Ratna Café in Triplicane, set up in 1948, is famous for preparing the perfect sambhar, that has pleased generations of Chennaiites.
As you enter the narrow bylanes of Triplicane and ask any passer-by about Ratna Café, chances are high that they would be able to point in the right direction. Ratna Café is one of the most popular south Indian vegetarian restaurants in the area, rather in Chennai. And their biggest draw is their delicious and lip-smacking sambhar. You read it right, it is not the main dish but the side dish that is the star. Have it with a plate of fluffy idlis or crispy dosa, nothing can beat the taste of the sambhar served at Ratna Café. The eatery, which is crowded through the day, churns out litres of sambhar every day and all of it gets consumed. Now the most interesting bit of information about the place. It is run by a native of Uttar Pradesh and not a south Indian!
Triloknath Gupta, a native of Uttar Pradesh, started the eatery way back in 1948. Apart from serving the traditional south Indian fare, the man was responsible for bringing basundhi, rasmalai and soan papdi to a South Indian restaurant. Now it is run by his grand-nephew Lokesh Gupta, a young man who was trained to be an architect but decided to eventually take over the family business. They also successfully bid for a 12-year contract to run the food court at Chennai Central Railway Station in 2015.
Going back to their most important side dish, the sambhar. The recipe remains a secret, that has been handed down the years by founder Triloknath Gupta. They also have an important policy in place in the kitchen. They have different cooks for different dishes. As a result, each one is a specialist of their dish and happens to master it.
So on any given day, just walk in to Ratna Café and order a plate of idlis, dosa, oothapam or whatever you want. It will hardly matter. But once you dunk it in their piping hot sambhar, you will be in food haven!