Restaurant Review: We Idliwale
Food: 4.5 | Service: NA | Décor: 3
We Idliwale is a small eatery in Baner which serves South Indian or more precisely Idlis with different accompaniments other than the regular chutney and sambar.
We Idliwale is a tiny unassuming shop on the ground floor of Bizbay in Baner. There is no seating and one has to eat standing by the wooden counters by the wall. A chalk-board menu lit with filament lights adorns one of the walls. The décor is simple and the Athangudi floor tiles, wooden counters, brass lamps and some brass wall embellishments add to the Southern Indian charm. You can see the clean, hygienic kitchen over the serving counter. As the food served here is best enjoyed using hands than spoons and forks, a wash basin was a necessary element which seemed missing. With their growing popularity, there needs to be some additional seating or standing arrangements.
In India the popularity of South Indian food is unmatched. Pune has some excellent restaurants which serve South Indian cuisine, some authentic and others fusion. We Idliwale is a new-age Idli joint where the menu is inspired by households and streets of South India. Here the ubiquitous idli is not just served with the chutney and sambar, but also with chicken and mutton curries. This unusual combination is actually not fusion but a staple in every household in South India. Chef Abhishek Joshi and co-founder Chirag Jadhav, have managed to take the humble Idli to a different level.
The menu is simple and comprises of just four dishes. Idlis served with Chutney, Chutney and Sambar, Kundapur Chicken Curry or Chettinad Meatball Curry. We tried all the four variants and let me begin by saying that the Idlis were probably the fluffiest and softest idlis I have ever eaten. The Idli with Chicken is served with a Kundapur style chicken and the recipe was perfected under the tutelage of chef Abhishek’s aunt who hails from Karnataka. The coriander seeds and specially khus-khus (poppy seeds) gave a totally new flavor to the curry and the addition of coconut made it delightfully creamy and kept it mild. On the other hand, the Chettinad style meatball curry had bold and robust flavours. Just a tad spicier than the chicken curry, the meatball curry packed a real punch. The spice and heat came from the spices and not chilies. We kept the extra idlis coming till we polished off the curries. The Idli with chutney was served with three chutneys – a green chutney beautifully tempered with mustard and dried red chilies, a mild coconut chutney and a coarsely ground podi (a dry chutney made from lentils). The sambar was of the perfect consistency and was made hearty with the addition of drumsticks, bottle gourd, shallots, and pumpkin. The curries, chutneys and sambar were served in shallow steel plates alongside three idlis and radish-onion slaw. Though there are spoons kept on the counter, I would recommend you ditch the cutlery and enjoy the idlis the way they are supposed be eaten – by hand.
We also tasted the delicious Dindigul Chicken Biryani which they plan to introduce soon. The biryani was made using fragrant seeraga samba rice sourced from Tamil Nadu and served with a cucumber pachadi (salad), a gravy and papadum. As a ritual, we ended our meal with a piping hot cup of south Indian filter coffee.
PLUS & MINUS
The current space where they are located might not be enough particularly during lunch and evening times when the place gets crowded. Some additional seating or standing arrangement will be needed eventually. But all this is forgotten when that beautiful looking and tasting plate of idli is served.
Must Try Dishes: Idli with Chicken, Idli with Meatballs, Idli with Chutney and Sambar
Meal for Two: Rs. 500
Address: Shop 2, Ground floor, BizBay, Baner, Pune - 411045
Timings: 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Photo Courtesy: We Idliwale
Note: The article was first published in Pune Times on 1 November 2019.