Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

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Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Hyderabaid, Indian, Nizam, Ramadan, Ramzan Specials, South Indian

The Nizami Ramadan Repast

The search of haleem continues and the disappointments continue. Luckily sometimes the rest of the food makes up, or in this case more than makes up for the haleem. Hyatt has flown in a chef from Hyderabad to recreate the dinners of the Nizams. This is not an iftar buffet, but a dinner buffet. An invite to any royal food festival is exciting, but during Ramadan, festival like the Nizami past are more exciting. It gives us a chance to sample Ramadan food from around the country.

And the first thing he seems to have re-created is the Raan. Literally a lamb leg piece, which colloquially is a funny phrase, the first dish served on the plate was a stunner. Succulent and flavourful with spices adding depths of flavour without overpowering the natural flavour of the mutton, this one dish was enough to make dinner great. There were other starters, a nice but not-juicy sheekh kebab, an excellent chicken kebab and two wonderful vegetarian dishes, a cheesy grilled cauliflower and a soft vegetarian kebab, but the Raan was too good to miss and fill up the tummy with others.

But nothing prepared me for the biriyani. Kacche ki Gosht biriyani. First of all, I was surprised to see it on the menu. A kacche gosht biriyani style I thought is a dying art. The amount of patience that it requires is humongous and the training involved in making good ones is mediocre. So much so that some articles suggested that there were only a handful of those khansamas alive in Hyderabad. I believe it is being replaced by more mediocre techniques. That is why I was surprised to see it on the menu. Why is this so difficult? This type of biriyani technique uses raw meat over long grain rice and is cooked till the meat is, well, cooked. Cooking raw meat over rice is not an easy technique, so rarely do hotels make this form of biriyani. The outcome was a biriyani with a lot more flavour than ones from most hotels. Well cooked mutton and the flavours of slow cooking seeping in resulted in a lovely biriyani. A good brinjal side dish completed the dish.

The haleem though was a disappointment. It was partially cooked and finished off in the stove, something that was a turn off even before eating, and tasting it only confirmed the worst. The biriyani more than made up for the terrible haleem
The sweets of the festival were a mixed bag. The Qubani Meeta is something that should be left to the classics, especially in a festival like this. An alien flavour spoilt what would have been an otherwise very good dish. A little probing revealed that it was flavoured with Roohafsa, a rose flavoured syrup used extensively in the region. That ended up making the dish a little too sweet, even for someone like me with a sweet tooth. The double ka meeta and payasams were good enough to finish a meal with an awesome biriyani.
This festival is all about the biriyani and the raan. The menu changes everyday so I hope you get these when you visit. Fingers crossed! The festival is on till the 25th of June! 

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tj95YI

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Kitchens of India, South Indian

Tulu Nadu chefs arrive at Chola Dynasty

If there is one food promotion that I keep waiting for (and hope to get invited AND be in town when that happens) is the Kitchens of India series at ITC Grand Chola. There is always an element of surprise, the food is generally brilliant and well researched and there is so much to learn from. It brings about, through food, both the similarities and the diversities in India. When the call came for an invite, I asked which kitchen they’ve gone and trained this time! Apparently there is something called Tulu Nadu.

Nestled between the north part of Kerala and southwest part of Karnataka, Tulu Nadu as I have learnt over the past few days has a glorious history. The erstwhile South Canara as it was called earlier is even vying, if reports are to be believed, to be a separate state. With a dynastic past, the food is only expected to be brilliant. Knowing the amount of research ITC chefs put in for these Kitchens of India Festivals, I think I can trust them enough to recreate the food as accurately as possible! I have no prior knowledge or experience with the flavours or Tulu, so this is purely based on what we ate, which, I’ll give you the spoiler, was excellent.

For a cuisine that is a sort of a fuse between Mangalorean, Coorgi and Kerala, it seems to have a lot of uniqueness. While the spiced chilled buttermilk and the Banana Bairada Juice, a nice concoction of coconut and ripe banana were a nice way to start the meal, the food was surprisingly distinct in its flavours. Meal started with another liquid, The Bele Saaru. A sort of rasam with cumin, the warm soup served in a glass kick started dinner. The first dish, though, set the tone for what to expect for the rest of dinner. Called the Natia Kori, the mildly spicy but richly flavoured chicken was rather distinct with the flavours of the two states blending to create a brand new flavour. The dish was hard to stop eating and the prospect of filling up the tummy and not having space to sample more awesome dishes was the only incentive to stop. The Errai da meen (though sounds like a French dish) that arrived next was supremely similar, but beautifully adapted for the fish. Similarly spiced like the chicken but mild enough to let the flavours of the fish take the front seat, this dish is a fish lover’s dream. For someone for whom fish is not, well, the first choice of meat, I rather enjoyed it. Though the fishy flavours were clear, the mild chilly was just perfect to minimise the fish flavour from being overpowering. Instead of flavouring the fish, the marinade simply took of the nasty fish smell while retaining the best part of the fishy flavours.

The main course, served for us in a banana leaf, had the best of magical flavours. The pineapple gojju, with its beautiful tartness playing perfect match for the rice could have easily been the dish of the day, but Yetti Sukka, a brilliant preparation of prawns with dry coconut and almost completely dry paired with the thin and light Neer Dosai was hard to beat. Or so I thought, before Kori Gassi – Kori Rotti arrived. A sort of rice roti was soaked in a Mangalorean chicken gravy. That is the dish I am craving as I write this piece as the soft bread that soaked up all the creaminess and flavours of the chicken gravy left me craving for more. I would have liked another roti to simply dip and eat, but I was told that the dish is as good only when soaked for longer. A beautiful fish gravy (again for a non fish lover, it was lovely) with a nice thick tomato-ish consistency paired well with rice. A rich Mamsam Biriyani completed the already rich meal. A payasam along with Ragi Manni, a rich ragi fudge cake completed the dessert course!

Served as part of the Madras Pavilion buffet, the festival is on till the 25th of June! Service was quick, but we were a bunch of invited guests, so I can’t really comment on service. I am now looking forward to the next Kitchens of India festival already. What will the theme be? Are we going to find exotic cuisines from North India? Will a new state emerge from it? Only time will tell!

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5 Star, Chennai, Eating out, Feast, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Avartana, ITC Grand Chola

ITC Grand Chola, was a blessing to Chennai. It brought with it conferences of scales that Chennai has never witnessed before and while hotels around the area were in jitters, they’ve all benefited from ITC Grand Chola. When ITC Grand Chola runs of out space in their 600 plus-room tiny property, everyone else gets going. It brought audiences from around the country and around the world and introduced them to the essence of the Chola architecture. People who didn’t know or care about the history of Tamil Nadu were interested in peeking at its marvel. But there was one blot. While it had great food, all those visitors had to do with Italian and Asian and North West frontier cuisines and despite all of its Chola dynasty architecture, there was no South Indian food. Guests could marvel at everything but if they wanted South Indian food, they had to make do with some a-la-carte at Cafe Mercara or whatever was available in the buffet at Madras Pavilion.

Come 2017 and they’ve erased that blot! And how. Work-in-progress for almost two years under the watchful eyes of executive chef Ajit Bangera, Avartana (pronounced Avartan) is probably the world’s first modern progressive South Indian restaurant. It takes a lot of guts to open up something like this in conservative Chennai but for those in Chennai who are not fond of spending big bucks for South Indian food, this offers fresh perspective with familiar tastes. The preview dinner for five of us left us craving for more as the chef-de-cuisine, Harish Rao, a South Indian cuisine superstar himself presented every course with dishes, stories and memories.

Rasam poured over herbs, brewed like tea and poured over a martini glass is your first course! Fantastic rasam, true to its tangy flavour in a whole new avatar. This was followed by lamb brain in a dumpling. Two pieces of absolute bliss. Again, new avatar, but same but slightly subdued flavour. Brain is very common in South Indian cuisines and down south, brain is served in most places where lamb is served. The flavour here was similar, but definitely subdued, just perfect for a setting that is a modern progressive take on something.

This was followed by fried karela (bitter gourd) with some pickle in the form of a powder. The bitterness of karela was evident, but brilliantly subdued enough to give you the flavour but not the unpleasantness. And a chilli lobster from Andhra. Spicy. Really spicy but extremely flavourful. Like classic south Indian, the flavour of the lobster was fully overpowered by the spices. That finished our appetisers and we were given some pineapple sorbet with lemon froth as a palette cleanser.

Idiyappam (string hoppers) with stew was presented in a large soup bowl with loads of french beans and the stew being poured in it. You may not spot the idiyappam, but once you dig in, the flavours are unmistakable. No subduing of anything here and the soft idiyappams with the rich coconut based stew will lead you to comfort. This was followed by another classic, parotta gravy. Of course, it was presented with lots of spicy mutton gravy topped off with a crisp parotta and a merengue. Throughout the dinner, that merengue was the only thing out of place and I don’t know why it was there. It didn’t add anything to the dish. The vegetarians got idly with gravy and it looked very appetising, so I got a photo of that. I didn’t get a taste because our vegetarian friend refused to share. This was followed by Mutton Conge with raita. Now the mutton conge was a typical mutton sadham (mutton gravy rice), but the brinjal raita that it was served with was the hero here. The tanginess of a boondi raita with loads of freshness was beautifully complemented by the mutton rice conge. The drink I had to sip on all through dinner was the paneer soda (rose sparkling water).

Making the humble thair sadham into a modern progressive dish was amazing. Butter noodles with pickle in a dropper and buttermilk poured into the large soup dish reminded me of the thalicha thair sadham (tempered curd rice) with all flavours intact. The pickle in a dropper made sure it was there but in a modern (though cliched) avatar. The modern interpretation of the semiya payasam (sweet vermicelli kheer) was fabulous. Crunchy vermicelli arranged like a nest with ice cream inside like eggs with cashews and raisins beautifully recreated the original. Even the beeda (paan) was modern and with true flavours of paan and gulkhand (rose mix) it was refreshing in its cold avatar.

Retrospectively, the decor beautifully represents the food. Understated luxury with a vast open kitchen and a modern outlook with beautifully spaced tables makes it inviting and pleasing to the eye without being in-your-face.

There is no a-la-carte, here, but multiple set menu options starting at Rs. 2000 plus tax upto Rs. 4500 plus tax. Ours was a Rs. 2000 menu and it had about nine courses. The food is rich, but unlike even good quality South Indian restaurants, didn’t leave my stomach burning all night with all the spices.

Spending a lot of money for your cuisine is never easy. Big names like Alex Atala who struggled giving modern Brazilian food to Brazilians and chef Massimo who struggled to give modern interpretation of Italian to Italians have had to sustain for a while before making it big. Going by the current wait list and fully sold out opening day, ITC Grand Chola might have hit bulls eye with the timing, though their guts to open this up in Chennai instead of a million other places is to be appreciated. If this works here, it will work anywhere. Actually, it will work anywhere else and I sure do hope it becomes a runaway success here.

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5 Star, Chennai, Eating out, Feast, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Avartana, ITC Grand Chola

ITC Grand Chola, was a blessing to Chennai. It brought with it conferences of scales that Chennai has never witnessed before and while hotels around the area were in jitters, they’ve all benefited from ITC Grand Chola. When ITC Grand Chola runs of out space in their 600 plus-room tiny property, everyone else gets going. It brought audiences from around the country and around the world and introduced them to the essence of the Chola architecture. People who didn’t know or care about the history of Tamil Nadu were interested in peeking at its marvel. But there was one blot. While it had great food, all those visitors had to do with Italian and Asian and North West frontier cuisines and despite all of its Chola dynasty architecture, there was no South Indian food. Guests could marvel at everything but if they wanted South Indian food, they had to make do with some a-la-carte at Cafe Mercara or whatever was available in the buffet at Madras Pavilion.

Come 2017 and they’ve erased that blot! And how. Work-in-progress for almost two years under the watchful eyes of executive chef Ajit Bangera, Avartana (pronounced Avartan) is probably the world’s first modern progressive South Indian restaurant. It takes a lot of guts to open up something like this in conservative Chennai but for those in Chennai who are not fond of spending big bucks for South Indian food, this offers fresh perspective with familiar tastes. The preview dinner for five of us left us craving for more as the chef-de-cuisine, Harish Rao, a South Indian cuisine superstar himself presented every course with dishes, stories and memories.

Rasam poured over herbs, brewed like tea and poured over a martini glass is your first course! Fantastic rasam, true to its tangy flavour in a whole new avatar. This was followed by lamb brain in a dumpling. Two pieces of absolute bliss. Again, new avatar, but same but slightly subdued flavour. Brain is very common in South Indian cuisines and down south, brain is served in most places where lamb is served. The flavour here was similar, but definitely subdued, just perfect for a setting that is a modern progressive take on something.

This was followed by fried karela (bitter gourd) with some pickle in the form of a powder. The bitterness of karela was evident, but brilliantly subdued enough to give you the flavour but not the unpleasantness. And a chilli lobster from Andhra. Spicy. Really spicy but extremely flavourful. Like classic south Indian, the flavour of the lobster was fully overpowered by the spices. That finished our appetisers and we were given some pineapple sorbet with lemon froth as a palette cleanser.

Idiyappam (string hoppers) with stew was presented in a large soup bowl with loads of french beans and the stew being poured in it. You may not spot the idiyappam, but once you dig in, the flavours are unmistakable. No subduing of anything here and the soft idiyappams with the rich coconut based stew will lead you to comfort. This was followed by another classic, parotta gravy. Of course, it was presented with lots of spicy mutton gravy topped off with a crisp parotta and a merengue. Throughout the dinner, that merengue was the only thing out of place and I don’t know why it was there. It didn’t add anything to the dish. The vegetarians got idly with gravy and it looked very appetising, so I got a photo of that. I didn’t get a taste because our vegetarian friend refused to share. This was followed by Mutton Conge with raita. Now the mutton conge was a typical mutton sadham (mutton gravy rice), but the brinjal raita that it was served with was the hero here. The tanginess of a boondi raita with loads of freshness was beautifully complemented by the mutton rice conge. The drink I had to sip on all through dinner was the paneer soda (rose sparkling water).

Making the humble thair sadham into a modern progressive dish was amazing. Butter noodles with pickle in a dropper and buttermilk poured into the large soup dish reminded me of the thalicha thair sadham (tempered curd rice) with all flavours intact. The pickle in a dropper made sure it was there but in a modern (though cliched) avatar. The modern interpretation of the semiya payasam (sweet vermicelli kheer) was fabulous. Crunchy vermicelli arranged like a nest with ice cream inside like eggs with cashews and raisins beautifully recreated the original. Even the beeda (paan) was modern and with true flavours of paan and gulkhand (rose mix) it was refreshing in its cold avatar.

Retrospectively, the decor beautifully represents the food. Understated luxury with a vast open kitchen and a modern outlook with beautifully spaced tables makes it inviting and pleasing to the eye without being in-your-face.

There is no a-la-carte, here, but multiple set menu options starting at Rs. 2000 plus tax upto Rs. 4500 plus tax. Ours was a Rs. 2000 menu and it had about nine courses. The food is rich, but unlike even good quality South Indian restaurants, didn’t leave my stomach burning all night with all the spices.

Spending a lot of money for your cuisine is never easy. Big names like Alex Atala who struggled giving modern Brazilian food to Brazilians and chef Massimo who struggled to give modern interpretation of Italian to Italians have had to sustain for a while before making it big. Going by the current wait list and fully sold out opening day, ITC Grand Chola might have hit bulls eye with the timing, though their guts to open this up in Chennai instead of a million other places is to be appreciated. If this works here, it will work anywhere. Actually, it will work anywhere else and I sure do hope it becomes a runaway success here.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2n58qth