‘Where do you get the best seafood around here?’ – a question we Mangaloreans get a lot. After all, they’ve come to a coastal town, and fish is what they want to eat.
But then, there’s no easy answer. Yeah, we do have a few fancy restaurants that serve seafood. But the best seafood? I will have to go with ‘Narayanas’ – a small, dingy, home-style eatery in the shabbiest part of the town – Bunder.
Here, let me describe the Narayanas experience for you:
You are a bunch of hungry, fish-starved people moving around in a car.
You get to Bunder – the busiest place in Mangalore. (Bunder boasts of the narrowest lanes packed with the most people per square inch of the road).
You do circles for half an hour before you get a parking spot that is a few hundred yards from the place at the best of times.
You walk into the eatery entrance – and you see a run-down house. All sweaty (stinking too, maybe?), you enter the building, only to see that all the 5 tables there have been taken, with each table seating more people than it was designed to handle.
You wait around in the (non-queue system) waiting area, all the while keeping a close eye for any chairs that may free up. You get there, one by one, at different times, and end up sitting at different tables.
You wait for a menu. Instead, a waiter comes along and places a plate of rice with some sides in front of you. Before you can even utter a word, he’s gone.
You peck at the rice, wondering what will come up next.
Finally, another waiter comes with a large tray containing different types of fish deep fried in oil topped with a fried spice mix. He shows the tray to you.
You point to the fish you want and signal how many you want. He drops them onto your plate. You dig into the fried fish.
Lo and behold, an amazing taste of fresh fish fried in a secret spice mix explodes in your mouth!
And it is this moment that makes a trip to Narayanas worth all the trouble you took to get there. Try it once, and I’m sure you will return. Again and again.
Update to the post
Alright, guys, I chanced upon another joint that tops Narayanas. This is a place called Giri Manjas or ‘Manjannas’ in Car Street. The ambience and the style of serving food are very similar to Narayanas, but this place has more seating capacity. The two other notable and very popular places are Machali and CKK. There are also some ‘family toddy shops’ springing up in Mangalore, which I’ve heard serves some great fish dishes.
Now, if you are looking for higher-end restaurants, here are a few: Hotel Village (Great ambience – rustic feel, good food), Hotel Maharaja (Good food, Most reasonable pricing), Gajalee (High end – prices tilting to exorbitant, but great ambience), Ocean Pearl (New kid on the block) and Gold Finch (Personally, I found the food a bit too greasy).