When asked what food one would prefer to eat for the rest of their life, the little ones nearly always respond with popular fast food. Ask someone in their early 20’s and we can assure you—home food will undoubtedly be the reigning champion. Whether it be dal-chawal and some sabzi or curd rice with some pickle, home food is where it’s at. More so, when you’re away from home! There’s a certain quality to home food that hardly any other commercial dish could compare to, and that exact factor is where Bengaluru Oota Company’s strength lies. When Divya Prabhakar and Vishal Shetty turned their passion for food into a business, everyone who knew of them (and Vishal’s food) knew it was a recipe for success.
“We were clear about one thing when we first started planning this venture out—we wanted balance in our lives. We didn’t want a restaurant as we would be required to run it 24/7. Vishal wasn’t keen on mass catering either, the idea didn’t excite her,” says Divya, when asked how they started their little tasting room. Vishal defends herself while laughing, “I wanted to meet the people eating my food! So when we stumbled upon a space that was barely two minutes away from our homes, we decided on a Tasting Room.” The duo share a camaraderie that has been built over 40 years of friendship; only strengthened by Divya’s love of food and Vishal’s love of cooking and of course, feeding people! While Divya is a seventh generation Gowda and brings her ancestor’s recipes to the table, Vishal brings in traditional fiery Mangalorean food, sourced straight from her mother and grandmother.
“To be honest, the idea came to us over food and a bottle of gin. We were coincidentally both on a sabbatical, talking about our future careers, when this idea came up back in August 2015,” says Divya. Vishal continues, “Everything was literally on the table and somewhere between the conversations, the gin (laughs), and the food, we decided to work together.” Combining two cuisines like these led to a few doubts which is why they started small at first—catering to their friends and family, relying heavily on their feedback.
After all, the cuisines may seem familiar but in actuality, aren’t. Gowda cuisine is mainly ‘landlocked’ as Divya says. They cook what they grow i.e. whatever is in season is in their pots. “Meat for us is primarily mutton, then chicken. We eat our mutton from nose to tail!” Vishal wrinkles her nose as Divya laughs, “She hates that we do that!” Mangalorean cuisine focuses on seafood, a fact reinforced by their menu. “Our cooking styles are very similar, but Gowdas use green chillies, coriander leaves and seeds, lots of garlic, and our desserts are made of jaggery mainly. Mangalorean cuisine however uses more coconut—coconut milk, grated coconut, coconut oil—everything! Oh, and red chillies,” says Divya, who initially wondered if the cuisines would compliment each other on a table. She continues, “Visually, it’s a treat. Mangalorean food makes for the reds, while Gowda food makes for the browns and greens.”
Currently, their mango yellow Tasting Room is open to all, as long as you book a day in advance. This is due to the food philosophies they had in mind that needed to remain constant. One, that everything was fresh, nothing was frozen; and two, no wastage. “Food has travelled a long way. Not just distance, but the effort it takes to grow it all,” says Divya solemnly. As for their fresh food? It’s all sourced from a local market whose inhabitants have been around for generations as well. “It’s an old cobblestoned market; even our grocery man has been around for over 120 years! The current grocer is from the fourth generation of that family,” they say, smiling as they reminisce.
The duo do have Open Tables as well, where people are welcome to book a table in advance. Sometimes, they even invite other home chefs to host their cuisines at their Tasting Room! However, if you’d like to sample some traditional, home food, cooked with plenty of love, this is where you need to go. Some of their most popular dishes are the Kori Ghee Roast, Mamsa Pulav, Goli Bajis, Kane Fry, Kosumbri and Mamsa Saaru (Mutton Curry)—so if you’re really looking forward to one of the above, do let them know in advance.
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