For the love of good food….
That time of the year is back… Starting from Ganesh Chathurthi, we Indians celebrate a long string of festivals culminating finally with the winter harvest of Makar Sakranti in January. Ironically, this period is a mix of fasting and feasting days. While there is no dearth of feasting choices, what if you found yourself in Pune on one of the days that you were fasting?
All you would need to do would be to simply land up at F.C. Road and ask around for Vaishali restaurant. A landmark today, this 60-year old institution has been known to serve typical South Indian restaurant food and some much-needed Maharashtrian snacks which go down well on fasting days too. Started by Jagannath B. Shetty, the restaurant started as a tiny hole-in-the-wall “Madras Health” and gradually evolved into the indoor and outdoor Vaishali of today.
We landed up there on a Sunday morning. We were amazed to see the number of people patiently waiting their turn to be assigned a decent enough table by the efficient managers, devour their food and make way for other people with similar patience. Being rainy season, it was nice to sit outdoor with a balmy breeze accompanying the hot food.
After a while, we managed to be assigned a table in the outdoor area. Going by some of the online recommendations, I went ahead with the Sabudana Vada, the husband ordered a Medu Vada and then we decided to share a Vaishali special Dosa.
The Sabudana Vada was admittedly the best I have had till date. The vada was nice and fluffy with well-spiced airy mashed potatoes. It was interspersed with spongy sabudana. The icing was the beautiful crispy golden layer which made it all go CRUNCH with every bite! In typical Maharashtrian style, the 2 huge vadas were served with a small bowl of sweet watery yoghurt. If you do not prefer sweet with your vada, take my cue and have it with the yummy coconut chutney which enhanced the taste by quite a few degrees.
The medu vada came dipped in the hot and spicy sambhar. The wada was almost like in any Udupi restaurant with nothing too different to write home about. The sambhar thankfully did not have the sweet tinge associated with the typical Udupi restaurant sambhars. The coconut chutney was pure coconut with a hint of green chilly. If like my husband medu vada is your go-to dish at a South Indian restaurant, then you would do well to order it here.
The Vaishali special dosa was probably the only slight disappointment in our meal. The dosa was huge with a stuffing of the spiced potatoes of a typical Masala Dosa, liberally sprinkled with dry fruits like cashews and raisins. At Rs. 130, we felt that it was one unjustifiably expensive option on the menu and we were probably better off trying another of the myriad items on the menu.
We rounded off our meals with the filter coffee. It came to our table in two tall glass tumblers. The coffee was sweet and milder than what you expect from the South Indian filter coffee but nice all the same.
Even today when I see people fasting around me, all I can think of are the beautiful golden Sabudana vada and the piping hot glass of filter coffee. Fasting or not, if in Pune, take out time and go to Vaishali. One meal and it would be understood why this institution has been rock steady in the area for the last 60 years.
Specialty: Sabudana Wada, South Indian food
Address: 1218/1, Fergusson College Road, Fergusson College Campus, Shivaji Nagar, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune
Veg/Non Veg: Veg
Value for money: 3.5/5
Food quality: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5