ID. Idly’s nickname in college? You know how it works. Those days of reckless irresponsibility, assiduously ripped jeans and too many Bacardi Breezers. When to be hip is to be alive. (And if that can be translated into obscure Latin, I bet it will find its way onto half a dozen college fest T-shirts.) When Vijailakshmi becomes Vij. Kuppamma becomes Koopsie. And Annaikettiperumal becomes Anster.
Which brings us to ID. Set at Sathyam Cinemas, it’s an unnervingly trendy reinvention of the ubiquitous idly-dosa joint.
To my dismay, however, it turns out that ID (pronounced ‘eye dee’) isn’t really short for idly. It is actually an acronym for Idly Dosa. Bah.
Nevertheless, it certainly is a retreat fashioned for the young and restless. Decorated in slick black and white, the restaurant is intent on working the ‘cool’ factor.
Fortunately, it just about manages to veer away from wannabe thanks to its intelligent cohesiveness of design. The rather surrealist art hanging on the walls for example, which on careful inspection turn out to be close ups golden, gleaming, ghee-laden dosas taken by photographer Sharad Haksar. The interiors are classic Vikram Phadke: clean lines, minimalist design, liberal lashings of austere white. There’s the dosa bar, where patrons can perch stylishly on high stools and watch their meal being put together. And finally the luxury of starched linen, Italian cutlery and attentive service. (A treat when it’s juxtaposed with this genre of food, considering the clash and clang service we’re used to.)
On our first try, after watching an evening show of ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ (Working title: ‘You’ll never date again.’), ID is packed with the late night movie crowd, delightedly spooning up tomato chutney as they discuss how to lose friends and alienate people. We then spend about half an hour in the car park jammed between two cars whose owners are presumably pigging out on rava dosas as they bat their eyelashes at each other.
Which brings us to the main problem with having food outlets at a complex as busy as Satyam Cinemas. Although there is separate parking for people who are using the restaurants, there will unfortunately always be a couple of bright sparks who clog up the movie line. You can, of course, go in just for the restaurants. Though, we hear the security guys then give people a time limit at the parking lot: and honestly who wants to shovel down a gorgeous tiramisu and steaming latte at Ecstasy in 20 minutes flat?
At ID, however, that won’t be a problem. Dining here shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes for the restaurant is really built for speed, like a gleaming race car. Perfect for a working lunch. Or, given its location, a quick meal just before your movie begins.
The menu card is brief and to the point: idly, dosa, appam, vadai and desserts (which they strangely choose to call ‘pastry’ despite the fact that the list involves chakarai pongal and kasi halwa.) We try the appam, which arrives with a bowl of cold coconut milk twanging with cardamom, a vegetable stew and ullitheeyal. Also the masala dosa, which is made in front of us with the help of a trendy oil-ghee spray bottle. The food is light, fresh and uncomplicated. Portions are small, but the prices are reasonable given the posh factor. (A meal for two is about Rs. 150.) And you might miss the usual glistening, wicked lashings of ghee. But at least you’ll feel virtuous.
The dessert follows the same trend. The fluffy kesari is subtly coloured and sweetened. The payasam is aromatic without being overly rich. But the coffee, unfortunately, is a confused mix between a filter coffee and thick latte.
ID’s philosophy seems to be to take a sophisticated, restrained, responsible approach to a genre of cooking that normally exults in flamboyancy, extravagance and lavish lashings of ghee. In a theatre, where over-the-top is really the accepted way to go, this is an interesting path to take.
Deviancy too? Stand aside Anster. ID’s got all the makings of the coolest kid in class. (Call 43920346 for more details.)