2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013
The food of southern India doesn't enjoy much representation in Washington. Malgudi in Glover Park makes me wonder why. Introduced in February by the owners of the steady Heritage India above it, the offshoot makes a great compromise for diners who eschew meat (cauliflower fried with ginger and chilies, potato-filled dosas made with yellow lentils) and those who embrace it (gongura lamb ignited with a paste of Indian sorrel, chilies and lemon juice).
Seek out the advice of co-owner Mitul Tuli, a gracious guide to the menu and a frequent presence in the room, which, with antique paintings and ornate mango wood door, is more stylish than its prices suggest. Tuli is the presence who explains that kothu poratta -- minced bread with chopped chicken or lamb, bound with egg and rich with spices -- is a favorite of truck drivers who need hearty sustenance. "Indian stuffing," she calls the soft golden comfort.
She also shares that Malgudi is named for an Indian village that exists only in a collection of short stories. The inspiration is fiction, but the crack food is fact.
Head to India, then turn south
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Since February, an attendant at the door leading to the second-story Heritage India in Glover Park has been offering arrivals a choice of menus. One option sends customers upstairs, for the expected tandoori chicken and Goan curry. The other menu features the cooking of southern India and keeps patrons on the first level, now known as Malgudi.
Stay grounded. Malgudi makes some of the most intriguing vegetarian food this side of the two Rasika restaurants. The evidence appears with a snack of what look like hush puppies but turn out to be Mysore bonda, fritters whipped up from rice and lentil batters and flavored with chilies and fresh coconut in their fluffy middles. Further proof you won’t miss meat: cauliflower florets rolled in rice batter and fried to a fine crackle with ginger, garlic and chilies. There are fine dosas, too, in nearly a dozen styles.
Although there are pleasing meat dishes in the mix -- lamb “pepper fry” in a thick and sticky gravy of curry leaves and such comes to mind -- my fork returned more often to the vegetarian plates. A caveat is the beautiful poblano pepper stuffed with spicy lamb, an appetizer big enough to qualify as a main course and, in Sri Lankan rather than Indian fashion, grilled rather than fried.
The food for Malgudi is made in a kitchen shared by Heritage India, albeit in a separate section, says Sanjeev Tuli, who co-owns both brands and once ran a hotel in Madras.
The space occupied by his latest attraction has seen a lot of changes since Heritage India launched in 1999. It has been a bar, a party space, an art gallery, even a Thai restaurant, Heritage Asia.
I like the current incarnation best. Pillows soften the banquettes, and antique paintings from Thanjavur (Tanjore), a center of South Indian religion and design, add a regal touch. Genuine gold leaf in the art helps.
This diner struck gold of a different sort on two recent visits, not just with much of the food but with an authoritative guide: Mitul Tuli, Sanjeev’s wife and business partner and a frequent presence at Malgudi. Every dish I tried on her watch was accompanied by welcome narration.
“It’s eaten by the whole of south India at the end of the meal, as a digestive,” she said in introducing thayir sadam, a bowl of chilled and milky rice scattered with curry leaves, fresh green chilies and mustard seed. Lucky souls, I thought as I spooned again and again into the cream crossed with fireworks.