Away from the rush of the main street leading to Parkala from Manipal, situated in a little detour, is Chef Plated. At first glance, it appears rustic and unassuming with simple furniture and elegant wood décor, distinctive of a bistro café, a striking contrast to the flamboyant facades of a number of restaurants in town.
It was three in the afternoon and there wasn’t much of a crowd. The quaint ambience wrapped a blanket of calm and quiet around us as we were greeted by Mr. Vittal Kamath, the owner, who took us around the establishment. Mr. Kamath is a man with diverse experiences under his belt, having lived in places like the Middle East and the United States before deciding to return to his roots, Manipal. It was not very long into the conversation when we realised that his varied adventures with food overseas have greatly influenced his very own culinary venture.
I wanted everything in this place to be a reflection of my experiences. The logo, the company’s name – Old School Gourmet, the design and layout of the restaurant, each and every dish that is served – all of it was carefully chosen for a reason.
And that is how Chef Plated charms its customers – with the promise of authenticity.
It is evident from the fact that one hears of the restaurant through the recommendation of friends rather than through widespread advertising, that Mr. Kamath’s notions of success are miles away from mainstream. Fleeting and superficial, mere monetary profit is not what he aspires for in his business. His vision for the joint is to fulfil the needs of the student crowd in Manipal. He wants it to be the place that students arrive at to take a breather after a long day, or to unwind in the weekend with a group of friends and good music – an alternative to being cooped up in their hostel rooms, which as he recalls from his own student days, can get quite suffocating after a while. The purpose of the restaurant is to offer something of depth and value along with wholesome continental food. It could be a stimulating conversation with him, or perhaps a book from the shelf in the restaurant, whatever floats your boat. In his eyes, it is the entire experience that counts.
Incidentally, the first dish we tasted was the only exception to the rest of the continental dishes that the restaurant offers – the Mediterranean Platter, with pita bread, falafels, hummus, baba ganoush, and pickled vegetables. Anyone previously acquainted with Mediterranean cuisine would be heartily pleased with this choice, as every element of it was cooked to perfection.
Dressed in bright red, the honey and chilli flavours of the chicken left its mark on both the tongue and the heart. The tender, marinated breast pieces drew murmurs of appreciation as soon as they entered our mouths. Roast Chicken and Supreme Chicken were equally enticing. The sauces were a felicitous combination of flavours which went wonderfully with the chicken.
Cottage Cheese and Herb Rice, the final dish, was also delicious. Cut into triangular pieces, the cottage cheese was soft and juicy. The herb rice was adequately stuffed with spices. A special sauce made with mushrooms, creamy and luscious, complemented the other elements of the dish.
Through unanimous agreement, it was decided that the best item of the day was the Iced Tea which we sipped after the main course. Chilled, with a hint of mint, lemon and undoubtedly some secret ingredient which lent it its unparalleled appeal – against the backdrop of Manipal in all its hot and humid summer glory – one could go so far as to call it divine. As per Mr. Kamath’s account, there is no one who can make the Ice Tea better than his mother, which is why the item is her domain alone.
In essence, Chef Plated is a restaurant we recommend. Without doubt, those of you with a taste for continental cuisine will relish every item and cherish the experience. The quality and the ambience tide over the prices, which are slightly on the higher side for those on a tight budget. Nevertheless, meeting Mr. Kamath and listening to his stories and insightful observations is a treasure in itself.
The ideal trip to Chef Plated would be with a group of good friends, a few leisurely hours to spare, and enough space left in your stomach to sample the dishes that catch your fancy.
Location: Opposite Big Boss, Eshwaranagar
–Reviewed by Vinay Reddy, Sarthak Bhardwaj and Niharika Dixith
-Photographs by Sanketh Mohanty