Showing posts with label Healthy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Healthy. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

It’s that time of the year when piousness and festivities go hand in hand. Yes, I’m talking about the Islam’s Holy month of Ramadhan where Muslims across the world indulge in fasting from Dawn to Dusk. One of the key events during one’s fast is the Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast at the moment of Sunset. The Iftar is often a celebrated time every evening with households trying to dish out their best dishes to be savoured after about 14 hours of fasting. And for those who would like to indulge out of their homes, this is the perfect time with restaurants all over Chennai having Iftar Specials.

A trend that is catching up over the last few years across Chennai is with many 5 star properties curating their own Iftar menu. The latest to catch the bandwagon is a restaurant from one of the jewels of Chennai, the ITC Grand Chola. 

Place:

The Iftar Menu is served at Café Mercara Express, the coffee shop at ITC Grand Chola. In my opinion, Café Mercara Express seems to be the idealistic choice as the décor reflects a lot of middle eastern touches albeit not being designed to look like a middle eastern restaurant. The subtle lighting also provides the perfect ambiance to reflect back on the true intention of the entire fasting and the importance of this Holy Month.

Food:

As is customary, the Iftar starts with some Dates fruit. Dates is a fruit that looks appetizing enough in its natural form, then how do you make it more elegant? The Chefs wowed me by topping each of the dates with some edible gold leaf. This was just out of the box and was quite unexpected. To quench the thirst, a concoction of Sherbet and Roohafza was poured into a magical looking glass. The drink had both the richness to fill the tummy while at the same time the freshness to wake up your senses after a tiring fast. I just couldn’t get enough of the drink as I kept asking for more and more servings, which the waiting staff obliged with a big heart. To prepare the body for a more indulging meal that was to follow, a platter of assorted fruits aesthetically cut were brought to the table.
(Gold Leaf topped Dates)
(Sherbet Drink)
(Assorted Platter of Fruits)
With the fast being broke and the body getting the much need refreshments, I took a small break to complete my prayers before the next course of the Iftar was served. Gosh, that break really helped me to whole heartedly relish the dishes that followed. First up was the famous Hyderabadi Haleem that has now become completely associated with fasting in Chennai. While Haleem is usually available in most of the stand-alone restaurants, it being served in a 5-star property is the first I’m hearing of. This is mainly due to the process that goes in making it as a lot of physical work is involved in breaking down the lentils and mutton. So I was quite sceptical when it was served because a Haleem has to be perfect in many sense especially the spice and texture. 
(Hyderabadi Haleem)
After garnishing the bowl of Haleem with the regular condiments, the first spoon sealed my opinion. There was no need to give work to my taste buds as this was clearly by far the best Haleem I’ve ever tasted in my life. Yup, I’m sorry to say but honestly I felt this to be much better than the original ones from the streets surrounding Charminar. I just couldn’t stop wiping the bowl down and was even prepared to ask for a second serving. But I wanted to hold back as I was keen on what the other dishes were.

The Haleem was followed by another phenomenal dish, the Classical Gosht NIhari. Served along side a bread of your choice, the Nihari was fantabulous as the spice levels were perfectly matched to a palate of a person who just opened his fast. Not too spicy or choked with Masala but just enough to have a good hit of the flavour. The mutton on the other hand was falling out of the bone and was absolutely stunning. The curry was so Yumm that I resorted to spooning the remaining curry as I didn’t want to gorge on more breads.
(Gosht Nihari)
With such richness in the dishes, I was wondering on how the next dish is going to turn out. Well the next up was indeed the King of Rice dishes, our own Mutton Biryani. Although I’ve had biryani’s before for Iftar, for once it was always least preferred by me because the spice levels tend to be a little harsh on the system after the fast. But that was not the case this evening. The Chefs were precautious to this fact and balanced the biryani in a way that is completely spot on for the system. With absolutely zero oil and a very refreshing aroma of the spices, the biryani was in one word, Perfect. I was so engrossed in savouring the Biryani that I didn’t even bother to click it. That’s how delectably it was cooked.
(Phirni)
With a full and content stomach, we moved on to desserts. A known fact is that gorging on huge amounts of sugar is ideally not good for the system after such a big break. Taking this into account, the dessert on the menu was a simple Phirni. A scrumptious way to end the Iftar, desirable yet content. To give my honest verdict in a single sentence, this is by far the best Iftar I’ve ever had outside in a restaurant.

Price:

Keeping in line with the 5-star standards, the Iftar is priced at Rs. 1250 plus taxes with all the dishes served as a square meal. The square meal by itself is completely filling however if you would like to indulge in any of the dishes more, they would be more than glad to serve them again.

Location:

Café Mercara Express is located at the Ground floor of the iconic ITC Grand Chola in Guindy. The Iftar special is available everyday till the end of the Holy Month of Ramadhan which is around the 7th of July. The best part is its just not available at the time of Iftar but is available all through the evening from 6pm till 4am, which is the time of Suhoor (the Pre-Dawn Meal before the fasting begins again).

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

The food scenario in Chennai has recently seen a plethora of International brands setting up outlets presenting us with their signature specialities. The latest non-contemporary brand to join this list of International brands is ‘Menchies Frozen Yogurt’ from USA with the Chennai outlet being their second location in India. FROYO (FROzen YOgurt) as it is commonly referred to is an absolutely perfect healthy substitute to those staying away from ice creams.
(Froyo Dispenser)
There are a couple of things that makes Menchies unique in comparison to other dessert places. First and foremost, you can completely opt for a hands on experience on creating your own version of FROYO. All you need to do is pick up a waffle/cone/cup and head to the froyo dispenser and dispense your choice of flavour from about 10 flavours that are changed on a daily basis. What is more surprising is that the flavours are paired as couples such that in case you need a mix of 2 paired flavours, you do not have to make the effort to dispense each flavour as you can use the middle portion of the dispenser to provide a mix of both flavours amongst the pair. There is no restriction on how much you would like to fill your serving size as the froyo is not priced based on flavour or size rather on the total weight. So feel free to have as little or as much as your palate desires.
(Toppings Counter)
Once you have picked the flavours, next is to add toppings and sauces to enhance the flavours. They have a choice of about 16 toppings to choose from and another 6 sauces to choose from ranging from fudge to Nutella to honey. Once you have created your dream combination, you just need to take it to the staff nearby who will weigh in the froyo. I honestly believe that this methodology of serving desserts gives the customer the flexibility to have a guilt free experience as they are not bound to over consume under the disguise of not wanting to waste the same.

During my visit, I got to taste a combi of Mint & Chocolate and also another combi of Mango & Vanilla. The Mint-Chocolate froyo resembled the famous chocolate “After Eight”. The lightness of the froyo made it very easy on the palate and made us wanting for more as there was absolutely zero guilt. Having sampled the other flavours (Yes!!! You can sample as many flavours as you want before you make up your mind), I wanted to try the classic combo of Mango-Vanilla which is my opinion was the most divine combo on offer that evening. The flavour of Mango was perfect to elate it in comparison to the vanilla yet wasn’t strong such that it was over-powering. Overall, Menchies frozen yogurt is truly a great replacement for those who want to avoid ice creams without compromising much on taste or texture. 
(Mint-Chocolate Froyo)
(Strawberry Waffle Cone)
(Mango-Vanilla Froyo)
‘Menchies Frozen Yogurt’ is located on Khader Nawaz Khan Road and should cost you about ₹ 150-200 per serving depending on the quantity and toppings you choose. The charge per gram is ₹ 1.30 + taxes plus any additional for waffles or cones. 

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Friday, 27 March 2015

The first thing that hits you at the thought of dining in a Japanese restaurant is the thought of Sushi and raw a.k.a cured meat. But on the contrary there also exists a different avatar of the Japanese cuisine namely the “Teppanyaki” which will suit the Indian palate more. This style involves using a girdle to cook the food. Wiki says that “The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan (鉄板), which means iron plate, and yaki (焼き), which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried”. Folks in Chennai are lucky in a way as India’s first stand-alone Teppanyaki grill restaurant opened here. Named “Teppan”, they have been catering to Chennaities teppanyaki needs over the last couple of years.

Having had my first teppanyaki experience in the middle east many years ago, was truly excited on hearing about Teppan opening and visited them on their first week itself for a truly fabulous experience. Was surprised when I learned that they were having a “Makizushi” festival. One thought that ran through my mind was that how can restaurant that is already well renowned for Japanese cuisine have a dedicated festival for a staple dish. This intriguing thought was set aside the moment we saw the menu as the amount of research that has gone in to designing this festival was clearly evident from the offerings that were as part of this “Makizushi” festival.

The menu was clearly divided into three sections, namely ‘Gunkan Maki’, ‘Te Maki’ & ‘Maki’.If you are wondering what these are then to put them in perspective the ‘Gunkan Maki’ is a variant of sushi that comes in big portions such that two pieces can satisfy even the biggest appetite while the ‘Te Maki’ is a cone shaped sushi equally big in portions. The ‘Maki’ is your regular sushi roll. 
(Tempura Wasabi Mayo salad)
(Palate Cleanser drink)
(Gunkan Maki)
For the evening we ordered the ‘Tori Soboro’ and ‘Kanishake’ from the Gunkan Maki section. The ‘Tori Soboro’ was a Chicken version of sushi that was seasoned with tongarashi and wrapped with sushi vinegar rice and nori. Being my first chicken sushi, I somehow felt that it did not do justice as there were confusing flavours that did not pair with each other. This re-instated my belief that sushi should never be made with anything other than seafood. The ‘Kanishake’ on the other hand was one of the best sushi’s of the evening. It was made of tempura fried crab stick tossed with spices and wrapped with sushi vinegar rice and sliced salmon. This was just mind boggling.
(Te Maki)
(Te Maki)
(Maki)
The next up was ‘Shake Sarada’ and ‘Karai ebi’ from the Te Maki section. These were humongous cone shaped sushi. ‘Shake Sarada’ was a marinated salmon wrapped in nori with avocado, lettuce, cucumber and vinegar rice while ‘Karai ebi’ was a prawn sushi seasoned with mild spicy mayo and tongarashi, spring onion, tobiko and again hand rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori. Both of them were equally good with a subtle flavour of the meat owing to the enormous proportions of the accompaniments. From the Maki section, we ordered for some ‘Furai maguro Maki’ and ‘Takayama Maki’. The former was a seasoned tuna sushi with cream cheese, avocado then rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori and finally deep fried with breadcrumb. This was truly outstanding as one can feel the heat of the deep fry yet savour the freshness of the sushi all at one go. The ‘Takayama Maki’ was a tempura fried sea bass with carrot, avocado, spicy mayo, rolled with sushi vinegar rice and nori then topped with tuna, sea bass and spinach. This too was equally good but my bet is on the ‘Furai Maguro Maki’.
(Tempura Fried Prawns)
(Fried Rice)
With the heroes of the festival dealt with, we decided to order for another dish which was a hard recommendation from another foodie, the ‘Tempura fried prawns’. My oh my!!! Hands down, this is the best tempura fried prawns I’ve ever tasted. It was as light as it can get while being the crispiest it can get too. It is already in my must taste dishes in Chennai list. Just to bring closure to the evening’s meal, we had some sautéed vegetables, chicken and a fried rice that was prepared right in front of us in the teppanyaki style.
(Dessert Platter)
(Wasabi Ice Cream)
One we were done with the savouries it was time for the desserts. Having savoured fresh produce all through the evening, I really wasn’t in the mood for desserts even though I’m a dessert freak. But one stop at the dessert counter and it all changed. In a short while I found myself in the company of an amazingly silky coffee chocolate mousse, a soft and crunchy nutty brownie, a delectable pie and a well-balanced Wasabi ice cream. Glad I didn’t miss the desserts as they brought about a perfect curtain closure to the amazing evening of sushi.

Teppan is located on TTK Road above Benjarong and a meal for two should cost about ₹ 2500.

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Monday, 16 June 2014

For any die-hard foodie, a culinary tour of India will be like visiting heaven. The stark contrast in cuisine across the 4 corners of the country is sure to keep them guessing on all the beautiful dishes and the exotic ingredients that go with them. The Butter Chicken Masala in the North combined with the Dosas from the South and add to it some chats from the west and one can keeping going on and again over the different dishes that we can savour. But in today’s restaurant scenario in India, many restaurant fail to provide authenticity in their food as they try to cover the entire Indian cuisine under one roof. This leads to mixing of the unique tastes that needs to be attributed to each dish based on the geographic location of its origin. However, there are still a handful of restaurant which believe that the trade-off between the variety of dishes vs authenticity will always have the win tilting towards authenticity and have hence embarked on a journey of providing authentic cuisines from lesser known regions of the sub-continent.

One such restaurant serving authentic regional cuisine in Chennai is “Beyond Indus” located within the “Taj Club House” in Anna Salai. Diners here get to savour some exotic foods from the provinces surrounding the Indus River namely Punjab, Rawalpindi & Sindh.  True to their name, the dishes served here were always a reflection of the regions that it was supposed to represent. Various dinners here have never failed in satisfying the entourage. When a restaurant has created a mark in setting amazing food, imagine a food festival being held.
(Chef Chandan - Masala Klub)
How can you have a food festival when you have already differentiated your offering? Well here comes the twist, the food festival being conducted is by a visiting chef from another of Taj’s restaurant, the “Masala Klub” from the “Taj West End” at Bangalore. And what do they specialize in, they provide a modern twist to classical Indian cuisine. Chef Chandan from Masala Klub stylishly recreates authentic Indian flavours using modern cooking techniques and using healthier ingredients without compromising on the taste.
(Papads)
Upon being seated, first to make its way to our table was the welcome drink. On this occasion it was a ‘Litchi’ flavoured drink served in a Champagne glass. This was followed by an amuse-bouche which was a ‘Pani Puri’ with the pani being a differentiator made from Pineapple extract. We were then introduced to the offering for the day which comprised of three starters, three mains served with Indian breads and a plate of traditional desserts.
(Litchi Drink)
(Pineapple Pani Puri)
Once the introductions were over, the starters were presented on the table. The starter platter comprised of ‘Palak Papad ke Kebab’, ‘Bhunna lasson de Murgh Tikka’ & ‘Pan seared Sea Bass’. The Palak papad ke kebab was made of Broccoli florets flavoured with a mix of mustard and spices and finally char-grilled to attain a papad crispiness on the outside. The Murgh tikka was the traditional tender chicken cubes draped in cheese and flavoured with Cardamom and Garlic. The Sea Bass had a peppery taste to it as it was pan seared using deggi mirch. The Papad kebab was the clear highlight of the starters as its crispy crust was an absolute palate pleaser.
(Starter Kebab Platter)
For the mains, we were served with three curries, a mutton, a prawn and a vegetarian. The ‘Patiala Mutton curry’ is an ethnic Punjabi dish made using meat from the leg of a lamb and finished using ghee to provide the richness to the gravy. This was followed by the ‘Anardana Jingha’ which was a prawn gravy with flavourings infused from roasted coriander seeds, the beautiful Kashmiri chilies and topped with pomegranate seeds. The combination of flavours was just mind boggling and was a pure treat along with their ‘Chili Olive Naan’ that was served as the accompaniment. The last of the gravies to make way was the ‘Nadru aur Singhada’ that directly translates to Lotus Stem and Water Chestnut literally. It was quite unique to taste a curry made using these two ingredients and must say they complemented each other very well.
(Curry Trio)
(Chili Olive Naan)
To end the evening, the desserts were rolled out. The dessert for the evening was the ‘Baked Anjeer Halwa’. The halwa is made up of mashed figs and is an all-time favourite of the Masala Klub’s menu. The halwa was served along with a Coconut Ice Cream that had a few tongue-tickling pieces of tender coconut flesh.
(Dessert Platter)
If you thought the evening ended here, you have to be wrong. Being foodies, we are always on the hunt to find out best places for unique dishes. Being in a restaurant serving authentic Northern-North Western cuisine, how can we leave without tasting their ‘Galouti Kebab’ especially after the Chef revealed that it was his personal favourite too. So after much deliberation with fellow food bloggers Dr Wasim & Dr Shadir, the trio of us decided to go for the kill. As we were already beaten down by the amazing meal that was set in front of us already, we requested for just one portion of the kebab and that’s all the space that was remaining. However, Chefs being chefs, bought us a complete plate with four Galouti’s neatly tucked on a Saffron Roti. The looks were very deceptive as after the customary photo clicks, I’d placed the fork on top of the kebab to pack my camera gear so that we can leave as soon as the tasting is over.
(Making of Galouti Kebab)
Within a few seconds, what we witnessed was phenomenal. Historically, Galouti came into existence because when the Mughal Kings became old and lost their teeth, they still wanted to savour kebabs that would taste divine yet be so soft that they would melt inside the mouth. True to its history, what we saw was that the fork I’d placed had actually sunk inside the kebab. That’s how soft it was. The first bite sealed the case and the verdict was out. Finally a Galouti that beats those from the ‘The Great Kebab Factory’ at Radisson Blu. The trio of us were so delighted that we kept talking about the Galouti till late that evening. A must try if you are a Galouti fan.
(Galouti Kebab)
The ‘Masala Klub’ festival is on till the 22nd of June at Beyond Indus, located at Hotel Taj Club Road in Anna Salai and a meal for two will cost you upwards of ₹ 3000.

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Monday, 31 March 2014


“Fish??? Please no Fish for me”. Thanks to the Chefs at The Leela Palace, Chennai and the Master Chefs from Japan, this statement will no longer have any validity in my food blogging sphere. 

Being a foodie can be quite a task especially if you are into not just eating but also reviewing. The most significant is the ability to be willing to taste all type of foods. This is a department where I’ve always not been able to keep up as there two things that I have to avoid while considering food elements, Pork and Fish. The first due to religious beliefs while the second mainly because of personal choice. I love seafood though and can eat non fish ingredients such as prawns, lobster, crabs, and scallops. Very rarely do I consume fish and it is predominantly in the Asian form of cuisine as it masks out the complete whiff of the fish. Otherwise, it is a complete no-no and has often made me miss out dishes which I know would have tasted fantastic.

I’m sure you must be wondering, why I am talking so much about fish here. Well, beat the irony, a person who absolutely avoids cooked fish gets invited for an International Sushi Training Workshop. Yes, to be honest I was freaking out by the mere thought of Sushi. But being an invitation from one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, I made up my mind to honour the invitation and challenged myself to take it in my stride and try out the Sushi. But yet once again, the mere thought of a raw fish going down my throat was giving me the shudders.
(Sushi)

(Tuna)
The fear turned to excitement and anticipation when I attended the press meet for the workshop. The moment the Master Chefs were introduced, I was determined that if I was to ever taste Sushi then it better be from the professionals. Chef Masayoshi Kazato & Chef Hirotoshi Ogawa are from the “All Japan Sushi Association-World Sushi Skills Institute” and were here to train professional chefs on the art of crafting Sushi. Yes you heard it right the first time, to teach professional chefs. This new found interest was furthered during my post-meet conversation with Chef Dharmen Makawana, Executive Chef & Chef Avinash Mohan, Executive Sous Chef at “The Leela Palace, Chennai”. Chef Dharmen revealed what I felt was the most practical approach for those who are trying Sushi for the first time. It is always better to start with cooked Sushi before moving to cured Sushi and then taking the plunge into Sashimi. 
(Chef Masayoshi Kazato)
(Chef Hirotoshi Ogawa)
(Chef Dharmen Makawana)
(Chef Avinash Mohan)
The litmus test was during the luncheon hosted for us on the next day. After having been well informed by the Chef’s the previous day, I was looking forward to my first Sushi. The first thing I noticed on entering “Spectra”, Leela’s all day dining restaurant was their Sushi Bar which was right at the entrance and the two Master Chef’s handling the counters. Although the smell of fish was all around but it was not of the way that would put one off. Moving to the Sushi counter, I was shocked to see Chef Kazato using the arm of one of his assistants as a chopping board. This he says is a sign of confidence and control any Sushi Chef must possess. The way he chopped the vegetables on the arm, the vegies came out cleanly chopped with even a slight impression on the arm. It was nerve wrecking to see that as the knives used are razor sharp. 
(Nervous looking Human Chopping Board)
(Relieved looking Human Chopping Board)
(Assorted Plate)
(Beautiful Fish Cuts)
Chef Dharmen was very courteous enough and helped me plate my dish with a range of Sushi & Sashimi as I couldn’t wait getting into the action. I had an assortment of Salmon, Scallop, Squid & Tuna Sashimi along with some cooked Prawn Sushi and a single serving of a vegetarian Sushi just for the heck of trying it. For the first time in my life, a fish seemed tempting to me. The moment I picked up some Soy sauce along with Wasabi, I was all set to take the first Sushi bite. Everything around me became still for a second when the first Salmon Sashimi entered my mouth. I was shocked and surprised at how delicate and flavoured it was. My immediate reaction was, “How could I have committed such a grave mistake being a foodie?” Why did it take me so long to realize how amazing they tasted?
(My Plate)
One by one the other Sushi’s & Sashimi’s were being emptied of my plate with each providing a very unique flavour profile. My favourites of the afternoon were the Salmon Sashimi, Scallops Sashimi & the Cooked Prawn Sushi. Once I had the vegetarian sushi, I realized how there can never be a vegetarian sushi as it doesn’t do any justice to the authentic Sushi. One way I feel it was a blessing in disguise that I waited so long to venture into this unknown territory as now I’ve got the feel of what real and authentic Sushi is straight from the hands of world renowned Sushi Master Chefs. 
(Baked Yogurt)
As I wanted to relish the flavours of the Sushi, I just had a few dishes from their regular lunch buffet spread promising myself to return again soon to do full justice to their exhaustive lunch buffet. From the dishes I tried that afternoon, I loved their Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and the Pita. Their hummus is probably the only truly replicated hummus available in Chennai. How can a meal be complete without a dessert and to do justice I had a portion of the Baked Yoghurt with cracked French Macaroons on it. On our way back after the meal I bumped into Chef Dharmen & Chef Avinash who were very courteous in listening to my experience of Sushi and were glad to find out it was a memorable one. We ended up chatting for quite some time on various topics pertaining to food and the general restaurant scenario in Chennai. The Chefs were very down to earth and were open to giving culinary tips without any hesitation. The conversations really enlightened me on different aspects of food preparation, storage and cooking.

This amazing experience and training workshop was organized by The Indian Federation of Culinary Associations & JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) along with The Leela Palace Hotel, Chennai.
(The Team behind organizing the Workshop)
Whenever you feel the need for Sushi, hold no bar, head straight up to Spectra, the all-day dining restaurant at The Leela Palace Hotel, Chennai for a mind blowing experience.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Over the last couple of years, Chennai has witnessed the mushrooming of several new and innovative biryani places each with its own marketing technique using fancy names and associating themselves to different regions to convince their patrons on their authenticity. But none has been close to authentic in any manner. The variant belonging to the neighbouring state namely the Hyderabadi Biryani too has been in the offering for a long time yet none close to the original one's that can be savoured near the Charminar in Hyderabad. Those available in Chennai are either too spicy or too oily. They just don’t get the right combination. 

For the obvious it always seemed an illusion to authenticity whenever I see such places. My inclination was the same when I first noticed a new restaurant propping up on Lloyds Road named ‘Charminar’. I definitely believed this would be yet another marketing technique by some restaurant owners. Boy was I wrong till I met Ms. Vidya from Charminar. One of the partners of Charminar, Ms. Vidya has a professional experience of more than 5 years in the food industry spanning different categories. She believes in eating healthy so that you can enjoy your meal over and over again. According to Ms. Vidya, Hyderabadi cuisine is generally considered a healthy cuisines because of the ingredients and the way the food is processed for cooking. All the spices that are used in Hyderabadi cuisines have their own inherent goodwill. 

Noticing a dearth in authentic Hyderabadi cuisine in Chennai, Ms. Vidya took upon herself the responsibility of bringing the most authentic Hyderabadi dishes to Chennai. She revealed that they are able to replicate the same authentic taste as most of their spices are sourced from Hyderabad. Also the rice used for their signature Hyderabadi biryani is a specialized long grain rice developed by the Pusa Institute, Delhi (An agricultural research institute of the Government of India). This specialized rice when combined with their traditional method of cooking in an indirect heat, gives the authentic flavour to their biryani. As a matter of fact, the biryani is so healthy that they use only 2 table spoons of oil for every kilogram of biryani. That makes it much healthier in accordance with Ms. Vidya’s ideology.

(Pathar ka Gosht)
(Hyderabadi Chicken 65)
(Titanic Fish)
Charminar has an extensive menu that has both Hyderabadi dishes as well as a few crafted by Vidya and her team. Some of these dishes have really fancy and captivating names. The evening started with the first starters arriving on the table. The ‘Pathar ka Gosht’, a speciality at Charminar, consists of boneless slice of mutton marinated overnight and cooked on a stone tawa hence the name Pathar which means stone in Hindi. This was followed by the ‘Hyderabadi Chicken 65’, which is prepared using curd to ensure a tangy curd after taste. They were crispy and had very minimal amount of oil. The next dish had the most amusing name I’ve ever heard for a dish. The ‘Titanic Fish’ took me by a shock and created an inquisitiveness in me to try it out. Not a big fan of fish when it comes to seafood, I ventured to try the Titanic Fish and wasn’t I amused. Being the latest addition to their menu, it had a very crusty & crunchy batter coating with the fish being marinated in their signature Hyderabadi masala. 
(Loose Prawns)
(Apollo Fish)
(Banjara Kebab)
The Titanic fish was followed by yet another humorous named dish called ‘Loose Prawns’. The moment this dish arrived, I was in no mood to eat as the laughter and amusements had taken the better of me. Being yet another of their speciality dishes, the prawns are batter fried and have ingredients such as celery, garlic and oregano to give it a unique taste. The next up was the ‘Apollo Fish’ which is basically a King Mackerel a.k.a Vanjaram in Tamil, marinated with curd. With a closure on the sea food, the focus now shifted back to the ‘Banjara Kebab’ which is a mildly spiced chicken kebab that is juicy and enjoyable for those who prefer a low spice appetite. 
(Murg Hara Pathar)
(Paneer Sophiyan)
(Singapore Fried Chicken)
(Singapore Fried Chicken)
The next kebab on the table was the ‘Murg Hara Pathar’ which is a similar variant of Pathar ka Gosht excepting that it is the chicken version and the main marinade is based on palak. This was followed by the Sholay Murgh. Just like its name, the Sholay murgh had a tinge of spice yet a succulent base of mint to balance the spice. After a complete bombardment of meat it was time to take one last go at my favourite delicacy, Paneer.  The ‘Paneer Tikka Sophiyana’ was very soft and packed with aroma and flavours. It is quite similar to the Malai Tikka excepting that it had a bit more tinge of ginger. They just melted in your mouth. If I was served this first, then I’m sure I would have gorged an entire serving. The last to hit the table amongst the starters was the ‘Singapore Fried Chicken’ which is designed specifically with the kids in mind. The chicken is rolled in noodles and then marinated in their special sauce. This is then battered and deep fried. It was more of a fun food after the sampling of exotic dishes that was presented until now.
(Begum Nawab Curry)
(Kadai Paneer)
(Dal Fry)
With all the starters done, it was time to move to the next course. For the mains, a very unique dish was served as the non-vegetarian side. Called the ‘Begum Nawab Curry’ which means ‘Queen King Curry’, it was a combination of two sides in a single plate with a clear demarcation. This amazing dish can be ordered in a combination of your choice, be it chicken, mutton or vegetarian. The non-vegetarian dish is accompanied by a bed of sliced omelettes. The sample provided to us was a combination of Chicken and Minced Meat. From the vegetarian side, a portion of an excellent ‘Kadai Paneer’ was presented. Yet again the paneer was amazingly soft and succulent and the gravy had the right amount of spices to balance the taste buds. On a milder note, ‘Dal Fry’ was served in a very cute mini bucket. An assorted variety of breads is also available to pair with the mains.
(Hyderabadi biryani)
(Hyderabadi biryani)
(Lunch Take Away Combo)
A visit to any restaurant serving Hyderabadi cuisine is incomplete without savouring their biryani. As we waited for the grand finale to arrive, I was informed about a uniqueness in their offerings. Charminar is probably the only restaurant in Chennai where a mixture of Chicken and Mutton Biryani is served. No it is not a combination of the two biryanis after being cooked rather the biryani is itself cooked together with both meat from the initial phase. The biryani was as close to the authentic Hyderabadi biryani. This is probably because of their ingredients and the traditional method followed in preparing it. At the end of the day, there is finally a respite for some authentic cuisine here in Chennai. 

Charminar also offers interesting lunch combos in a take away plate. It is again offered in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Charminar is open from 12 pm to 3:30 pm for lunch and from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm for dinner. 

Charminar is located at 269, 1st Floor, Avvai Shanmugam Salai, Llyods Road. For more on Charminar, follow their Facebook page at Charminar – Facebook.

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

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