It is where my dad ate lunch for most of his working life, and where hundreds are served a balanced and delicious meal each afternoon and evening, after which they go back to work or home, energized and happy.
Rama Nayak's Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding is not the kind of restaurant which is looked on as a social meeting place, or a place where you would go seeking a relaxing ambiance. But the interesting thing from my point of view is that when you have eaten there, you feel you have eaten somewhere unique, 'met' people who served you well, experienced an energizing ambiance, and surely did not get ripped off!
I love visiting because I am absolutely sure of the hygiene and simplicity of the place and its food. Plus, I know I can get all that without compromising on the taste. The cuisine, namely Udipi food, is a specialty of Udipi, in South India. Its uniqueness lies in its low spiciness and in how easy it is to digest. Udipi food is relatively low-calorie, based on lentils, pulses, and coconut; it is purely vegetarian, with just a hint of spice and lots of pure vegetable flavours. No wonder they proudly display a sign declaring that 'The owner of this restaurant also eats here'!
Because of this simple, non-oily food, one does not feel heavy after eating it. At the same time, its basic ingredients can be blended into so many permutations that boredom with this cuisine is very unlikely. If I were working nearby, this is surely where I would get a monthly pass to eat my lunches each weekday.
Their logistical system of bringing out the food from the kitchen and serving it to a sitting congregation of at least 200, all within an hour, is mind-boggling. And there aren't more than ten people managing this entire crowd. There is one server who comes out every 15 minutes carrying almost ten thalis (plates of 50 cm diameter) with his two bare hands, shouting a characteristic 'heyyyyyyyy' lest anyone get in his way as he strides out to distribute the plates to ten clients at a time! My brother and I used to go there often with my parents and just get mesmerised by the guy's skills. What other entertainment does one need?!
It is a system that not only feeds, satisfies, and entertains, but also keeps your wallet relatively full. For a mere INR 34 (less than USD 1) you get a well-balanced meal consisting of rice, sambhar, rasam, vegetables, pickle, salad, curd, buttermilk, and purified water. Extras such as a sweet will set you back a few cents. And I have never heard of hygiene issues, in spite of the kitchen being so labour-intensive. They are so confident of their standards in this regard that they invite visits to their kitchen any day during non-meal hours.
To conclude: Rama Nayak Udipi has been a trusted name for South Indian vegetarian cuisine in Mumbai for generations. It has kept up its standards, and never fails to satisfy (and entertain in its own way, too!). To visit, go to Matunga Central Railway Station in Mumbai, and look out for the board on the right as you face the station. You can't miss it.