Intro: Every (or almost all) Malaysian(s) will have a craving for a hot & spicy dish of banana leaf rice with all the trimmings from time to time. Today was my turn to satisfy my sudden urge for a good curry!
Kavitha vs Usha: When I want a good dose of Banana Leaf savouries, I normally head to Kavitha’s stall at the hawker centre (Medan Selera) in Petaling Jaya Old Town. However, recently I’ve noticed that Kavitha’s once mouthwatering fish curry poured over steamed white rice, accompanied by a variety of hot & cold condiments, have lost their deliciousness! So, this time, I decided to test-out a different but newer Banana Leaf Rice stall called Usha Restaurant- it was in the same hawker centre and only a few doors away from each other. What initially attracted me to Usha was the wide array of fresh cooked popular Indian dishes, its cleanliness and the owner & staff looked like they were well organised & ready to give their patrons a run for their money! Moreover, I prided myself on my good intuition on finding great food, and I was getting a good vibe off this stall.
Good Feng Shui: Since I was early and had purposely avoided the usual office lunch crowd, I was able to book a seat at an empty table directly under a ceiling fan and next to the food display counter. My hope for good food rose when I saw that Usha had not only more dishes to choose from than Kavitha stall, but Usha’s cooked dishes certainly looked way more appealing and more visually stimulating than Kavitha’s ones. So, just on first impressions alone, the new contender was already ahead on points, but everything will hinge on the taste tests ahead.
Banana Leaf vs Plate: Unexpectedly, I was served my steamed white rice on a real banana leaf which in turn was on top of a plate. At Kavitha, your food would be served on a banana leaf which was directly on the table. Whatever the case, I’ve always regarded the use of banana leaf more of a gimmick and an unnecessary extravagance, and more importantly, the leaf doesn’t really affect the taste of the dishes served upon it! If I was Indian, I suspect my feeling about the use of real banana leaf would be more positive and less dismissive. However, I will accept that eating off banana leaf does make the eating experience more enjoyable.
Eat And Be Merry: By now, I was practically drooling in anticipation for some wholesome Indian food, and my stomach juices had already kicked into gear in preparation for some nourishment. As you can see from the photos enclosed and this short video below, I had ordered my usual dish of steamed white rice, fish curry (without fish) with lady’s fingers, 2 cooked vegetables, tau foo sambal, fish cutlets, spicy mutton, rasam soup, poppadom and hot masala tea. Will these dishes taste as good as they had looked and smelled?
For My Tastebuds: The short answer is that the food had tasted delicious without exception. My expectations were well met, and I was waiting for something to go wrong or taste off, but I was not the least bit disappointed. Let me explain how I derived at my assessment. Firstly, it might seem trivial but the white rice was cooked to perfection and it complimented the curry superbly. The fish curry was not too thick and its spices were consistent but not overpowering. The lady’s fingers in the curry were tender which suggested that the ingredients were fresh when cooked. The cabbage and leafy green were tasty and slightly firm which suggested they were not overcooked. The mutton dish was tender and lovely, and the dried chillis in it were hot enough to give a kick but not a knockout punch. The fish cutlets were delicious and not fishy. The rasam soup and poppadoms were delightful. Last but not least, the masala tea had a good mix of tea and spices in it. Impressive performance!
Cooking With Pride: Frankly, many things could have gone wrong in preparing and cooking my meal like in many other over-commercialised Indian eateries. However, Usha Restaurant had passed the all-important taste test with flying colours, and it is because the owners take pride in giving their patrons good food. They are not driven purely by profits which is the reason why many restaurants, not only Indian ones, have lost their followers due to undercutting the quality of their food. Unfortunately, I have eaten at many restaurants where their food quality have deteriorated and their service has sunk so low that I am shocked how these calculator restauranteurs could expect people to pay for their miserable food and non-existent service. Back to Usha, I hope that they never rest on their laurels and continue to dish out exquisite food, or they may end-up becoming stale and stagnant like their poor neighbour, Kavitha.
Global Inflation: My meal cost me rm24 which will seem pricey to some, and the mutton is the most expensive dish at rm6. Nevertheless, the pricing between Kavitha & Usha will be the same because they both see themselves as serving the ‘same’ food, but for my money, I’d rather pay a bit more to ensure that I’ll be eating tasty food, in a clean environment with a pleasant-enough service whenever I get my next craving for curry rice on a real banana leaf!