Hoysala – Manna from Heaven in New Jersey

If the poet William Wordsworth had dined at Hoysala in Somerset (New Jersey), he’d have modified the famous lines in his poem to read:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be hungry at Hoysala was very heaven.

Most Indian restaurants in the U.S. are like our Bollywood movies. The skimpily-clad actresses look seductive and the trailers look enticing but once you plonk your bottom in the multiplex, it’s the same old ugly-as-hell trash yet again.

After dining at over 150 Indian restaurants in the U.S. from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in upstate New York, we are plain sick of the mostly inedible (forget palatable) food served by our desi restaurants. But since we love Indian food so much (it’s like our abiding passion for movies Hindi, Tamil, English and Foreign movies), we just can’t stay away from these revoltingly bad Indian restaurants.

Like Crack addicts drawn to that bad white powder, we feel compelled to visit Indian restaurants.

As for the service at Indian restaurants in the U.S.,  don’t even get us started there. Most Indian restaurants here resemble funeral parlors with the grim, forbidding and unsmiling waiters, and their dark interiors.

But today we struck gold. In Hoysala, Somerset (New Jersey). We’d, of course, heard about this fine Indian restaurant but never had a chance to visit this restaurant.

True to its tag line on the menu,  Hoysala indeed serves Fine South Indian Cuisine.

Hoysala Somerset, NJHoysala, Somerset (New Jersey) – Divine Food

What’s not to like at Hoysala?

From the humble Coconut Chutney and Raita to the delicious Pork Fry to the Pineapple Gojju to the flavorful Andhra Chicken Biryani and the exotic Malnad Chicken, Hoysala serves up simply divine food. Here’s a kitchen that knows its business. And knows it well indeed.

The folks running Hoysala hail from the South Indian state of Karnataka and expectedly the food at this restaurant is partial to their home state.

Tired as we are of the boring Mango Lassi, we started our lunch at Hoysala with Majjige (spiced buttermilk, $2.50). A specialty of Karnataka, the cool pleasant tasting Majjige came in a tall glass (mercifully without any of that ice cubes).  With a mild flavor of ginger, cilantro and a hint of chili, the Majjige was a fine harbinger of what lay ahead of us.

Indeed, for once our meal turned out to be an embarrassment of riches.

Take for instance, the Pineapple Gojju (pineapple and bell pepper cooked with onion, red chillies, menthe seeds and spices). Hoysala is probably the only restaurant in North America to serve this awesome treat that we’ve had so many times to so much pleasure in India.

A mildly-spiced item with pieces of pineapple in a medium-thick sauce, the Pineapple Gojju is what the Gods in heaven must be feasting on every day. We swear.

We tried the Pineapple Gojju with Dosa, Coconut Rice and Plain Naan. And each time, the combination was delicious. We took our pleasures hoggishly.

Ditto with the Akki Roti (bread made of rice flour, onion, chili, carrot and cilantro), again a favorite from the state of Karnataka. Our waiter Raju asked us if we wanted the Akki Roti with chili. We asked him to do it the way it’s done by the Kannadigas (as the natives of Karnataka are known).

The Akki Roti ($4.30) that landed on our table was a treat fit for the angels, if not the Gods themselves – spicy but not obscenely spicy and neither too thick nor too thin, it was simply delicious.

The Plain Dosa and the onion/potato curry and the spicy ginger/tomato left no room for complaint but the coconut chutney could have been a bit more spicy.

Hesara Kaalu Saaru, Coconut Rice, Idli and Medhu Vada were other South Indian dishes that were beyond reproach.

Hoysala’s kitchen is as competent on the non-vegetarian side as it is on the vegetarian side.

Andhra Chicken Biryani was a flavorful delight whose memories linger on long after the meal is over. Red Chicken Fry was so tasty that we fell upon it like a pride of Lions after a kill.

As for the Malnad Chicken (boneless chicken prepared with coconut, ground poppy seeds, ginger and mild spices in Malnad style), this is the delicious stuff over which battles and wars should be waged not non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Don’t even try telling us that there exists chicken more tender than this.

It’s not just on the main courses that Hoysala stands out.

The restaurant distinguishes itself with its desserts too. We tried the Pineapple Kesaribath, Shavega Payasa (Vermicelli cooked in milk, ghee, nuts, raisins and cardamom) and Tutti-Frutti Ice Cream. Each time, we came out a winner.

Hoysala’s manager Raju (a native of Hassan in Karnataka), a smiling and friendly soul, boasted that the seven-year-old restaurant never advertises and relies just on word of mouth for business.

Raju also couldn’t help dropping the names of well known personalities from Karnataka like the singer Ashwath and Kannada actor Mukhya Mantri Chandru as satisfied visitors to the restaurant.

Sure, there were a few jarring notes in our meal. Like Raju charged us $4.30 for the Akkii Roti although the menu clearly said $2. And the flush in the restroom needs to be fixed pronto. But these were minor irritants considering the overall high standards maintained by Hoysala.

Amidst the bleak Sahara of ugly Indian restaurants in New Jersey like Moksha, Anjappar Chettinad, Saravanaa Bhavan, Udupi Village, Aachis, Palace of Asia, Urban Tadkaa and Ganges, Hoysala stands out as a welcome oasis of fine Indian food accompanied by gracious service.

Unless you are a blithering idiot or just hate Indian food, you’d do yourself a big favor by having a meal at Hoysala. But do make sure to check your bill before you leave (we didn’t like being over-charged for the Akki Roti…there was a mention on the menu card that some prices had been revised by $1…so, we’ll give them the benefit of doubt).

As for us, may the good lord strike us down if we don’t revisit this mecca of fine Indian cuisine in New Jersey soon.

5 Responses to "Hoysala – Manna from Heaven in New Jersey"

  1. gandhiji   September 19, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I envy you.. had a bad lunch at a bad indian restaurant today.

    the Hoysala takeout menu(akki roti listed at 4.00) sure sounds exotic(because I dunno any Kannada).. a departure from the boring menus at other indian restaurants.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Printed menu says $2+1.

    Watching Raman Thediya Seethai.

  2. guruprasad.s   September 20, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Your description of Pineapple Gojju, Akki Rotti and Pineapple Kesaribath made me wistful.
    Pineapple Gojju is a regular fixture in most marriages in the Southern districts of Karnataka.
    A related dish here is Hagalkai Gojju (Bitter gourd, or Karela in Hindi), which can also be quite tasty if prepared well, and which is not served by most places in Karnataka for God knows why.
    Again, the humble yet heavenly Akki Rotti is also not served in most hotels and Darshinis in Karnataka, at least in Mysore and Bangalore.
    Ragi rotti (made of ragi, which is browinish red and about the size of mustard) is an equally delicious thing, to be savoured with ucchellu Chutney (ucchellu is supposedly called Niger seed).
    As a Kannidaga staying out of Karnataka for the past seven years, your article made me envious.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    True, Gojju of any kind is a work of art. The mere thought of it sends us into a drooling, salivating fit.

    Hoysala also has Ragi mudde.

    If ever you are in the NJ area, you must visit Hoysala.

    You write: Ragi rotti (made of ragi, which is browinish red and about the size of mustard) is an equally delicious thing

    We have tasted Ragi Roti some decades ago…unfortunately this delicacy is not available in Tamil Nadu…seems to be a native of Karnataka.

  3. apchi   September 22, 2008 at 8:35 am

    so “tasty” description ! I will go to hoysala soon ! there is a restaurant in tamil nadu, right? please continue your review ,in general, especially about Food it so pleasant and original !

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: I will go to hoysala soon ! there is a restaurant in tamil nadu, right?

    Hoysala is in Somerset, New Jersey (U.S.).

  4. sampenn   December 2, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I too tried HOYSALA restaurant in NJ ,really its awesome food.I went on wednesday dinner they serve buffet,really it was a great choice of non-veg & veg .I was served with different kinds of dosa,I asked the tall guy(waiter)with out asking why u r serving this many kinds of dosa,he says its a dosa night on every wed & will be served with 12 different kinds.i dont know who will eat that much varieties,its a waste of food.But I liked there neat & clean of the restaurant(as well the rest room too).

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You write: I asked the tall guy(waiter)with out asking why u r serving this many kinds of dosa

    What nonsense is that.

    2. You sound like a shill for the restaurant. Hoysala is a good enough place that it does not require shills. We hope they’ve fixed their billing & restroom issues.

  5. sampenn   December 2, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    After seeing the description about hoysala ,I tried one day for dinner with my friend,It was a good choice of veg & non-veg.Also they served variety of dosa’s with out ordering ,I called the tall guy (may be waiter or manager)and asked regarding why they are serving so many dosa’s,he says every WED dinner is dosa night & served with 12 kinds of dosa,really its a waste of food.Atleast they can ask which type of dosa customer like.Over all food was awesome(even the rest room too).Hats of guys its enjoyable @ hoysala.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You’re back again!

    Now you definitely sound like a shill doing PR for the restaurant.

    Get lost, scumbag.

    2. You write above: Over all food was awesome(even the rest room too)

    What did you eat in the rest room? As far as we know, there’s only one thing available in a rest room.

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