Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Over the last few decades, a lot has changed in South India excepting a handful. These changes have bridged the gap that existed between the different cities and made us more united. But there are certain things which still strongly differentiate the four southern states. Standing strong amongst this list is the different cuisines of the individual states down south. No amount of evolution can change this scenario as being unique is their speciality trait. And if you have had the opportunity of tasting all the four different cuisines, then I’m sure you will be in agreement to my opinion of how each cuisine are so close to each other yet unique in their own ways.
(Exquisite Cutlery)
If such complexity exists amongst these cuisines, then imagine how challenging would it be to have a restaurant serving out such authentic South Indian cuisine. Now multiply this complexity manifolds for the restaurant I’m talking about is no ordinary restaurant and have been doing this amazing job of bringing cuisines from the four states devotedly since 1996. More so over, being part of the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels, this restaurant has to ensure its standards are the highest amongst the lot. For those who guessed it by now and for the others wondering which restaurant it is, I’m talking about none other than our very own ‘Southern Spice’ located at Taj Coromandel, Chennai. An epitome of the amazing work crafted in the kitchens of ‘Southern Spice’ stands testimonial in the fact that it finds itself a place in the “Top 100 Restaurants of the World”.

Having been to ‘Southern Spice’ on different occasions earlier, this was my first visit post their massive makeover that happened in 2011-2012. From the outside, I wondered to myself as the old traditional entrance was replaced by a sleek modern pathway. But was I not surprised when the pathway ended. The restaurant looked more grandeur now than before. It resembled like a Mandap of a carefully crafted Southern Royal Palace. The carvings on the roof were phenomenal so were the shiny silver pillars. However one thing that has now changed was the absence of live performance. The traditional dance performances that used to take place were one of the reasons for preferring Southern Spice during the earlier days.
(Exquisite Cutlery)
All the impressions that resulted out of the recent makeover culminated in the best possible way when I was told that today would be a degustation menu aka the “Maha Virundhu”. Now “Maha Virundhu” is something that royal families usually host to honour their guests. True to its theme, we were pampered from the start in a grandiose and royal manner. Being led to our private dining room, I was amazed by the cutlery that was laid out on our table. In coherence with the menu we were to taste today, even the cutlery had royal all over them as they were a mix of gold and silver plated cutleries and plates. After all the brief introductions, it was revealed by the Chef that we were to taste a 30 dish “Maha Virundhu”. I was aghast at this as this would be probably the first time, I’ll be savouring so many different dishes at one go.
(Refreshing Towels)
With all said and done, we were being prepared for the fare that awaited us. Wet towels to freshen up ourselves was first up. This was followed by the first dish of the evening, a small idly shaped flour ball with  a stuffing that consisted of dried raisins and other dry fruits. This was followed by two welcome drinks, the ‘Mysore Rasam’ and ‘Ginger Punch’. The rasam was unique as it had a tinge of coconut along with some jiggery that made it distinctive. There was no end to the number of servings we had of this amazing drink. For those wondering, Rasam did start out as a soup/drink and by evolution found itself as a side for steamed rice. But even today, at interiors of the southern states it is still had as a drink rather than as an accompaniment for rice. While we were busy gulping down the drinks, some crunchiness was added to the table in the form of ‘Vadagams/Poppadums/Crackers’ along with a deluge of Chutney’s.
(Stuffed Dumpling)
(Mysore Rasam)
(Ginger Punch)
(Vadagams/Poppadums/Crackers)
With our palate now all set for the bombardment of dishes to follow, the starters quickly starting coming up. First up was the ‘Melagu Adai’. It is a lentil pan cake that has a neutral taste to kick start the ‘Maha Virundhu’. Next was the ‘Banana Dosa’ which was an amazingly soft banana battered up and deep fried with flavours of jaggery and cardamom. This was followed by the ‘Injipuli Koshambri’ which was the south Indian take on salads. It comprised of tempered lentils on a bed of lettuce with a dressing of ginger-tamarind yoghurt. Once the greens were over, it was now time for the meat lover’s feast. Next up were the ‘Denji Rawa Fry’, ‘Kori Kempu’, ‘Vaigai Kari Sukka’ & the ‘Kair katti Yerachi Kola Urundai’. The ‘Denji Rawa Fry’ was one of my favourite dish and was the second time I was having the same meat in a span of few weeks. It is a semolina crusted soft shell crab which is deep fried until crispy. The soft shell crabs are a rarity in India and the one’s we had were imported. The ‘Kori Kempu’ were a bit similar to our regular chicken fried dishes but the seasonings had a great mix of chillies and hand pounded spices that gave it a unique flavouring when marinated with yoghurt and fried. Sukka being an all-time favourite for me, I was just anticipating if they would be serving it. It was exactly just then that we were served up with the ‘Vaigai Kari Sukka’. The dish made its entrance with the symbolic aroma that accompanies any sukka. The lamb was cooked perfect and had an amazing spice flavour. The last amongst the starters was the ‘Kair katti Yerachi Kola Urundai’. This is a unique dish whose recipe was donated to the kitchen of Southern Spice by one of the biggest families in Tamil Movie Industry. Yes, this is a household recipe of the great ‘Shivaji Ganesan’. It was both a delight as well as an honour to have this fennel flavoured minced meat dumplings wrapped in a banana fibre. The meat was amazingly crispy which made me wonder how it retained its shape until the fibres were removed.
(Melagu Adai)
(Banana Dosa)
(Injipuli Koshambri)
(Denji Rawa Fry)
(Kori Kempu)
(Vaigai Kari Sukka)
(Kair katti Yerachi Kola Urundai
With the starters all done it was now time to get into the Thali mode. Thali is the traditional way of serving food on a plantain leaf with all the curries and sides placed in small quantities and the center area for the rice and breads. Well the thali at Southern Spice’s ‘Maha Virundhu’ was a bit different for the leaf was replaced by a gold plated leaf plate. The curries that made up the ‘Maha Virundhu Thali’ were ‘Manathakkali Vathal Kozhambu’, which was a strong tamarind curry made with black nightshade berried. This was followed by ‘Arachivitta Sambar’, a traditional curry in almost all South Indian thali’s made with lentils, stone grounded spices, drumsticks and Madras onions. The next on the plate was the ‘Pookose Urlai Korma’, a combination of cauliflower and potato in an herbed coconut and cashew gravy. Following this was the ‘Kadala Gassi’ which is stewed black chickpeas in a toasted coconut chilli curry. Next up was ‘Pachakari Stew’, a mix of vegetables and potatoes with onion and green chillies simmered on some rich coconut milk to make the stew.

With all the vegetable curries gone, the first amongst the non-vegetarian curries was the ‘Royallu Iguru’ which consisted of some amazing prawns flavoured with a special Andhra spice mix and simmered in a rich coconut and cashew gravy. The next dish was also a prawn curry from the Kanada cuisine named ‘Mangalore Yetti Curry’. It was a flavourful prawn curry in a mix of coconut, chillies and grounded Mangalorean spices. This was followed by the ‘Scallop Pepper Stew’ which was a first for me. Not an avid sea food lover barring prawns and crab, I have never actually pursued the path to try out the different offerings. But boy was I not delighted, the scallops had a unique texture to them by itself and the black pepper infused coconut milk nailed the dish. The final gravy that made to my thali was the ‘Kozhi Malliperalan’, a speciality from Kuttanad. It was a cilantro flavoured chicken stew with succulent pieces of chicken. The one gravy that I gave a miss was the ‘Sankaraa Meen Kozhambu’ which I understood from my friends was a red snapper in a curry infused with fenugreek, tamarind and tomato. The accompaniments for the Thali were the ‘Asparagus Paruppu Usili’ and the ‘Zucchini Khaara Poriyal’. The sides for the thali comprised of ‘Parotta’, ‘Idiyappam’ aka Steamed String Hoppers, ‘Appam’ aka Rice Hoppers & some Steamed Rice with the traditional Paruppu Podi & Ghee.
(The Grandiose Thali)
Also on the offering was the ‘Bhejwada Kodi Biryani’ from Andhra Pradesh, a spiced chicken pilaf made with fresh cilantro and mint that provided a good spiced variant to the regular biryani that is available in Tamil Nadu. To sum it up all, the final dish was the ‘Thayir Sadam’, a must have at the end of any South Indian meal.

With the gastronomy tour that our palate had already encountered, we could just not wait for the desserts to hit the table. But then before the desserts were served came a very surprising drink. A ‘Curry Leaf Concoction’ was provided to us with an option for an alcoholic twist for those who preferred. Personally it was a complete new outlook to me. I used to be the kind of person who leaves aside the curry leaves during my childhood and here I am drinking a concoction made entirely of curry leaf. It was amazing a provided a must needed refreshment after the array of dishes that were served.
(Curry Leaf Concoction)
The line-up of desserts started with the ‘Godhi Bella Ice Cream’. It was a completely new flavour devised in house made with broken wheat, jaggery and banana to create a very creamy yet textural ice cream. This was followed up by the ‘Elaneer Payasam’, which the Chef revealed was from the house of the Mammens, the family behind MRF. It was a milky pudding made from chilled tender coconut. The final dish to commemorate an end to the “Maha Virundhu” was indeed a big surprise. When the dish was being brought on to our table, we were all wondering that the dessert looked amazing but nowhere resembled to an Indian dish leave alone South India. But the surprise was locked within the dessert. Named the ‘Chocolate Purnam Mousse’, the Chef asked us to break the top of the mousse to unlock the surprise. We were all taken aback as to how such a western looking dessert was indeed completely South Indian. The inside resembled almost similar to the Panjamirtham that is given out at temples. For those still not sure, it is a mixture of coconut, lentil and jaggery. This mixture was exotically filled in a chocolate mousse to bring out such an amazingly looking as well as tasting dessert. This was indeed a fitting climax to the ‘Maha Virundhu’ that was offered to us at Southern Spice.
(Godhi Bella Ice Cream)
(Chocolate Purnam Mousse)
The Thali’s at Southern Spice start from INR 2000 per person and can go upwards of up to INR 12000 per person. The higher priced thali’s also have exotica wines paired with the food. The ‘Maha Virundhu’ experience offered today is priced at INR 5000. They are more than happy to create a customized menu depending on your budget and preference. So if it’s a truly royal experience that you would like to have for that special occasion or to showcase the true tradition and authenticity of South Indian food to your friends and families from India and abroad, Southern Spice would be the perfect restaurant to do so.

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Friday, 12 April 2013


TGIF!!! End of another tiring week!!! Your party mood is at its highest. Well technically you have nothing that’ll prevent you from partying hard & safe. But what next after the great party. Does your stomach go grrrrrr and roars like the Chennai Super Kings? Your great after-party mood is being disturbed by the hunt for a place that is pocket friendly so that you can have a proper meal after all the liquids. Have no worries anymore. Why go for a meal when you can go in for a sumptuous buffet. Yes, party goers and midnight mongers, you now have a place to gorge of amazing food at late hours.

Our very own MainStreet restaurant located at Residency Towers has a Midnight Buffet special on Friday’s & Saturday’s. Starting only at 11PM, they have a complete spread from soups to desserts that is sure to keep you full till brunch next day. A few foodie friends and I decided to check it out and hence begun the midnight food trail for us at Residency Towers, T Nagar. 
(Welcome Drink)
Upon being seated at our table, we were provided with a welcome drink. It was a Pineapple juice aesthetically masked like a mocktail. Nevertheless as we weren’t on fluids prior to the buffet, all of us decided to attack it. Following the drink, we were served a refreshing Hot & Sour soup which although nothing special did feel nice at that point of time. The pack then decided to go check out the offerings on the main spread and boy were we not delighted. The salads started comprised of a Thai Mango Salad, Pasta Salad, Dutch Potato Salad and Mushroom & Broccoli Salad. The Pasta Salad was my favourite followed by the Thai salad.
(Assorted Salads)
(Pasta Salad)
The next on the main were the usual Veg. Pasta on Cream Sauce, a Fish gravy, a Chicken curry, Kadai Paneer, Mutton Biryani and Indian breads. Since the salads and non-veg made my tummy fill at that juncture of time, I did not venture out much into the vegetarian side of the spread. The biryani was mention worthy and at that point of time, one of the best that is available. I couldn’t just wait for the others to finish the mains as MainStreet is of the best places to gorge on desserts thanks to their usually wonderful and large spread of desserts. I was not let down this time either.
(Pasta on Cream Sauce)
(Mutton Biryani)
With a spread comprising of Gulab Jamun, Payasam, Caramel Custard, Orange cake and Lime Mousse, this should be heaven at this point of time. Being the dessert maniac, I did not leave a single dessert and had small servings of all that I was able to lay my hands on. The payasam was fabulous so was the gulab jamun. For caramel custard fans, you can just simply spend your full time on it. With the end of the desserts we were wondering what to do next as the time was close to 2 AM and we were all energetic after the amazing midnight food bash.
(Caramel Custard)
(Midnight Surprise)
MainStreet is located at Hotel Residency Towers, T. Nagar. Priced at Rs. 555/- inclusive of taxes, MainStreet is a perfect place to end up after some hard partying to satisfy your hunger pangs. Just a word of caution, the midnight buffet is available only on Friday and Saturday nights. So all those complaining of no fun at night in Chennai, now you know where your next weekend destination is.

Happy Partying. Most importantly safe Partying.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013


One of the finest dining experiences one can truly enjoy at most restaurants is the roof-top dining. With the increase in pollution in Chennai, there has been a dearth of such restaurants. Roof top dining is very often available only in hotels and as most of them are located in the heart of the city, it often doesn’t turns into a memorable experience owing the fast and vibrant traffic that is prevalent at such locations. This was the scenario until two years ago when one such restaurant decided to open its doors to roof-top dining lovers. 

Tucked away in a very silent part of Chennai is ‘Azzuri Bay’. A restaurant that not only provides an amazing roof-top experience but also provides a gleaming view of the Adyar River and the mighty Adyar Bridge. Taking inspiration from the Adyar River and the Bay of Bengal, the restaurant was aptly named Azzuri Bay. Azzuri in Italian represents a shade of blue commonly known as Azzure and being located close to the Bay, the name could get no better than this. 

Towering 3 floors, each unique in its own way, the restaurant offers a multi-cuisine spread ranging from Italian, Mediterranean, Pan-Asian and South Indian. With a seating capacity of 140 patrons, the floors can also be completely blocked in case you decide to host a party. The vision of the owners is straight forward. One of the partners Mr. Jai Punjabi told me that their motto is “Good D├ęcor with a Neat Ambiance serving Decent Food”. 

I am sure that by now, most of you would be wondering that Azzuri Bay is yet another multi-cuisine restaurant where justice will not be done to any particular cuisine. But your opinion will definitely change once you visit Azzuri Bay. They have indeed done more justice to the individual cuisines than most specialized restaurants do. Saying this, let me know give you a sneak peek into the amazing food that I devoured during my visit.

The first dish to be presented on the table was the ‘Rose Milk Popsicle’ & ‘Orange Popsicle’. I’m sure this would bring back old memories for most of us. Wanting to try all the cuisine, I was advised to go in for their Platters. Being an ardent foodie, I wouldn’t mind trying as many new dishes as possible but my only constraint is that food should never be wasted. Keeping this in mind, an order was placed for a Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian platter from both Italian + Mediterranean and Asian Cuisines. While I waited for the platters to pop in, I was given an assorted variety of drinks to sample. This included a common ‘Virgin Pina Colada’, an innovative ‘Thai Ice Tea’ & a refreshing ‘San Francisco Ice Tea’. The Thai ice tea was a combination of Lemongrass, Condensed Milk and the traditional ice tea while the San Francisco ice tea was more of a black berry infused ice tea. 
(Popsicle)
(Virgin Pina Colada)
(Thai Ice Tea)
(San Francisco Ice Tea)
The first among the platters to arrive on the table was the ‘Vegetarian Asian Platter’. This consisted of Tofu Satay, Thai Spring Rolls, Crispy Corn and Cheese Wontons. This followed by the ‘Non Vegetarian Platter”. This platter comprised of Double Cooked Pepper Chicken, Fish Satay, Thai Chicken Spring Rolls and Salt & Pepper Prawns. The Tofu satay and cheese wontons were truly amazing while the Spring Rolls on both platters had a good filling and was crispy even after a prolonged time being on the table. One of the speciality dishes at Azzuri Bay is the ‘Double Cooked Pepper Chicken’ which was just too good. The chicken strips were perfectly cooked while they retained their amazing flavour.
(Vegetarian Asian Platter)
(Tofu Satay)
(Non Vegetarian Asian Platter)
With a closure on the Asian cuisine, my complete focus now was on my favourite cuisines, Italian and Mediterranean. The ‘Vegetarian Platter’ consisted of Three Cheese Rolls, Stuffed Baked Mushrooms, Vegetable Crostini and Falafel with Pita Bread. The ‘Non Vegetarian Platter’ had some of my favourite dishes, namely Stir Fried Prawns, Calamari Fritta, Chicken Shawarma and Lamb Kebabs. There cannot be a single dish amongst these two platters that I would dare to say was good rather all the dishes were just outright excellent. The three cheese rolls just melt in your mouth while the falafel was one of the best I’ve tasted in Chennai while the Shawarmas was straight forward the closest one can get to the authentic Lebanese shawarmas. The calamari fritta, prawns, baked mushrooms and the lamb kebabs all were remarkable in their own ways. 
(Vegetarian Italian Platter)
(Falafel with Pita Bread)
(Non Vegetarian Italian Platter)
(Calamari Fritta)
Being stuffed with all the platters, the main course was a complete pass for me. But the foodie in me did not agree. So the next adventure was on a roll. With a soft corner for pizzas, I couldn’t resist having one. I was served with a ‘BBQ Chicken Sausage, Mushroom & Oregano’ pizza. The pizza was truly mind boggling. One of the crispiest crust I’ve ever had in my life time. The toppings were absolutely fresh and was perfectly balanced with all the flavours. I just can’t wait to visit again just for their pizzas. The pizza was followed by a very typical Burmese dish known as ‘Khow Suey’. The chicken version was served along with 7 condiments. The moment this dish arrived, it stroke a chord to me that I have had this same exact dish somewhere earlier and this wasn’t the first time. I was so engrossed that I had a complete flashback of my travel over the last 3 years figuring where I had this. I had to eventually give up as it just didn’t trigger. Later in the evening, when I returned home to talk about this dish, I was enlightened by folks at home that I had tasted this dish at a place called Home and it was cooked by none other my mom. I was taken aback with my forgetfulness and had to shower the formal apologies for my ignorance. 

(Pizza)
Coming back to the Khow Suey, it is basically noodles soup meal. It consists of Noodles, a chicken gravy prepared in coconut milk and range of condiments. The chicken gravy at Azzuri Bay is similar to the Thai Yellow Curry while the range of condiments included Fried Onions, Lemon, Chopped Spring Onions, Fried Garlic, Chopped Boiled Eggs, Chopped Coriander & Chilli Flakes. The dish is served in a bowl which is first filled with the noodle followed by the curry. The condiments are added according to one’s taste and is had like a soup. This would be a great experience for tasting a dish from one of our neighbouring countries.
(Noodles and Curry)
(Noodles)
(Condiments)
(Khow Suey - Ready to Eat)
With all the mains done and just a small amount of space left to savour some desserts, we quickly jumped to the desserts section. On offering today were the ‘Tiramisu’, ‘Mud Pie’ & ‘Tres Leche cake’. The tiramisu was nice and had a good balance of flavour. The mud pie was truly and outstanding creation as it had me scooping spoons and spoons of it. But the best of the lot and my personal favourite was the “Tres Leche Cake” which in Spanish means ‘Three Milks Cake’. Being soaked in three different types of milk, this cake was super soft and spongy and had an amazing assortment of fruits to top it off. It was a perfect finish to an otherwise amazing dinner experience. 
(Tiramisu)
(Mud Pie)
(Mud Pie)
(Tres Leche Cake)
A perfect setting for some great dining experiences, a meal for two at Azzuri Bay would cost you about INR 1200/-. But the good news is that they have an array of discounts for their patrons. If you are an American Express card holder you get 20% off, for a Gandhi Nagar Club member it is 10% off and for the Chennai Food Guide members a discount is on the offering shortly. For all the women out there, be all happy as Azzuri Bay offers a 15% off for an all women table. These discounts are available for both Lunch & Dinner. What is now keeping you all back, get set go and head to Azzuri Bay for an amazing gastronomic experience.

For an earlier experience of mine at Azzuri Bay please visit http://www.foodinchennai.com/2013/01/azzuri-bay-adyar.html

Azzuri Bay is located at 13, 1st Crescent Park Rd, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600020, India. For more on Azzuri Bay, follow their Facebook page at Azzuri Bay – Facebook.

This experience at Azzuri Bay was courtesy of Chennai Food Guide as part of their premium restaurant feature. For more on Chennai Food Guide, visit Azzuri Bay - Chennai Food Guide

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