The menu of recently-opened Tasty Chapathi PJ is similar to its sister establishment in Jalan Ipoh, offering North Indian specialities with tweaks, such as various types of Chaat, a street food snack of which the Sev Puri (RM6.90) was a delight — cold, crunchy and sweet mouthfuls of potato and onion with minty yoghurt and beetroot on crisp shells.
Northern Indian or Mughlai cuisine has its heritage in the Persian-speaking Moghuls who ruled India centuries ago. Their lavish way of life, love for luxury and sense of style are reflected in complex, spicy flavours and thick, creamy textures.
Tasty Chapathi PJ pays tribute to the tradition with convincingly deep flavours in the dishes we ordered. Pieces of fresh tenggiri in a mild, buttery-smooth, yellow sauce (Methi Fish, RM26.90) with ground spices contributing to the complex dimensions; Butter Chicken (RM20.90) — pieces of boneless chicken in a creamy, bright red sauce that was smooth and sweet, disguising an underlying spiciness that left a tingle on the tongue — and appetising Mutton Masala (RM29.90), tender pieces of boneless mutton in a thick, spicy brown curry, smooth yet more forceful and masculine than the other two.
For an original, Sizzling Tava Masala Veg (RM20.90) salutes the tradition with a sizzling hot plate of cottage cheese (paneer), okra, capsicum, cauliflower, beans, potatoes and brinjal in a thick, spicy sauce rendered beguilingly innocuous with its smoothness, yet too strong if not taken with some fresh naan or the excellent, crisp Lahori Lacha Paratha (RM5.50 each), a satisfyingly filling, layered whole wheat flour bread.
We finished the meal as a Mughal prince would, with Badam (almond) and Pistachio Kulfi (RM8.90 each) — cold, milky, creamy, sweet and nutty.
Tasty Chapathi PJ pays homage to what was once royal cuisine with a variety of rich, complex flavours to make you feel like Mughal royalty of yore.
South Indian food, on the other hand, is literally half a subcontinent away and emphasises rice over wheat, chilli, coconut, lentils, local fruit and vegetables, spices in thin, fiery curries and sourish notes from tamarind.
Yatra has a warm, neighbourhood eatery feel with a dash of modernity thrown in and a modest, reasonably priced menu that belies the accomplished, authentic food it serves. Service was quick and friendly, if a little hard to come by.
The breads were very good and fresh: crisp, fragrant Rawa Dosai (RM7) and fluffy, fragrant Chapathi (RM5) to try on the Chicken Varuval (RM15 for a double portion) — chicken pieces in a thick, not-too-spicy appetising curry with a lingering taste of cloves — or the generous Fish Curry (RM25 for a double portion) — chunky pieces of fish in a sour-spicy curry with brinjal and other vegetables. Masala Prawn (RM15 for a single portion) featured fresh, succulent small prawns with mixed vegetables in a mild and appealing curry paste.
The understated Side Vegetables (RM9) featured three vegetables of the day. Instead of the unidentifiable mush you usually find in South Indian restaurants, brinjal, spinach and labu air (vegetable marrow) were tasty and crunchy.
Thalis feature prominently on the menu, with various combinations in sets. We opted for the Vegetarian Thali with Parboiled Rice, served in an eversilver (stainless steel) tray with a generous dollop of rice, assorted vegetables and curries, a rasam (needed more kick), grilled salted chilli, papadam, yoghurt and a comforting, sweet, milky and nutty payasam — and all for just RM13.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a focus on single meal Thali sets, Yatra serves classy, unimpeachably authentic South Indian food that is very reasonably priced, fresh and a notch or three above your corner-lot mamak restaurant.
Tasty Chapati (PJ Branch) Unit C-13A-1 & C-15-01, Phase 3 Two Square, Dataran Phase 3 Two, 2 Jalan 19/1, PJ. 03 7611 9300. Daily, 11am-11pm.
Yatra Restaurant, B-G-5 Block B, Ativo Plaza, 1 Jalan PJU 9/1, Damansara Avenue, Bandar Sri Damansara, KL. 03 6734 0322. Tue-Sun, 10am-9.30pm.
This article first appeared on Aug 20, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.