Chennai, Eating out, Slider

10 years of Chennai Foody

Yes, I’ve been around for that long! What started as a small outlet for my writing has taken various pivots to come where it is now. While I don’t know what the future holds, I would like to take this chance to thank you! Thank you for reading this post and all of the other posts that you’ve read. Some you may have liked, some you have hated and sometimes you may have wished you were with me, eating those dishes. I can’t take credit for those. I promise, it was the chef who doled out dishes that brought out the creativity in me. I just wrote.

This blog has got me connected to so many people, I can’t even begin to describe the profound effect it has had in my life. It taught me to write, but later on it taught me to respect, both opinions and points of view. It got me talking to other writers and bloggers and then it taught me food. The more I wrote, the more I learnt. It also showed me the nasty world of hospitality and got me grounded. When I thought that there was no worse field than being a doctor, it showed me the nasty side of other professions. It was also the reason, my first book called 10 Patients was chosen by a publisher and was sold out pretty soon. The second edition will be out soon.

It also connected me with chefs. For a person who thought that there was only one biriyani and the rest were all tomato rice, the blog showed me perspective. Chefs who have been patient enough to explain, patient enough to show and then believe me enough to share. Their recipes, their life stories and their passions. It got me traveling, it got me writing for overseas publications, for governments and in one case, even to change the perspective about a city. Being featured and quoted in BBC, CNN Travel and writing for dailies like The Hindu and The Indian Express were all experiences that enriched me.

Every step of the journey was possible because of you. Because you thought it was worth your time to read what this writer doled out.

This calls for a toast, doesn’t it? How does a teetotaller raise a toast? Turns out that champagne glasses can do more than just load, duh, champagne. It can host a beautifully tasty strawberry cheesecake. Or present itself on your breakfast table with oats, cocoa, raisins and nuts. Thanks to Perfico, you can get a pair of these champagne glasses for yourself too. You can choose what you want to do with it, though. Champagne, breakfast, cheesecake or crack an egg, you choose what you want to do with it.

But to get it, here’s what you need to do:

1. Follow Chennai Foody on Instagram AND Twitter. The name is ChennaiFoody on both
2. Tell us either of the two a. What you like best about Chennai Foody (OR) b. What else would you like to read about in Chennai Foody. Reply in the comments section of either Twitter or Instagram and that’s it.

The best and the most creative answers will win a pair of champagne glasses from Perfico with your names engraved on it. Go for it. 

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Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Nawab’s Kitchen on a Time Machine

What would happen if this happened? If indeed there was a time machine that took away the chefs from the Nawab’s kitchen and transported them to a time far away in the future, that is. Or if our minds cannot comprehend something that sounds as blasphemous as that, how about taking the cuisine of the Nawabs and adding a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy to it? I would expect disaster. Plain and simple disaster. A cuisine that is rich and grandiose being fused with a technique and concept that is minimalistic is bound for failure. Or at least you can’t do justice to both.
The chefs at J’Hind though, have nearly pulled it off!

An attukal paya, a simple soup made of lamb bones with strong Indian spices was re-imagined with a coconut heavy broth and the spices in a tea bag. Though mild, the memories of attukal paya was unmistakable. A truly wonderful soup with all the elements of a restaurant that tries to add a modern touch to cooking; a little theatre, a little innovation, but staying true to the flavours. On our second visit we got a good prawn soup with the same coconut heavy base, but it didn’t live up to our first visit’s mutton soup.

Yes, I jumped straight to the soup, but you get some pre-appetisers, an amuse-bouche of sorts with a platter of spheres that is now cliche! On the opening night, the galouti had dried out terribly, but thankfully in our second visit, the kebab was juicy. I don’t know why it was served on a plate of fried noodles though. It didn’t do anything to the dish, except maybe making it look slightly prettier.

And then a round of starters, each one vying to grab our attention and space in our tummies. The smoked lamb, no, no liquid nitrogen, but a smoke gun with wood. The smoke just carassed the already beautifully cooked, juicy lamb meat with a tinge or smokiness. Not overwhelming, but simply the right amount to retain its original flavours and add some meaning to the theatrics. That lamb was hard to beat. The liquid nitrogen based theatrics with a frozen bread pappdi chat, with a hint of shahi tukda was interesting. A hard and nearly terrible paneer tikka and a fantastic samosa completed the starters.

The first of the main courses was a tiny surprise. A bunny chow. Now, I don’t know when a bunny chow got into the kitchens of the nawabs! A molecular version with a tiny bread bowl filled with mutter gravy. Being bite sized, it disappeared in no time at all.

Then came the hits and the misses. Three dishes were spot on. The lamb gravy with a lamb so juicy, it could be reclassified as a beverage! A fish tikka with a fried fish lined up instead of being dunked in the gravy was rather unique. A single large prawn perched on an egg was lip smacking. There was a bread basket with a fabulous dried tomato roti, a saffron roti and paratha. And the hero of the day, the Arcot Biriyani was…….well…..disaster! I guess the rest of the meal set the expectations and expectation don’t go well with biriyani and the biriyani simply did not live up to the rest of the meal and was ordinary at best. In fact, calling it ordinary is doing great service to a terrible biriyani!

The dessert was minimalistic to look at, but quite rich in its composition. A blob of rich badam halwa was satisfying to the tummy (though the heart may have had trouble with the, well, healthy dose of ghee), the crisp shahi tukda with a molecular gastronomy styled sheer sphere on a fried bread, with the exact same emotions for the heart and a paan shot to coat the stomach. A dose of theatrics came again in the form of a quick liquid nitrogen chilled jackfruit ice cream.

Priced at Rs. 1650 plus taxes for the non veg (I think the veg is priced about Rs. 200 lower), this is a nearly 10 course degustation menu based on the cuisine of the Nawabs of Arcot. I was there for the opening night and went back with a friend a couple of days later, so this is based on two visits. The festival is on till the 31st of July at J’Hind, the modern Indian restaurant at Grand, by GRT.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tzs5UL

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Nawab’s Kitchen on a Time Machine

What would happen if this happened? If indeed there was a time machine that took away the chefs from the Nawab’s kitchen and transported them to a time far away in the future, that is. Or if our minds cannot comprehend something that sounds as blasphemous as that, how about taking the cuisine of the Nawabs and adding a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy to it? I would expect disaster. Plain and simple disaster. A cuisine that is rich and grandiose being fused with a technique and concept that is minimalistic is bound for failure. Or at least you can’t do justice to both.
The chefs at J’Hind though, have nearly pulled it off!

An attukal paya, a simple soup made of lamb bones with strong Indian spices was re-imagined with a coconut heavy broth and the spices in a tea bag. Though mild, the memories of attukal paya was unmistakable. A truly wonderful soup with all the elements of a restaurant that tries to add a modern touch to cooking; a little theatre, a little innovation, but staying true to the flavours. On our second visit we got a good prawn soup with the same coconut heavy base, but it didn’t live up to our first visit’s mutton soup.

Yes, I jumped straight to the soup, but you get some pre-appetisers, an amuse-bouche of sorts with a platter of spheres that is now cliche! On the opening night, the galouti had dried out terribly, but thankfully in our second visit, the kebab was juicy. I don’t know why it was served on a plate of fried noodles though. It didn’t do anything to the dish, except maybe making it look slightly prettier.

And then a round of starters, each one vying to grab our attention and space in our tummies. The smoked lamb, no, no liquid nitrogen, but a smoke gun with wood. The smoke just carassed the already beautifully cooked, juicy lamb meat with a tinge or smokiness. Not overwhelming, but simply the right amount to retain its original flavours and add some meaning to the theatrics. That lamb was hard to beat. The liquid nitrogen based theatrics with a frozen bread pappdi chat, with a hint of shahi tukda was interesting. A hard and nearly terrible paneer tikka and a fantastic samosa completed the starters.

The first of the main courses was a tiny surprise. A bunny chow. Now, I don’t know when a bunny chow got into the kitchens of the nawabs! A molecular version with a tiny bread bowl filled with mutter gravy. Being bite sized, it disappeared in no time at all.

Then came the hits and the misses. Three dishes were spot on. The lamb gravy with a lamb so juicy, it could be reclassified as a beverage! A fish tikka with a fried fish lined up instead of being dunked in the gravy was rather unique. A single large prawn perched on an egg was lip smacking. There was a bread basket with a fabulous dried tomato roti, a saffron roti and paratha. And the hero of the day, the Arcot Biriyani was…….well…..disaster! I guess the rest of the meal set the expectations and expectation don’t go well with biriyani and the biriyani simply did not live up to the rest of the meal and was ordinary at best. In fact, calling it ordinary is doing great service to a terrible biriyani!

The dessert was minimalistic to look at, but quite rich in its composition. A blob of rich badam halwa was satisfying to the tummy (though the heart may have had trouble with the, well, healthy dose of ghee), the crisp shahi tukda with a molecular gastronomy styled sheer sphere on a fried bread, with the exact same emotions for the heart and a paan shot to coat the stomach. A dose of theatrics came again in the form of a quick liquid nitrogen chilled jackfruit ice cream.

Priced at Rs. 1650 plus taxes for the non veg (I think the veg is priced about Rs. 200 lower), this is a nearly 10 course degustation menu based on the cuisine of the Nawabs of Arcot. I was there for the opening night and went back with a friend a couple of days later, so this is based on two visits. The festival is on till the 31st of July at J’Hind, the modern Indian restaurant at Grand, by GRT.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tzs5UL

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Nawab’s Kitchen on a Time Machine

What would happen if this happened? If indeed there was a time machine that took away the chefs from the Nawab’s kitchen and transported them to a time far away in the future, that is. Or if our minds cannot comprehend something that sounds as blasphemous as that, how about taking the cuisine of the Nawabs and adding a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy to it? I would expect disaster. Plain and simple disaster. A cuisine that is rich and grandiose being fused with a technique and concept that is minimalistic is bound for failure. Or at least you can’t do justice to both.
The chefs at J’Hind though, have nearly pulled it off!

An attukal paya, a simple soup made of lamb bones with strong Indian spices was re-imagined with a coconut heavy broth and the spices in a tea bag. Though mild, the memories of attukal paya was unmistakable. A truly wonderful soup with all the elements of a restaurant that tries to add a modern touch to cooking; a little theatre, a little innovation, but staying true to the flavours. On our second visit we got a good prawn soup with the same coconut heavy base, but it didn’t live up to our first visit’s mutton soup.

Yes, I jumped straight to the soup, but you get some pre-appetisers, an amuse-bouche of sorts with a platter of spheres that is now cliche! On the opening night, the galouti had dried out terribly, but thankfully in our second visit, the kebab was juicy. I don’t know why it was served on a plate of fried noodles though. It didn’t do anything to the dish, except maybe making it look slightly prettier.

And then a round of starters, each one vying to grab our attention and space in our tummies. The smoked lamb, no, no liquid nitrogen, but a smoke gun with wood. The smoke just carassed the already beautifully cooked, juicy lamb meat with a tinge or smokiness. Not overwhelming, but simply the right amount to retain its original flavours and add some meaning to the theatrics. That lamb was hard to beat. The liquid nitrogen based theatrics with a frozen bread pappdi chat, with a hint of shahi tukda was interesting. A hard and nearly terrible paneer tikka and a fantastic samosa completed the starters.

The first of the main courses was a tiny surprise. A bunny chow. Now, I don’t know when a bunny chow got into the kitchens of the nawabs! A molecular version with a tiny bread bowl filled with mutter gravy. Being bite sized, it disappeared in no time at all.

Then came the hits and the misses. Three dishes were spot on. The lamb gravy with a lamb so juicy, it could be reclassified as a beverage! A fish tikka with a fried fish lined up instead of being dunked in the gravy was rather unique. A single large prawn perched on an egg was lip smacking. There was a bread basket with a fabulous dried tomato roti, a saffron roti and paratha. And the hero of the day, the Arcot Biriyani was…….well…..disaster! I guess the rest of the meal set the expectations and expectation don’t go well with biriyani and the biriyani simply did not live up to the rest of the meal and was ordinary at best. In fact, calling it ordinary is doing great service to a terrible biriyani!

The dessert was minimalistic to look at, but quite rich in its composition. A blob of rich badam halwa was satisfying to the tummy (though the heart may have had trouble with the, well, healthy dose of ghee), the crisp shahi tukda with a molecular gastronomy styled sheer sphere on a fried bread, with the exact same emotions for the heart and a paan shot to coat the stomach. A dose of theatrics came again in the form of a quick liquid nitrogen chilled jackfruit ice cream.

Priced at Rs. 1650 plus taxes for the non veg (I think the veg is priced about Rs. 200 lower), this is a nearly 10 course degustation menu based on the cuisine of the Nawabs of Arcot. I was there for the opening night and went back with a friend a couple of days later, so this is based on two visits. The festival is on till the 31st of July at J’Hind, the modern Indian restaurant at Grand, by GRT.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tzs5UL

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Nawab’s Kitchen on a Time Machine

What would happen if this happened? If indeed there was a time machine that took away the chefs from the Nawab’s kitchen and transported them to a time far away in the future, that is. Or if our minds cannot comprehend something that sounds as blasphemous as that, how about taking the cuisine of the Nawabs and adding a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy to it? I would expect disaster. Plain and simple disaster. A cuisine that is rich and grandiose being fused with a technique and concept that is minimalistic is bound for failure. Or at least you can’t do justice to both.
The chefs at J’Hind though, have nearly pulled it off!

An attukal paya, a simple soup made of lamb bones with strong Indian spices was re-imagined with a coconut heavy broth and the spices in a tea bag. Though mild, the memories of attukal paya was unmistakable. A truly wonderful soup with all the elements of a restaurant that tries to add a modern touch to cooking; a little theatre, a little innovation, but staying true to the flavours. On our second visit we got a good prawn soup with the same coconut heavy base, but it didn’t live up to our first visit’s mutton soup.

Yes, I jumped straight to the soup, but you get some pre-appetisers, an amuse-bouche of sorts with a platter of spheres that is now cliche! On the opening night, the galouti had dried out terribly, but thankfully in our second visit, the kebab was juicy. I don’t know why it was served on a plate of fried noodles though. It didn’t do anything to the dish, except maybe making it look slightly prettier.

And then a round of starters, each one vying to grab our attention and space in our tummies. The smoked lamb, no, no liquid nitrogen, but a smoke gun with wood. The smoke just carassed the already beautifully cooked, juicy lamb meat with a tinge or smokiness. Not overwhelming, but simply the right amount to retain its original flavours and add some meaning to the theatrics. That lamb was hard to beat. The liquid nitrogen based theatrics with a frozen bread pappdi chat, with a hint of shahi tukda was interesting. A hard and nearly terrible paneer tikka and a fantastic samosa completed the starters.

The first of the main courses was a tiny surprise. A bunny chow. Now, I don’t know when a bunny chow got into the kitchens of the nawabs! A molecular version with a tiny bread bowl filled with mutter gravy. Being bite sized, it disappeared in no time at all.

Then came the hits and the misses. Three dishes were spot on. The lamb gravy with a lamb so juicy, it could be reclassified as a beverage! A fish tikka with a fried fish lined up instead of being dunked in the gravy was rather unique. A single large prawn perched on an egg was lip smacking. There was a bread basket with a fabulous dried tomato roti, a saffron roti and paratha. And the hero of the day, the Arcot Biriyani was…….well…..disaster! I guess the rest of the meal set the expectations and expectation don’t go well with biriyani and the biriyani simply did not live up to the rest of the meal and was ordinary at best. In fact, calling it ordinary is doing great service to a terrible biriyani!

The dessert was minimalistic to look at, but quite rich in its composition. A blob of rich badam halwa was satisfying to the tummy (though the heart may have had trouble with the, well, healthy dose of ghee), the crisp shahi tukda with a molecular gastronomy styled sheer sphere on a fried bread, with the exact same emotions for the heart and a paan shot to coat the stomach. A dose of theatrics came again in the form of a quick liquid nitrogen chilled jackfruit ice cream.

Priced at Rs. 1650 plus taxes for the non veg (I think the veg is priced about Rs. 200 lower), this is a nearly 10 course degustation menu based on the cuisine of the Nawabs of Arcot. I was there for the opening night and went back with a friend a couple of days later, so this is based on two visits. The festival is on till the 31st of July at J’Hind, the modern Indian restaurant at Grand, by GRT.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tzs5UL

Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Slider, South Indian

Nawab’s Kitchen on a Time Machine

What would happen if this happened? If indeed there was a time machine that took away the chefs from the Nawab’s kitchen and transported them to a time far away in the future, that is. Or if our minds cannot comprehend something that sounds as blasphemous as that, how about taking the cuisine of the Nawabs and adding a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy to it? I would expect disaster. Plain and simple disaster. A cuisine that is rich and grandiose being fused with a technique and concept that is minimalistic is bound for failure. Or at least you can’t do justice to both.
The chefs at J’Hind though, have nearly pulled it off!

An attukal paya, a simple soup made of lamb bones with strong Indian spices was re-imagined with a coconut heavy broth and the spices in a tea bag. Though mild, the memories of attukal paya was unmistakable. A truly wonderful soup with all the elements of a restaurant that tries to add a modern touch to cooking; a little theatre, a little innovation, but staying true to the flavours. On our second visit we got a good prawn soup with the same coconut heavy base, but it didn’t live up to our first visit’s mutton soup.

Yes, I jumped straight to the soup, but you get some pre-appetisers, an amuse-bouche of sorts with a platter of spheres that is now cliche! On the opening night, the galouti had dried out terribly, but thankfully in our second visit, the kebab was juicy. I don’t know why it was served on a plate of fried noodles though. It didn’t do anything to the dish, except maybe making it look slightly prettier.

And then a round of starters, each one vying to grab our attention and space in our tummies. The smoked lamb, no, no liquid nitrogen, but a smoke gun with wood. The smoke just carassed the already beautifully cooked, juicy lamb meat with a tinge or smokiness. Not overwhelming, but simply the right amount to retain its original flavours and add some meaning to the theatrics. That lamb was hard to beat. The liquid nitrogen based theatrics with a frozen bread pappdi chat, with a hint of shahi tukda was interesting. A hard and nearly terrible paneer tikka and a fantastic samosa completed the starters.

The first of the main courses was a tiny surprise. A bunny chow. Now, I don’t know when a bunny chow got into the kitchens of the nawabs! A molecular version with a tiny bread bowl filled with mutter gravy. Being bite sized, it disappeared in no time at all.

Then came the hits and the misses. Three dishes were spot on. The lamb gravy with a lamb so juicy, it could be reclassified as a beverage! A fish tikka with a fried fish lined up instead of being dunked in the gravy was rather unique. A single large prawn perched on an egg was lip smacking. There was a bread basket with a fabulous dried tomato roti, a saffron roti and paratha. And the hero of the day, the Arcot Biriyani was…….well…..disaster! I guess the rest of the meal set the expectations and expectation don’t go well with biriyani and the biriyani simply did not live up to the rest of the meal and was ordinary at best. In fact, calling it ordinary is doing great service to a terrible biriyani!

The dessert was minimalistic to look at, but quite rich in its composition. A blob of rich badam halwa was satisfying to the tummy (though the heart may have had trouble with the, well, healthy dose of ghee), the crisp shahi tukda with a molecular gastronomy styled sheer sphere on a fried bread, with the exact same emotions for the heart and a paan shot to coat the stomach. A dose of theatrics came again in the form of a quick liquid nitrogen chilled jackfruit ice cream.

Priced at Rs. 1650 plus taxes for the non veg (I think the veg is priced about Rs. 200 lower), this is a nearly 10 course degustation menu based on the cuisine of the Nawabs of Arcot. I was there for the opening night and went back with a friend a couple of days later, so this is based on two visits. The festival is on till the 31st of July at J’Hind, the modern Indian restaurant at Grand, by GRT.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tzs5UL

5 Star, Asian, Chennai, Eating out, Japanese, Slider, Sushi

Pretty as a Japanese

What do you do with a plate of food that looks pretty? I mean, like not just pretty, but a little too pretty. Like really really pretty! It took a while for me to take my eyes of the plate and think about all the things on it. The salmon looked beautiful. With nice fat lines this clearly was an expensive salmon. I don’t know where it stacks up on the world’s best, but while it may not be the best, it appeared to be among the top few. A pretty pink slice on tuna shone through. A couple of more sashimi, half a dozen tuna maki sushi, some pickled radish along with the ginger and wasabi completed the really pretty plate. I might have gotten full simply staring at it.

It felt like tearing into a piece of art, but once I was convinced that the art was how the food tasted and not how it looked, taking that pair of chopsticks was slightly easier. When something looks as pretty as this, you might be forgiven for judging it well even if it tasted a notch lower, but the chef at Leela clearly didn’t leave it to that. I’ll have to rephrase that. This is something that the chef’s had little role to play, since it was great quality sea food that wasn’t adulterated by anything. Not even the chef. The chef only made it look pretty and I must admit that he did a great job of making fish look pretty!

The single piece of salmon left me wanting for more. While I am a terrible eater of fish, sushi and sashimi, though paradoxically, are things that I’ve really learnt to enjoy. This salmon was simply brilliant. There is no other way to describe it. The flavours of the sea were intact without even a whiff of fishy aftertaste. The fat lines made sure the flavours were enhanced beautifully. A tamogoyaki, a kind of rolled omelette, was just the perfect thing to break the monotony of the sea. The pink, almost untouched tuna was beautifully fleshy!

The platter of sushi and sashimi simply took everything away from the rest of the meal. Yes, the tempura vegetables were nice, yes, the miso soup with the sticky rice was comforting, yes, the salad was fresh and had the Japanese flavours ticking the right boxes,no, the fish in the main course wasn’t my favourite, but the Bento box at Spectra, Leela Palace is simply about the platter. Nothing more, nothing less.

Priced from Rs 1200 onwards depending on what main course you choose, I would be super happy to simply get two such platters instead of a main course. 

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

5 Star, Asian, Chennai, Eating out, Japanese, Slider, Sushi

Pretty as a Japanese

What do you do with a plate of food that looks pretty? I mean, like not just pretty, but a little too pretty. Like really really pretty! It took a while for me to take my eyes of the plate and think about all the things on it. The salmon looked beautiful. With nice fat lines this clearly was an expensive salmon. I don’t know where it stacks up on the world’s best, but while it may not be the best, it appeared to be among the top few. A pretty pink slice on tuna shone through. A couple of more sashimi, half a dozen tuna maki sushi, some pickled radish along with the ginger and wasabi completed the really pretty plate. I might have gotten full simply staring at it.

It felt like tearing into a piece of art, but once I was convinced that the art was how the food tasted and not how it looked, taking that pair of chopsticks was slightly easier. When something looks as pretty as this, you might be forgiven for judging it well even if it tasted a notch lower, but the chef at Leela clearly didn’t leave it to that. I’ll have to rephrase that. This is something that the chef’s had little role to play, since it was great quality sea food that wasn’t adulterated by anything. Not even the chef. The chef only made it look pretty and I must admit that he did a great job of making fish look pretty!

The single piece of salmon left me wanting for more. While I am a terrible eater of fish, sushi and sashimi, though paradoxically, are things that I’ve really learnt to enjoy. This salmon was simply brilliant. There is no other way to describe it. The flavours of the sea were intact without even a whiff of fishy aftertaste. The fat lines made sure the flavours were enhanced beautifully. A tamogoyaki, a kind of rolled omelette, was just the perfect thing to break the monotony of the sea. The pink, almost untouched tuna was beautifully fleshy!

The platter of sushi and sashimi simply took everything away from the rest of the meal. Yes, the tempura vegetables were nice, yes, the miso soup with the sticky rice was comforting, yes, the salad was fresh and had the Japanese flavours ticking the right boxes,no, the fish in the main course wasn’t my favourite, but the Bento box at Spectra, Leela Palace is simply about the platter. Nothing more, nothing less.

Priced from Rs 1200 onwards depending on what main course you choose, I would be super happy to simply get two such platters instead of a main course. 

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

5 Star, Chennai, Eating out, Food Festivals, Indian, Restaurants in hotels, Slider

When chef reimagines a grandma’s kitchen

The French and the Italians documented their cuisines. Our grandmas simply didn’t care. They presumed that their daughters and daughters-in-law will carry on their heritage. Well, they were wrong as times have changed. In the process, so many of recipes are dying, day in and day out. Everyday some awesome recipe is dying. When non-vegetarians wonder how people veggie foods every day, treat them to the wonderful world of vegetarian food and they will be surprised. Give them pasta sans chicken and biriyani sans meat, they are going to look at veg food as less-than-optimal.

Gladly, there are some who are on a mission to recover and document those recipes before they die forever. The Park, with Rakesh Ragunathan is showcasing a bunch of those recipes in this festival called Anam to Arachini. They’ve taken recipes from grandma’s kitchens which are laborious and added a modern presentation twist to it. Only the presentation is twisted, the recipes are apparently as straight as they can be.

From the choice of four rasams, I got the Vepam Poo rasam and the More Rasam. Tangy, authentic rasams brought back memories of the era gone by when our neighbours, who were Tam-Brams used to send us food once in a while. The Vepam Poo (Neem flower) rasam was nice and tangy with the fried flowers floating all over adding a new flavour element. There were Mysore Bondas in both rasams; while in the Vepam poo rasam it was placed on top of the glass, in the More Rasam (buttermilk rasam), it was dunked in a soup plate with the broth being poured over. The More Rasam was fighting a close battle for attention and it was hard to pick a winner.

South Indian salads? Well, South Indian, for that matter, Indian cuisines were not course based but plate based. We’ve always had all the courses placed in front of us in a single plate, so while we’ve always had the poriyals, we don’t seem to relate to them as salads. Here, there was a platter of four salads. Various versions of poriyals were presented as salads. I’m going to run to the main course because that was……well, read on.

We had two main courses to eat that day and the first one was a Iyer Puliyodhari with Karamani Kozhambu. That loosely translates to Brahmin variety rice with gravy. This was a truly re-imagined dish. There was the puliyodharai that was coated with fried appalams on a bed of the gravy and bits and pieces of the fried bay leaf and buttermilk. The flavours were beautifully captured, completely un-adulterated or diluted and presented in a re-imagined way. I was craving for more.

And I got more. The Kootan Choru, is a simple sambar rice with potatoes, but there was nothing simple about this dish here. It was sambar rice stuffed in a potato roulade. Every flavour of this classic dish from Tirunelveli was there, so much so that even the drumsticks weren’t peeled off, but whole. You had to use your hands for that, but clearly, the flavour was more important in this than the small inconvenience for taking the drum stick out. With vegetarian food like this, why would I ever miss meat?

You get a platter of four desserts. A beautiful poori payasam but I love that with the crisp poori, so I didn’t wait for it to soak. A kasi halwa (ash gourd mousse) with a corresponding gelato, an unni appam and the chakra pradhaman completed the meal.

I loved the fact that while presentation was clearly re-imagined, flavours were not diluted at all, ingredients weren’t replaced or spiced toned down for any audience. This festival is on till the 29th of April and I intend to go back to taste the other two main courses in the menu. For 999 plus taxes, you get one choice of rasam, a four starter platter, one main course and a four platter dessert. This is going to the vegetarian meal to beat, this year!

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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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