Wherever I eat, even if it is the same dish made following the same recipe, I find every Chef does add his or her unique touch. In my journey exploring various cuisines and indulging in the sheer luxury of food, I found some dishes stayed on in my mind. Recognizable ingredients, put together… differently. There are many. Too many. Here are the ones that have stayed in my memory long after they’ve been digested… In a ‘forever’ kind of way.
Rasam – Avartana, ITC Grand Chola
If I had to pick one of those it would be the Infused Rasam that gets poured into my glass, minus all the fibres. So here I am enjoying sipping on some pure Rasam, without picking (or chewing on) stuff that normal rasams have.
But, I do have a choice, right? The second would be the Crispy Chilli Potato. So Pretty and colourful in a white serving dish, with tiny touches of microgreens, and that egg-shaped white stuff in the middle adds mystery to the offering. I absolutely love the textures of this familiar yet unfamiliar flavours, including what oozes out of that delicate mystery orb.
FYI, It is a set meal at Avartana, so you’ve got to eat it all to enjoy the myriad flavours, textures and the whole experience.
Everybody knows Chef Ajit Bangera. And everybody knows the work he put into creating Avartana at ITC Grand Chola, giving South Indian cuisine a new avatar. He refined it, while retaining the nostalgia, flavours and memories associated with the simplest of creations to the most complex. I call this more than expertise, it is sheer genius.
Where: ITC Grand Chola, Ground Floor, Anna Salai, Guindy, South Chennai
Mushroom & Truffle Soup – On The Rocks, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
Every morsel I tried at On The Rocks reflected this flavour, starting with the warm, frothy Mushroom and Truffle Soup with its parmesan foam. I loved the single mushroom stuffed hand-made ravioli that came along, loaded with flavours only Chef Deva can conjure. It has the slight sweetness from white wine, ricotta and mascarpone. Simple? Never ever. Complex? Sure. But it all comes together very nicely, thank you.
When milk chocolate and dark Callebaut chocolate, this one is simply called Chocolate Delicious. It is pure vegetarian and has everything a chocolate lover (like me) would love, including bits of hazelnut adding their nuttiness.
Chef Deva Kumar knows his food. He understands it and makes sure he always gets ingredients together with the easy panache of someone who simply knows… I’d like to call it technique, instinct and knowledge.
Where: Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, Lobby Level, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Central Chennai
Lobster Polichathu, Samudra, Trident Chennai
Let’s face it. Lobster is a favourite with many seafood lovers. But you need to let the restaurant know in advance so Chef can custom make it for you. I did; and was all smiles when I saw the large crustacean, called Lobster Polichathu, all dressed up and looking completely divine, coming my way. I must admit, lobster cooked in coconut oil Kerala style, with shallots, tomato, saunf, methi seeds and the typical curry leaves. I do get the tiny freshly ground coriander seeds ka distinctness and know that this is freshly ground masala.
In keeping with the fact that this is Chennai and we revere our Filter Coffee, Samudra presents the Filter Coffee Ice Cream. I quite like that it lives up to my expectations. Chef Indranil is very proud of the fact that it is hand churned in-house and is vegetarian.
Chef Indranil Nag is one of those who is constantly on the lookout for new ideas, inspiration, tradition. Recently come in from Africa, Chef Nag has cooked for celebrities and people of varied tastes and his skills have been recognized and appreciated by those who’s eaten his food.
Where: Trident Hotel, 1/24, G.S.T Road, Kannan Colony, Meenambakkam, South West Chennai
Denji Rawa Fry, Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel
Denji Rawa Fry is an in-house creation at Southern Spice. It is soft shell crab, coated with semolina, and deep fried to a golden crisp. Although not a ‘typical’ South Indian offering, it is a take on the Mangalorean Kane Fish Rawa Fry. The byadagi chilli marination gives these tender crabs the added edge.
Of course, nobody should leave Southern Spice’s doors without trying the Elaneer Payasam at least once. It has the textures and flavours of fresh tender coconut water and those delicate little shreds of malai that lines the shell add marvellous body to the payasam. I love it immensely for the fact that it is light, not too sweet and is a fitting end to a South Indian meal.
The ways of the South… especially Southern Spice, are steeped in traditions gathered from across South India. Various homes have contributed their signature recipes, as have small outlets that go all out to give their diners the best. Chef Sujan Mukherjee quickly adapted himself to this fabulously respected restaurant, capturing all its nuances and adding touches drawn from his vast knowledge and expertise. Ever attentive, his senses are on high alert all the time. No dish that passes the kitchen threshold can be anything short of perfect.
Where: Taj Coromandel Hotel, 37, Lobby Level, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Nungambakkam, Central Chennai
Tadka Dahi Sandwich, The Reef, Sheraton Grand
Mother’s recipes always work. This one is called the Tadka Dahi Sandwich and is grilled with the most unusual filling – tadke waali dahi! It’s delicious, complete with the slight twist in the curd, and the delightful flavours of the tadka: mustard seeds, whole Kashmiri chillies and a few curry leaves.
Light and clear, the Quinoa Tomato Soup is filled with veggies, it has the quinoa grains at the bottom, giving the soup body coupled with texture.
One chef who wears his heart on his sleeve for all to see is Chef Mukesh Sharma. Even at home, he dons the chef’s apron to cook for his wife and family. If he could, he would sleep in the kitchen… At least, I think so. When I stayed at Sheraton Grand recently, I saw this chef in action. Breakfast, lunch, evening tea or dinner, he made sure he was there during all meals.
Where: Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa, 280 ECR, Vadanamelli, Neelankarai, South Chennai
Tuscan Brick Chicken, Wharf 2.0, Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay
Wharf 2.0 is all about the five elements: wind, water, air, fire and space. The menu is planned accordingly.
Chef Michal’s Tuscan Brick Chicken is all about the colour and the size. Red, hot and meaty, the chicken thighs and breast are marinated overnight in a complicated mix of elements, that involves ingredients like Dijon Mustard, Teriyaki Sauce and Dark Soy Sauce. Garlic and chilli flakes add their personality.
Before it comes to my plate, the chicken grilled to perfection and arrives with a demi glaze.
Swinging into Indian flavours, I absolutely love the Aloo Shakkarkand aur Chilgozza ki Tikki. Simply because I love every ingredient in the name. Must confess: it lives up to my expectations!
Ever smiling and ready to bring out the best he can, Chef Michael takes the pressure test of every day well within his stride.
Where: Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay Mahabalipuram, 57, Kovalam Main Road, Mahabalipuram, South Chennai Stay tuned for more recommendations coming your way!
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