Dreaming of crisp vadas and fiter coffee from the sabha canteen? Although Chennai’s December music festival has gone online because of COVID-19, you can still keep some traditions alive
Although Margazhi music season is going to be virtual this year, the city was in for a pleasant surprise when Sastha Catering Services announced the launch of their canteen at The Mylapore Fine Arts Club.
“Chennai music season is synonymous with sabha canteens and without them, wouldn’t the experience be incomplete?” asks R K Venkatesan, proprietor, Sastha Catering Services. Venkatesan has been regular at the Brahma Ghana Sabha canteen at Sivagami Pethachi Auditoruim since 2016.
This year, sabhas in the city have united to form the Federation of City Sabhas, to present, Yours Truly Margazhi, featuring online concerts. Venkatesan says that the Federation, wanting music fans to experience the traditional surge of excitement that piping hot filter coffee and ghee drenched pongal brings every year when the seasonal canteens open mid-December, decided to retain one.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, business has been brisk. “Though I was a little apprehensive about walk-ins, we had a good number of people dropping in for breakfast and lunch on the day of the launch itself,” he says.
The canteen serves breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner everyday. “As always, filter coffee will be available through the day, and during dinner time, we will serve masala milk. On January 1, there will be a special Malabar wedding feast featuring all the speciality dishes from Kerala. It will be somewhat similar to the Onam sadya,” says Venkatesan.
The hallmark of Sastha Canteen says Venkatesh, is their home-style spice powders made with high quality ingredients. “We use the best raw materials, yet we keep the cost affordable for all. Last year, our lunch was priced at ₹300, but this year we have had to revise it to ₹350. This is due to the rise in cost of oil and other essential ingredients. We also end up spending a little more to maintain COVID-19 safety norms at the venue by checking temperatures, ensuring that all the staff wear masks and sanitising the kitchen every two hours,” he adds.
- The canteen by Sastha Catering Services, will function at The Mylaore Fine Arts Club, Mylapore, till January 3. Lunch will be served every day at the venue (₹350) and on Janurary 1 a special Palakkad Sadya is being offered (₹450). Mini meals (₹210) are also available for lunch. Sappota kerasi, gulkand kasi halwa, vethala bajji and vedakka bajji, red rice dosa, seven taste uthappam, thayir podi idly and akkaravadisal are some of the most popular items on the canteen menu. The lunch menu for all days will be shared on request. To pre-book, call 6369353037.
Venkatesan says he has been able to set up the canteen this December because he was able to financially support his team of 80 over the last ten months. “All of them even told me that they are willing to work for even half the pay and work for 24 hours in order to make the canteen successful and serve quality meals,” he says.
For the first time, the caterers have tied up with delivery partners, enabling loyalists to order from the safety of their homes. The elaborate menu offers a variety of dosas, from classic ghee podi masala to inventive versions made with spinach, pineapple and even beetroot. There are plenty of popular snacks, including banana flower vadais, chilli bhajjis and sweet kozhukattais. Dinner boasts a extravagance of idlis: butter tawa fried idli, curd podi idli and thattu idli, amongst others.
For the new year special lunch on January 1, the Palakkad or Kerala sadya will be served at the canteen. Malabar aviyal, erisseri, kurukku kalan, puli inji and paal ada pradhaman will be part of the menu. Mini meals will be served for lunch and dinner and for those who prefer to eat idli/dosa for dinner there is a wide variety to choose from. “We have planned the menu for all days and customers can take a look at the items listed for a particular day and dine in or order in based on this. Every day of the week will have different types of rasams and puli kulambu. We will serve one variety rice per day as part of the lunch menu,” Venkatesan says.
So, this year when you catch a kutcheri online, you can also bring at least some of the cheer, flavour and warmth of the annual sabha hopping experience home via a canteen delivery.
To order via Dunzo, call 63692 43506.