“Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” so quoted the great American cookbook author and mentor for many professional chef’s – James Andrew Beard. Food binds people of all cultures and traditions. India is land of diversity that offers a plethora of cuisines that cover the latitudinal and longitudinal extent of the country. The country has also imbibed cuisines from around the world and added that Indian flavor to it which we all love.
Traveling around the country throws up a great gastronomical adventure. The North Eastern states of India, majorly untouched, is known for the various hill tribes that make our country as diverse as it can get. From Assam to Nagaland to Manipur and beyond, each state that comprises the sisterhood of the North East boasts about a cuisine that offers the palate a taste of the life lived there. From dry beef pickle in Nagaland to Iromba in Manipur, each state has a variety of dishes that are distinct from the rest of the country. You may have come across many an article that have shed much light on the cuisine of the Northeastern states of India. This article deals with some of the eateries, cafes and restaurants (not necessairily serving local cuisine but International fare as well) that one must surely visit if one is to travel to the state of Manipur. Called the ‘Switzerland of India’ by Lord Irwin, Manipur has seen much growth in the past few years with a number of eateries springing up all over the state. Here are 5 such haunts you must visit and gorge on the delicacies offered.
Life Café, Churachandpur, Manipur
If you happen to travel to Manipur, make it a point to take out some time to visit the district of Churachandpur. The place is about 4 hours away from the capital city Imphal. One can make use of the Winger car services or the state transport buses to get to Churachandpur.
While most tourists will flock to the Khuga dam to enjoy its scenic beauty, you will not want to leave the district without having sampled the fare dished out at Life Café on Rengkai Road. Just a year into business, this café has wowed the locals as well as the hungry traveler with its mouthwatering delicacies. The menu comprises of delectable sandwiches, pizzas, momos and Chinese fast food that cater to both vegetarians and as well as meat lovers.
It would be a cardinal sin not to make special mention about the pizzas served up by the café. The bread is freashly baked and hand tossed and the pizzas come fresh out of the oven loaded with toppings that range from ham, chicken and vegetables. A bite into a slice of this pizza is enough to set you off on a gastronomical adventure. The word ‘tasty’ does not do justice to the dish. You can wash this down with pitchers of Coke, Fanta and other soft drinks available.
The dishes served up live up to the expectations of a foodie and the best part is that it doesn’t hurt the pocket. A pizza of eight slices costs around Rs 290.00 and comfortably feeds four hungry stomachs. When it comes to ambience and service, how would you like to be served by an all-American staff? Well yes! The USP of this café is that it is run by a group of American staff that provide top notch service. The place is impeccably clean and is a favourite haunt of the youth of Manipur. The people who serve you are polite and go out of their way to make your dining experience at Life Café a memorable one. A visit to the Khuga Dam in Churachandpur is incomplete without heading to this eatery on Rengkai Road.
Rita Café, The Classic Hotel, Imphal West, Manipur
Are you looking to relax those weary shoulders while sipping on a mocktail or a hot cuppa? If the answer is an affirmative then you need to get yourself to Rita Café. This lounge is the designated café of the famous three star Classic Hotel situated on the national highway that leads to the land of the Nagas. Talking about the decorum and ambience, as the name of the hotel suggests, it is a class in itself. If you are looking for a rich and cozy experience, then Rita Café is where you will satiate that need. With a band that performs both English and Manipuri songs on a regular basis, the mood is set for a great eat out experience.This café has created quite a buzz with the food it offers. From pastries to patties, cupcakes to cookies, smoothies to mocktails, you name it and this café has it!
While the dishes may not be too pocket friendly, the quality of the food served along with the service provided makes it an eatery worth visiting and thus it makes it to this list as well. Special mention must be made of the Bar- B-Que chicken pizza and the Italian Smooch mocktail. The pizza is filled with chicken mince and all the cheesy goodness that one can ever ask for. The mocktail is refreshing and the zing of ginger ale added to it makes it a hit on the frequent visitors list. Make your way to this café and enjoy the goodness offered.
Classic Café, The Classic Hotel, Imphal West, Manipur
Well, if your tummy craves something more than just a light bite, all that you need to do is take a walk to the 1st floor of the Classic Hotel and voila!! Classic Café presents you with a menu that will satiate your hunger pangs and leave you wanting for more.
This 69 seater dine out is elegance personified. The waiters greet you with a warm smile and allow you to choose a table, be it close to the vast glass wall that provides an awesome view of the magnificent Kangla Fort or a quiet corner close to the buffet spread. The tables are laid with cutlery and crockery that transports one back to the Victorian era. One will experience a sense of fluidity right from choosing your table to ordering your food to the service provided by the staff.
Yes, you heard that right. Apart from an ‘A La Carte‘ menu that ranges from Chinese to Indian to Italian to Manipuri, the eatery also offers a buffet spread every weekend. The buffet spread, priced extremely reasonably, is lavish with a variety of dishes on offer. One can choose from a range of salads and soups to start with, then move on to the appetizers, followed by the main course and dessert thereafter. An added bonus is that the buffet spread is never repeated thus breaking the monotony and allowing foddies to sample a new spread with every buffet. The spaghetti and meatballs tossed in tomato and basil sauce is a standout and a must try when one happens to drop by.
Hot Pot, Imphal East
When in a mood for authentic Thai cuisine, Hotpot, a local eatery situated in Imphal East is the place to be at. The Phad Thai, a flat noodle based dish, is an all-time favourite and many a foodie travel from other districts to get a bite at this eatery. Apart from Thai cuisine, one can also get a taste of Burmese, Chinese and as well as Mughali dishes. The chicken biryani is yummy and comes with a separate add-on gravy that takes the dish to another level all together.
This eatery is a popular family dine out. The ambience is simple and one can choose between sitting indoors or outdoors under huts made of hay while gorging on a scrumptious bowl of Khow Sway (a yummy Burmese dish of noodles, garlic and chilli flakes doused in a chicken or pork broth) on a cold winter evening. The menu is extensive and the dishes are moderately priced. One can make their way to this eatery from the famous Sangai festival spot, Bhagyachandra Open Air Theatre (BOAT) locate3d just 10 minutes away.
Elle’s Cakes and Bakes, Lamphel Supermarket, Lamphel, Manipur
Established in 2010, this confectionary has tasted sweet success in a shot span of time. Walk into this shop and the aroma of cakes baking engulfs you and you will want to empty those pockets of yours. Elle’s Cake and Bakes is well known for its designer cakes. One can have a cake custom made for ones birthday, wedding, anniversary and as well as corporate events. You can also choose from a variety of freshly baked breads on offer. The view of cupcakes in the counter with colours ranging from bright pink to sunrise yellow to blue and beyond, this place is sure to transport you back to your childhood days when you heard about the great cottage made of biscuits and chocolates in the fable, Hansel and Gretal.
The place is done up in bright pink and white and is a crowd attracter irrespective of the time of the day. As a matter of fact, the confectionery has to disappoint many people daily as its cakes and products finish off well before 5pm. Those who serve you at the counters are well dressed and polite thus ensuring that you not only have good food but also a great experience just being there. For those who prefer savories, you can choose from a variety of quiches, patties, bread rolls, sandwiches, burgers and pizzas. The food is easy on the wallet and is sure to draw you to the place a second or third time, of your stay in the state is long.
So there you go! 5 eateries that will make your trip to Manipur, worthwhile. For all those foodies out there, you will want to make a visit to these places and pamper your taste buds. Good weather, hospitable people and awesome eateries; what more could one ask for?