Thursday, 26 September 2013

Being a very cosmopolitan city, one thing that the food circuit in Chennai had been missing for a long time was the presence of an authentic pan Asian restaurant. We have some amazing Chinese, Thai, Korean & Japanese restaurants but no restaurant that serves all these cuisines without compromising on the authenticity But Chennaite’s the scenario has now changed. With the opening of ITC Grand Chola, there was great expectations in the food circuit about the amazing restaurants that were to be part of this luxurious hotel. One amongst them filled in the gap that we missed for so long. Yes the a pan Asian restaurant known by the same name as the cuisines it serves, “Pan Asian” in our own ITC Grand Chola.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing that hits you is the collection of Wines the restaurant boasts of. After being lead through some amazing shelves of Wines, the restaurant throws itself upon oneself with its rustic interiors and a fantastic open kitchen. Yes, the entire kitchen forms an integral part of the restaurant that provides a great experience seeing your order made almost in front of you. 

The menu was crafted keeping in mind the essence of the restaurant and true to its name had cuisines from three different provinces in China, a section dedicated to Thai and finally another dedicated to Japanese. The interesting aspect of the entire menu was the matrix arrangement of core ingredient against each cuisine. This I felt was quite innovative as one need not get confused with complex names but can rather select the core ingredient such as poultry, lamb, duck, seafood or vegetarian and then cross it with the cuisine to order your appetizers and mains. 
(Banana Blossom Salad)
(Steamed Duck Carpaccio)
(Pan Asian’s Som Tam)
The first to be served was the ‘Banana Blossom Salad’. The salad was served very aesthetically on a bowl made of banana fibres and had the right amount of crunchiness that a salad needs. This was followed by the ‘Steamed Duck Carpaccio’. I must admit that this was the first time I’d ventured out into unfamiliar territory of having a dish with duck as the core ingredient. Boy was I surprised, the duck was tender and at the right temperature being a cold dish. It was served along with some ponzu jelly and orange crushed ice which complemented the flavour well. Can’t wait to try another hot duck dish soon. The next to be served was the ‘Pan Asian’s Som Tam’ which was the restaurants own interpretation of the classic Thai salad. 
(Wok Tossed Chicken)

(Sichuan style Crispy Prawns)
(Stir Fried Squid)

(Californian Apple and Fresh Fennel Soup)

The ‘Wok Tossed Chicken’ was one of my favourites of the evening. The chicken was cooked perfectly with a sumptuous amount of nuts that truly elevated its flavours. The ‘Sichuan style Crispy Prawns’ was served next. The prawns were cooked in a succulent nut sauce that complemented the spice of the Sichuan style cooking. This was followed by the ‘Stir Fried Squid’, wherein the squid was crispy and coated in a nice chilli basil crumble. To end the array of appetizers, we were served with a ‘Californian Apple and Fresh Fennel Soup’. The soup served in Pan Asian has a twist to it. You are presented with a big bowl with the core ingredient and then provided the soup separately that can be poured in. This helps understand all the different flavours of the soup. The soup is so filling that it is a meal by itself. 
(Chicken Gaobao with Pixian Chilli)

(Phad Cha Talay)

(Asian Greens)
(Teppanyaki Fried Rice)

The mains started with the ‘Chicken Gaobao with Pixian Chilli’. The combination of leeks, nuts and peppercorns made the flavours stand out. The next was the ‘Phad Cha Talay’, which was basically an assortment of seafood cooked in turmeric and basil. This was followed by some Asian Greens in white garlic sauce. We were served with ‘Teppanyaki Fried Rice’ to go with the mains. The rice had a nice flavour of hotness in it while at the same time the hotness wasn’t too overpowering. 

(Serenity on Pebbled Path)

(Vahlrona Chocolate)

To sum up the evening, we were served with a ‘Serenity on Pebbled Path’ and a ‘Vahlrona Chocolate’. The pebbled path was indeed serene. It comprised of a nice pineapple orange pond with rock chocolates to make up the path. The chocolate on the other hand was exotic which went perfect with the dark cherry compote and spearmint ice cream that accompanied it. 

On the whole, my dining experience at ‘Pan Asian’ was truly Asian without any compromise on quality or taste and in my knowledge is the only authentic Asian restaurant existent as of now in Chennai. If you are a major lover of Asian food, then it definitely needs to be on the top of your must visit restaurant list.

Pan Asian is located at the ITC Grand Chola.

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Friday, 13 September 2013

The most favoured dish amongst the North Indian cuisine for me is the Butter Chicken/Paneer Masala. Incidentally this is also one of the first gravy dishes that I began my cooking with. Being in UK during my student times, cooking it always made me feel close to home. Some weeks ago I received few packets of home made masala's for different dishes from "Zaiqa - The Spice Store". One amongst them was for Butter Chicken Masala. The aroma of the masala made me cook up my favourite curry once again. And this time, it's here for you to try too.

Serves: 3-4

  • 1/2 kg boneless Chicken pieces
  • 4 Tomatoes (boiled & pureed) or 1 cup Tomato puree
  • 4 medium Onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp Zaiqa Butter Chicken Masala for marination
  • 3-4 tbsp Zaiqa Butter Chicken Masala for gravy
  • 1 tsp Fenugreek leaves
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 3-4 tbsp of Cream
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • Salt to taste
(Zaiqa Masala's)
  1. Marinate the chicken pieces with 2 tbsp of Zaiqa masala and required amount of salt. Allow to rest for 1-2 hours refrigerated. (You can substitute Zaiqa masala with regular fry masala)
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a deep cooking pot.
  3. Add the finely chopped onions and sauté till the onions turn slightly brownish. 
  4. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and mix well.
  5. Add the marinated chicken and allow it to cook in the mixture on a low flame. This should take about 7-10 minutes.
  6. Next add the tomato puree and close the lid for about 5-7 minutes. Once the puree is cooked, add the Zaiqa masala, fenugreek leaves, milk and cream. Allow it to simmer till the mixture thickens. (You can substitute Zaiqa masala with some Garam Masala and Methi leaves)
  7. Remove from the stove and garnish with some more cream and butter.

Best served with Butter Naan, Roti and Fried Ghee Rice.
(Ready to be served)

  • Vegetarians can substitute Paneer for Chicken. If using Paneer, mix them with the masala and shallow fry them before adding to the mixture.
  • If you want a very rich creamy gravy, add more cream.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

When Qwikys Coffee Pub opened their first outlet in Chennai in the early 2000’s, it was the beginning of a new era in many ways for Chennaites. All of a sudden there was a euphoria amongst the young, whether affluent or not. This in a way marked the beginning of the coffee shop culture in Chennai, which was earlier a concept only akin to 5* hotels.

But today Chennai has travelled extensively through the journey of time. To such an extent that the very Qwikys is no longer even present in the Chennai market. Such has been the domination of other café outlets that mushroomed taking advantage of this new found hang-out/meeting place concept in Chennai. But with a café in almost every nook and corner, saturation of these places begun noticeably with a dramatic drop in the quality of their food and service. Cafe’s started to lose their essence and eventually became a place where one would go only if all other options were exhausted.

Taking cognizance of this saturation, a team of five closely knit people decided to change the face of café’s in Chennai. With a vision to bring a never before concept in Chennai, Vandana, a home baker decided that Chennaites were ready to experience a true tea house. Backed by Pavan, an investment advisor, Rashmi, an expert in fashion & design, Sunny, the in-house tea connoisseur and Rajesh, the de-facto man in charge of running operations, began a new era in F&B concepts in Chennai. The birth of Chennai’s first dedicated Tea House, the “Lloyds Tea House”, aptly named after the road it is located at while at the same time providing a touch of Englishness, who are known for their beautiful tea houses.

The first thing that strikes you as you enter Lloyds Tea House is the ambiance of the place. They have a nice little cosy lounge type seating in addition to the regular seating. A small library but with loads of books on topics ranging from travel to food to designing. Perfect place if you would like to indulge in some me time. The lounge area also has some charming props from the yesteryears. As we were seated, we were shown with two menus, one for the food while the other exclusively for their amazing Teas. We decided to start with some appetizers and ice tea. Followed it up with mains, desserts and hot tea to complete the evening.

The evening started with their tea of the month, the ‘Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Tea’. The appetizers were ‘BBQ Chicken Fingers’, ‘Vol au vents’ and a ‘Rosti Platter”. I was just curious as to how the flavour of a dessert can be truly flavoured in a tea but they proved me wrong. Right from the first sip it kept knocking me as a dessert rather than a tea. The flavours were perfectly replicated. The BBQ Chicken fingers was one of the star dishes of the evening and a personal favourite for me. Evenly sliced chicken well marinated and served with a generous amount of sauce that tasted amazing even on its own. The Vol au vents was a puff pastry with mushroom and cheese on the top. One of the softest yet crispiest puff’s I’ve savoured in recent times. The Rosti platter comprised of a hash brown topped with creamy vegetables and loads of cheese. Right amount of crunchiness and toppings to make a good appetizer.
(Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Tea)
(BBQ Chicken Fingers)
(Vol au vent & Rosti Platter)
(Vol au vent)
(Vol au vent)
(Rosti Platter)
With the appetizers done, for the mains we had quite a few dishes. To start with was the ‘Margherita Pizza’. A very simple pizza and they got it spot on, served right from the oven hot-hot. The pizza had a thin crust base with a good balance of tomato and cheese. It was wiped clean in a jiffy by all of us present at the table. But for those who have some aversion towards tomato, I would recommend to either order a different pizza or ask for a slightly less amount of tomato. The next up was their ‘Chicken Cheese burger’. You cannot expect a fast food styled burger in a tea house, can you? The gourmet burger that was served to us was just mind boggling. The patty was amazingly juicy and you could savour each and every bite of it. It is again a must try for all the carnivores out there. Being a gourmet burger, it is served with some wedges for sides which again were less oily while being aptly crispy.
(Margherita Pizza)
(Chicken Cheese Burger)
This was followed by ‘Thai Basil Cottage Cheese with Rice’ and ‘Penne Arrabiata Pasta’. The Thai curry was different compared to the regular Green, Yellow & Red curries that one is accustomed to when it comes to Thai. It had some strong flavourings that gave it a unique taste. The Arrabiata pasta was accompanied by a portion of garlic bread and a sumptuous amount of zucchini topped with some chilli flakes. The presence of zucchini made a huge difference to the overall taste of the pasta. It provided a peak tinge that differentiated this pasta from the many that I’ve had over the years. The chilli could be too strong for those who are not accustomed to having very spicy food so make sure you ask for a lower spice quotient.
(Thai Basil Cottage Cheese with Rice)
(Penne Arrabiata Past)
With some great food for the mains, we were a bit confused on if we needed desserts or should we go for the hot tea straight away. Giving into our temptations, we decided to have a portion of ‘Tiramisu’ and ‘Almond Coated Chocolate Stick’. The Tiramisu was crowned with soft ladyfinger biscuits which tasted yummy on their own. The Tiramisu once again disappeared as quickly as it was brought it. The Almond coated chocolate stick was a good pairing for the ‘Blueberry Cheesecake Hot Tea’ that was served at the end of the service. What fascinated me the most was the innovative dispenser that was used for dispensing the hot tea. A timer is also provided to indicate how long you need to brew it depending on the concentration level of your preference.
(Almond coated Chocolate Stick)
(Tiramisu - Pic Courtesy: Llyods Tea House Facebook Page)
(Tea Dispenser)
(Blueberry Cheesecake Hot Tea)
Lloyds Tea House really wowed me during my first visit so much that I’ve started visiting more often than other restaurants in the vicinity. Some of my other recommendations are the Franconnian Peppermint Ice Tea, Rose Petal Hot Tea, Creamy Fusili with Mushrooms with Bechamel sauce and the Chicken Philly sandwich.

Lloyds Tea House is located on Lloyds Road, Gopalapuram adjacent to the DAV School.
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