Sunday lunch at Ente Keralam began on an unpleasant note from the time I called to make a reservation. We asked for a table for four and what I got was a whole 10 minutes of let-me-see, I cant promise you....we'll see when you get-here kind of nonsense from the lady manager. I almost hung up the phone when she suddenly had a change of heart and told me she could give me a table (like she was doing me a big favor!). Since my friends were really eager to eat mallu food and I have a weakness for appams and stew we decided to give it a shot - explicitly told the lady that we would be there between 1:15pm - 1:30pm.
We reached at 1:20pm. Our presence was acknowledged by a mundu wearing chap with a smattering of disgruntled grunts. When we told him we had a reservation, he rudely snapped in an uncouth manner and told us that since our reservation was for 1:30pm, he could not give us a table right away. We realized it was no use arguing with this mundu wearing villain who seemed to be straight out of a C grade Malayalam flick.
When the mundu wearing villain went back inside the restaurant, we realised that more than half the place was empty. We were about to fight our way in when the lady manager came and ushered us inside. Basically, we figured that they make the guests wait outside to create some kind of hype around the place. We were asked to go in only because another group of people were entering the restaurant, so it was their turn to wait till another lot was heading that way.
The only thing authentic about Ente Keralam is the ambiance and decor that includes traditional urulis and paras (vessels), an elephant nettipattam (handcrafted gold ornament that adorns an elephants forehead), portraits of kathakali dancers, mudras, chinese fishing nets, and old Malayalam film music.
The menu looks appetising on paper and stops right there! Each table is served a small portion of complimentary salted banana chips that were sodden and Chakkara Varatty (banana chips tossed in jaggery) that was not-so-sodden.
We started with Keraleeyam - a chilled tender coconut water based drink with coconut ganjee (pulp), mint leaves and a dash of lime. Quite refreshing.
For mains, we ordered sadhya, appam and vegetable stew. The appams were soft and fluffy, but the stew was actually sweet. While I do understand that coconut milk is mildly sweet, a stew is laced with spices to bring down the sweetness which was not done in the case on Ente Keralam. For a minute, I did wonder if I was having a Kerala meal or a Gujarati one.
Appam and Vegetable Stew
Next, the sadhya - a traditional vegetarian Kerala meal/thali served on a banana leaf. The sadhya comprised of vegetable side dishes such as avial, thakkali curry, eruseri, sambar, rasam (sambar and rasam are not native to Kerala at all), papad, chutneys such as enji puli, curd, rice and three kinds of payasams. All the vegetable sides were very mediocre and some were sweet too. My friend mistook a yellow smooth pulp in one of the small katoris for dessert, but on tasting it, discovered that is was mashed salted moong dal! Very very unkerala!!! This I know for a fact as I have a malayali mother-in-law, malayali neighbors and friends in dozens. The icing on the cake however, is the jet black authentic kerala coconut-oiled curly strand of hair that we dug into in the dish of white rice! Yuck! The waiter apologised profusely, and even tried to make up by serving us a complimentary dessert. Also, the buttermilk that is part of the sadhya was not served at all. We had to ask for it and it was brought to the table after desserts.
White rice with hair
Three types of Payasam
We pulled up the manager and all she could say was sorry! And the best part is after we paid the bill and the change was returned, the folder with change of Rs 170 went missing from the table. The manager had actually taken it away even before we could take the change back and decide if we needed to tip the shoddy service at all!
Hospitality lessons is what the management needs to dish out to their staff. Next on is a lesson in serving authentic food from God's Own Country.
Visit recommend only if you want a serving of authentic mallu hair in your food.
Verdict 1/5 (only for the ambiance and decor)