Tuesday, 28 August 2018

When it comes to spicy Tamil cuisine, all of us know nothing beats Chettinad cuisine. But are we sure we are talking about the right term? What does spicy denote here? Are are we talking chilli or peppers? Most restaurants that serve Chettinad cuisine involves only the use of chilli. However, the authentic Chettinad food is created using a fine balance of chilli and peppercorns. It's not the burning sensation that is Chettinad, rather its the hot after effect that represents the authenticity of the food.

With commercialization the key in today's food scene, a new restaurant has decided to make taste and originality their key. Mango Tree, a recently opened restaurant in Nungambakkam focusses on introducing authentic Chettinad home cuisine to folks in Chennai. Located near Valluvar Kottam on a by-lane, the restaurant is a remodeled house that replicates the ambiance of a Chettinad house. The decor too is in line with what you would expect in a regular Chettinad house. It really felt like being in a Chettinad house with the expectation that the food also follows suit, unlike other so-called Chettinad restaurants that leave you burning after a meal.
(Kari Uppu Kari)
(Kari Kola Urundai)
The starters that were served included the 'Kari Uppu Kari', 'Karuvepilai Paneer', 'Beetroot Kola Urundai', 'Erai Varuval', 'Kari Kola Urundai'. Kari Uppu Kari is one of the signature dishes along with Kari Kola Urundai. They were both very simplistic and full of flavour. The Kola Urundai served here comes sans the wrapping of the urundai with dried plantain fibres making it a bit easier to eat. The other standout dish was the Erai varuval. Though being deep fried, it was not at all greasy and had a very distinctive spiciness to it that made me feel just a subtle hotness which was instantaneously overcome by the aroma of the masala. 
(Karuvepilai Paneer) 
(Erai Varuval)
(Beetroot Kola Urundai)
A Thali is one of the best ways to understand how the fare in a restaurant is as invariably it includes most of the basic dishes that can otherwise be ordered a la carte. Keeping this in mind, I ordered a 'Karaikudi Special Thali' while my friend ordered a 'Mutton Biryani combo'. The Karaikudi thali was indeed special as it had about 19 items all beautifully plated in a big thali. If anyone can actually manage to finish everything in the thali, I'm sure they wouldn't even think about dinner. There was  fish, chicken as well as mutton curry along with rasam, vegetable kootu, a poriyal and masala fried whole egg. As accompaniments, the thali had parotta, variety rice, steamed rice with ghee served along with curd, pickle and appalam. A neer more accompanied the thali and a payasam to finish it. On the other hand, the Biryani combo was also huge. The combo consisted of a full portion of Mutton Biryani along with Raitha, masala fried egg and appalam. But what made it more interesting is the fact that the biryani combo also had parotta, Kari masala and some salna. This made it a perfect combo for hardcore carnivores like me. 
(Non Veg Karaikudi Special Thali)
(Mutton Biryani Combo)
Most of you by now know how much of a dessert fan I'm, so how could I skip desserts even after such a sumptuous meal. So we requested a dessert sampler plate. Although not part of the menu, the restaurant obliged us on the same. The plater consisted of 'Kauvn Arisi' and 'Aadi Kumaayam'. Both were distinctive in their taste and consistency while at the same time being very simplistic in composition.

Now comes the most important question amongst all. Did my palate burn at the end of the meal? Absolutely not. Does that mean my meal wasn't spicy? Of course, it was spicy but the sort of spiciness that leaves a lasting tingling effect and not the one that ends up burning you. This I'm told is the characteristic effect of an authentic Chettinad meal. And the secret to this is the fact that all masalas used in the preparation at Mango Tree are home prepared and grounded to avoid contamination with any elements that have an commercialization attached to it.

Mango Tree is located at 31, Jambulingam Street, Off Valluvar Kottam High Road in Nungambakkam. A meal for two would approximately cost you about Rs. 1200 while that Thalis are priced from Rs. 160 for the Executive Veg Thali to Rs. 340 for the Non-Veg Karaikudi Special Thali. The Biryani combos are priced from Rs. 290 for Veg to Rs. 420 for the Mutton Biryani combo.

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