Climbing up the stairs towards what used to be Tifanys, you are greeted with the image of a tub of ice cream, which is ironic, since Suprabaa doesn’t seem to serve any (not yet, they say). The ambience hasn’t changed much, with the good (?) old granite-topped tables and stools, the staff that speaks mostly Tamil or heavily accented Hindi, and the ladies who call out when dishes are ready.
A quick look at the menu shows that nothing significant has changed there either. Granted, the prices are a little higher, but then so is the quality of the food. Suprabaa has managed to retain the authentic taste of the South Indian dishes on the menu, and diners vouch for the fact that some of it (sambar and chutney, for instance) has improved. It has managed to improve (but not perfect, unfortunately) certain other dishes too – including some North Indian dishes like paratha and butter naan. The strong filter coffee that enabled many students to pull off all-nighters is still available and is just as good, confirm regular consumers of the beverage.
The addition of a chaat counter is a welcome change. Although the pani puri served doesn’t magically transport you to the streets of Delhi, it is way better than the excuse for pani puri that is served by most street vendors around Chennai, with peas. (Peas! At least this one is made with potato.) Many who frequent the place say that the dahi puri deserves to be tried as well. At any rate, the chaat serves to break from the monotony of the usual masala dosa and thayyir saadam and most definitely from mess food.
Apart from this, there’s the juice and sandwich counter, open almost all day. Fruit juice, served in tall fancy-looking glasses, sometimes tends to be too sweet. Even then, this part of Suprabaa is a definite improvement over the old arrangement where juice was seldom available. Sandwiches are perfect for a light breakfast or a late afternoon meal and, of course, mean more choices for the hungry.
Then there’s the Hindi music in the background, which somehow makes the consumption of food a dramatic process, like you are in an old black and white movie, and the food has more meaning to it than being a life-sustaining energy source. With the playlist mostly consisting of songs from an era caught between the old-is-gold age and the post-Karan Johar age, I wonder if it is an attempt to attract the Hindi-speaking North Indian crowd. (If so, it would be completely unnecessary; what choice do we have anyway?) It doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect, since the mix of South Indian food and old Hindi songs ends up creating a confused sense of belonging – they just don’t add up.
Suprabaa occupies a smaller area than Tifanys did, and employs a more organised billing system, with the payment counter having been moved away from the food counter. But to those of us who considered Tifanys as an alternative on bad-mess-food days, and as a lazy weekend breakfast option, nothing much has changed. We still get our beloved dosa or parotta and coffee. It will take some time to get used to the new name though.