record-breaking fashion. We took a deep breath, got entangled in the vadas before heroically diving into the bisibelle bath, a rice dish big in taste, made with lentils, assorted vegetables, nutmeg, curry leaves and tamarind pulp.
Diners not in search of authentic Udupi Brahmin-style food may feel slightly overwhelmed at times by the heavy taste but there is enough variety on the menu to keep everyone content.
We finished our meal with traditional filter coffee made from beans imported from South India and also found the time to do a little gawping to see how the other diners were doing and were rather taken aback at their enthusiasm — we weren’t the only ones enjoying our meal.
The MTR family is determined to maintain a high quality and standard that they have installed CCTV cameras in the kitchen to monitor the day-to-day operations from Bengaluru.
Raw materials are imported from India while the kitchen staff are handpicked and trained at their Bengaluru headquarters before being assigned to Dubai. I was not just impressed with the food, but also by the desire to keep a 90-year-old traditional alive in the best possible way.