However, if you ask around long enough, across various classes and professions - from shop keepers to doctors, manual labourers to businessmen - you will find one name popping up constantly.
Situated in the hectic Bunder region of Mangalore, Narayana is a small hotel which has been around for more than sixty five years. Unlike other restaurant establishments, which succumbed to the pressures of modern day cuisine and introduced new items in their menu, Narayans has stayed remarkably true to their recipe for success.
The place is innocuously located in between many busy shops in the market place and can probably seat 40 - 50 people at one time. It is akin to the lunch houses and Indian Coffee Houses in that, everyone just comes in and sits at the first available seat.
Once you are seated, a plate is brought in front of you containing boiled rice, a traditional fish curry ( sardines/ mathi ), the vegetable of the day and some pickle.
You will also be offered a glass of what is called Majige ( buttermilk with salt and chillies ). Almost as if by unspoken law, everyone who has been served their plate removes the tumbler containing the fish curry, emptying the middle portion of the plate.
If you are wondering why, it soon becomes clear.
Moments after everyone has been served their plates, the waiter arrives carrying a huge platter filled with a variety of piping hot fried fish straight off the frying pan.
The usual suspects you would find on the platter are :
- Seer fish ( King fish / Anjal fry / Ney-meen ),
- Lady fish ( Kane / Nonghal ),
- Mackeral ( Bangude / Aiyla ) and
- Pomfret ( Aagholi ).
After that... well, after that, it's like the ending scene from an Asterix comic book where everyone is just too busy feasting to bother. The sky could fall on our heads and we would have continued munching our food.
I too really didn't bother to wait and take pictures of the next platter which had more varieties of fish - as you can see if you look carefully, I could barely keep my hands off the fish once it landed on my plate !! You have to have a will of steel not to ask for the second piece of fish when the waiter comes around the second time with a new batch of fried fish.
I personally feel that this is easily the best fried fish you will get in Mangalore and that is high praise, because there are worthy competitors for that title in this city ( Kairali, Gajalee, Meenas are some names that come to mind. )
The rates vary based on the season. I know you read that in any sea food menu card, but here they aren't talking triple digits - a nice piece of Seer fish could range between just Rs 25 -80 based on the season. They pride themselves on quality over quantity and it shows in the most important part - their food.
So the next time you're around in Mangalore and hankering for some sea food, do seek out Narayana Hotel. If they've been serving people for 65 years, they must be doing something right.