Showing posts with label Premium Dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Premium Dining. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Very few cuisines can tingle the childishness in you and for me Thai is one such cuisine. Being introduced to mainstream Thai half a decade ago by my wife, I took an instant liking to the cuisine. Barring one or two, most restaurants in Chennai produce what I call ‘Fake Thai’ cuisine as they buy curry powder or paste and do the rest claiming it to be a Thai curry. April being the month with the Thai New Year aka Songkran, many restaurants wanted to catch the Thai bus. As always the handful always prevailed to be the best till the festival started at Park Hyatt. 

True to their standards, Park Hyatt had flown down  Chef Supattra from Park Hyatt Dubai who happened to be a Thai and has been dishing out Thai food for the last 23 years. This intrigued me as all restaurants in Chennai do not have a Thai chef but rather talented chefs trained in Thai.

Place:

As usual, the festival took place in the ever vibrant and vivacious restaurant in town ‘The Flying Elephant’. Being a restaurant where most cuisines get closest to authentic, I kept my expectations very very high. This time around, we got to sit next to the Chef’s studio and mistake me not, it resembled like a high end street food cart that one can see in the streets of Bangkok.

Food:

The thing that impressed me the most was how precise and coherent the entire festival menu was. The menu was divided into different categories such as Wok, Salads, Noodles, Grilled, Claypot, Steamed, Fried and Desserts. Basically in the streets, each of these would form a cart by itself. 
(Tom Yum Goong)
To start the evening, we went in for the ever classic ‘Tom Yum Goong’. This is one soup that is quite synonymous with Thai soups yet most restaurants fail to hit the mark. But the soup here was probably even better than most places in Bangkok. Couldn’t think of anything else as I kept sipping the soup because it truly put me in a state of trance.
(Sea Food Salad)
The soup was followed by a ‘Seafood Salad’ with Scallops, Prawns, Fish, Thai Celery and Tomato Cherry. The salad was screaming of freshness every bite. The salad had the perfect balance of chilliness and sourness that instantly hits the mark. If the flavour was to be compared on a scale, the balance was right in the middle, Spot on.
(Pad Thai Prawns)
(Minced Beef with Basil)
Next up was from the Wok section. First dish that made its way was yet another Thai classic, the ‘Pad Thai’ with prawns and bean sprouts. Being a big fan of Pad Thai, I was quite kicked to dig in. The first mouthful truly brought back memories of my first Thai meal which incidentally happened to be in Bangkok. The flavours were amazing and each element complemented the other in a harmony. Following the Pad Thai was the ‘Minced Beef in Basil’. This dish had no complains at all. It was very refreshing in the mouth courtesy the strong infusion of basil along with a very tender minced beef.
(Shrimp Toast)
(Shrimp Toast)
Just to bring in some crunchiness, we were served a plate of toast. Yes, a ‘Shrimp Toast’. This was a completely new dish for me and was an instant hit. Its basically small triangles of croutons deep fried with a layer of shrimp paste on the top. The triangles by themselves were too yummy however when dipped in the accompanying apple sauce, the flavours accentuated many-folds.  
(Thai Green Curry)
Following this, it was time for the mains and in true Thai style ordered for a ‘Green Chicken Curry’. To be honest, I would rate this green curry as the best tasted so far in my culinary journey as it was just mind boggling. Together with sticky rice, the curry was just fantabulous. No amount of praise can justify the emotions. My next visit to Dubai will definitely have a pitstop at Park Hyatt Dubai at least to savour this curry again.
(Tub Tim Grob)
(Sticky Rice with Mango)
Having had a very gratified savoury session, it was now time to do the finishing touches. The desserts we went in for the evening were again the classics. A ‘Water Chestnut Dumpling’ aka Tub Tim Grob. Tub Tim Grob ranks way high in my list of all time favourite desserts that I took the initiative to learn how to make it by myself. And must I say, I can replicate it close to 90%. The Tub Tim Grob here had a small twist to it. There were slices of Jackfruit that were added to keep in with the season. This additional sweetness did provide a unique taste and was very welcoming. The next dessert was the ‘Mango with Sticky Rice’. I’m pretty sure nothing can go wrong with such a simple dessert. The sticky rice was well drenched in coconut milk and the perfect sweetness of the mango provided for a very subtle end to the meal.

Price:

The icing on the cake at this Thai festival was the pocket friendly prices. With dishes priced from Rs. 495 – Rs. 895, a meal for two should set you back by about Rs. 2500 – Rs. 3000 for two.

Location:

The Flying Elephant is located at Park Hyatt Chennai in Guindy adjacent to the Raj Bhavan. I would strongly recommend a reservation for meals on weekends.

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Friday, 23 October 2015

If one was to define Indian cuisine and the dishes that constitute it, I’m sure it would be a colossal effort. For Indian cuisine is not as simple as it may sound. To put in simpler terms, Indian cuisine is more a collective term and in true essence significance should be in mentioning the varying regional cuisines that are prevalent within India.

But if there was to be one such regional cuisine that has created an identity of Indian cuisine in the western world, then it’s got to be the Awadhi cuisine that originates from the Lucknowi region of Central India. The Awadhi cuisine is not completely indigenous to India as it was brought to India by the Mughal rulers from Persia. But over the centuries, the cuisine has adapted itself to its new found land.

The common saying goes that the true essence of Awadhi cuisine can only be felt in two places – one the kitchens of the royal family descendants and the other in the streets of Lucknow. Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to gain an audience at either of the places. But luck struck when I was told that Awadhi Cuisine was going to make a stopover in Chennai. But being the food snob, I wanted to check it out only if it was going to be authentic. But when it came to my knowledge that it was being hosted by none other than Vivanta by Taj – Connemara, I knew it could possibly be the closest I can get to Lucknow.

The Awadhi food festival at Vivanta by Taj Connemara is spearheaded by Chef Shamshad Ahmad from the famed Oudhyana restaurant at Vivanta by Taj – Lucknow along with Chef Jaffer, Executive Chef at the Connemara. When I heard that they had flown the chef from Oudhyana, I knew for sure that the authenticity of the cuisine could be guaranteed. The festival takes over the complete menu and is in the form of a buffet spread with starters and soups served on the table as is the custom.
(Mutton Shammi Kebab)
(Murgh Gilafi Kebab)
(Paneer Tikka Hariyali)
(Khoya Khubani ka Kebab) 
The evening started of with a ‘Murg ka Shorba’, a mildly spiced chicken soup. The depth of flavours in the soup was immaculate and paved the way for a great meal ahead. The first of the starters to make way were from the non-vegetarian stable, with the ‘Murg Gilafi Kebab’ which was the followed by the ‘Mutton Shammi Kebab’. The Gilafi kebab was a variant of the sheek kebab with a mix of exotic Awadhi spices. One thing that was a standout was how rigid the kebab was in spite of taking the shape of a sheek as sheek has a tendency to break down to pieces once we begin cutting into it. The Shammi kebab on the other hand was equally delectable with a good texture. This was followed by the vegetarian kebabs with the mighty paneer making its way in the form of ‘Paneer Tikka Hariyali’. But the highlight of the evening has to be the ‘Khoya Khubani ke Kebab’. This was a combination I’m hearing for the first time. I’m sure most of us know the famous Hyderabadi delicacy, Khubani ka Meetha but a kebab made of Khubani (Apricot)? Well it turned out to be the star dish of the evening. It was loaded with flavours and had a very soothing textural effect on the palate. I loved it so much that I don’t even remember how many servings I’d had. If you happen to chance upon this dish anywhere in an Awadhi environment, please do not miss it.

(Chicken Awadhi Biryani)
(Dum Kofta Biryani)
(Rumali Roti)
(Nihari Gosht)
(Murgh Korma)
With the starters taking a major portion of our palate, there was very little room for the mains. So I settled in for some Rumali Roti along with ‘Nihari Gosht’ and some ‘Murgh Korma’. The Nihari Gosht was perfectly cooked with the meat falling of the bone effortlessly. The curry had a very aromatic taste thanks to the special secret spice mix that goes into it. On the other hand, the Chicken korma too was delectable but the Gosht was a clear winner. To take in some rice, I’d requested for some ‘Chicken Biryani’ and ‘Dum Kofta Biryani’. The Chicken Biryani was in true Awadhi style and was a marked contrast from the Muslim household biryani that I’m very accustomed to. But Biryani being biryani, no two cooks can cook the same style of Biryani. I liked the infusion of saffron and how the masala was light with the rice being unevenly coloured between white and yellow. The Kofta biryani was also very similar to the Chicken biryani barring the fact that the chicken was replaced by fried kofta which added another textural element to the dish.
(Dessert Platter)
To bring closure, we were served with the Awadhi desserts that shared space with their regular dessert spread. The desserts on the platter were a ‘Shahi Tukra’, ‘Sheer Korma’ and ‘Zarda Ananas’. The Shahi Tukra is a dessert that finds its place quite often in Muslim households during functions. It is a dessert made using bread which is soaked in ghee, fried and topped with dry fruits and nuts. The Sheer Korma resembled our kheer quite closely excepting it had a Date flavour to it. The Zarda was a saffron and pineapple flavoured sweet rice which was neither too sweet nor too dull. But comparing to the grandeur that is expected from Awadhi cuisine, I felt that it could have been upped a bit more.

The overall experience was quite frankly exhilarating as this was the closest we could get to being in Lucknow. However, there was one thing missing and I just couldn’t control myself from asking the Chefs present there about it. If you have guessed what it might be by now, I’m sure you have either read my reviews consistently or a great admirer of Awadhi cuisine. Yes, how can an Awadhi festival be complete without the mighty ‘Galouti Kebab’. It was then that the chefs confided in me that an important ingredient was not available matching to their high standards and as a result, they decided to leave it out for that evening. However, I was not to give up. Couple of days later, two other food buddies and I made a visit again just to savour the galouti’s made by a true lucknowi chef. And boy did we not regret for coming back again. Although mildly spiced, the galouti was bite sized and when combined with the Shirmal (Saffron flavoured Sweet Bread), Onions and some Pudina ke Chutney, it was just mind boggling. A perfect combination of flavours and textures exploding in the mouth with every gnaw. I just couldn’t resist and could have easily gulped down about 5 mini rolls.
(Galouti Kebab - Pic Courtesy: Chennai Foodie)
This experience has once reiterated the belief that the Awadhi cuisine can rightly be termed as India’s Royal Cuisine as it delivers to that title on every bite. The Awadhi Food Fest at Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is up until the 26th of October, 2015 at their all day dining restaurant ‘The Verandah’.

Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is located in Egmore between the iconic Spencer Plaza & Ethiraj College with the buffet priced at Rs. 1500 plus taxes per person.

To be updated on my latest reviews, do subscribe to the feed by leaving your email address in the subscribe section on the top right hand side of this post. If this article interested you, please share it so others may be interested and benefited too!!! For quick reviews, ratings and yummylicious images, follow me on Instagram at @FoodInChennai. Request you to also visit our Facebook page Food In Chennai - Facebook and share the page with a Like amongst your friends and also follow us on our twitter handle at @FoodInChennai. You can also follow us on Google Plus at Food in Chennai-GooglePlus. Please also feel free to g+1 this post so others may be benefited too. 


Thursday, 11 June 2015

With more and more people travelling abroad now, international food chains have felt the need to start their outlets in India more so than before. I don’t know why the case is so, the irony is that Chennai never gets to witness the bloom of any international brand. More so these brands come to Chennai only after establishing at least a couple of outlets in places like Mumbai, Bangalore, etc, which can take anywhere between 6 month to a year. I’m sure there are several reasons to this equation but being an ardent foodie nothing gives me immense joy than knowing that an international chain has finally chosen Chennai as their launch city. 

After establishing a niche for themselves with over 50 outlets across half the world from Oman to Japan, the famous speciality sea food restaurant ‘The Manhattan Fish Market’ has opened up their first outlet in India in namma Chennai. Bringing us the American style of sea food cuisine, this place created quite a pre-opening anticipation thanks to the early announcement of their arrival along with some great social media buzz.

Coming to the experience of the evening, first things first. The restaurant is situated across two floors with the first floor has a live kitchen space in addition to the tables while the second floor consisted of a few tables and around 3 private dining areas. The ambiance was on the lines of the food they dish out. Once we were seated, the person waiting on us explained their elaborate menu to us. To put it in a nut shell, the seafood on their menu can be cooked essentially in five different techniques, viz. Deep Fried, Poached, Baked, Grilled and their signature Flame style. As we were in a group, we decided to order a couple of platters to experience their different cooking styles and also savour most of their offerings. As we had a vegetable loving friend, we needed to cater to her requirement too which wasn’t much difficult considering there was only about four vegetarian dishes on the menu. 
(Creamy Mushroom Soup) 
(Garlic Herbed Mussels)
(Fried County Mushrooms)
The first up was the ‘Creamy Mushroom Soup’, which turned out to be a different interpretation of the classic Mushroom Cappuccino. Nevertheless, it tasted quite good but personally felt the cream to be a bit heavy along with the saltiness of the mushroom being a dominant flavour. For starters we had ordered, ‘Fried Country Mushrooms’ and ‘Garlic Herb Mussels’. Being a very choosy seafood eater I only eat sea food that are placed on the opposite ends of the spectrum, either Sushis or Crustaceans, along with the occasional Salmon. So I gave the Mussels a miss while I thoroughly enjoyed the fried mushrooms. It had a very light batter that elevated the flavours of the mushroom right enough to strike a chord in making you forget you were consuming a vegetarian dish.
(Fish N Chips) 
(Flaming Manhattan Star Platter)
(Flaming Manhattan Star Platter)
(Grilled Flaming Lobster Platter)
With the starters done, it was time for the mains. I couldn’t go past the page that had ‘Fish N Chips’ as this was my only source of seafood protein during my stint in UK. On rare occasions that I wanted to have something different, I would head to the corner place and pick up a take away of some Fish N Chips. Just love the way, we get it in UK with the fish wrapped in a parchment paper that would drip with oil. Having made up my mind on ordering this, I left the other mains to the choice of my buddies. After some deliberations, it was decided to also order a ‘Grilled Flaming Lobster’ & ‘Manhattan Star’ platters. The Fish N Chips arrived first and on initial looks didn’t resemble my corner shop one. But it aint’ fair to expect that as I’m sure people will run screaming oil, oil if the same is served here. However the flavour of the fish and batter made it up. Probably my preferred choice now in Chennai for Fish N Chips. With regards to the ‘Grilled Flaming Lobster’, it was a visual treat to experience the way it was being served. The platter comes with a serving of Grilled lobster, some garlic mussels, Fried calamari and fish fingers. The waiting staff that brings an industrial size blow torch and turns the heat up in the room flamboyantly by flaming the lobster. I leave it to the photos to do the talking. I loved the Calamari and the lobster over the fish fingers while I chose to forgo the mussels. On the other hand, the ‘Manhattan Star’ platter consisted of a Grilled Calamari, Fried Oysters, Poached Mussels, Flaming Prawns and Baked Fish. My palate preferred the fried calamari over the grilled version while the flaming prawns was just too good that I had to fight for more portions with my friends because I had to skip the mussels. Overall the star platter provides an opportunity to savour all five cooking techniques in a single platter.
(Manhattan Mud Pie)
(Tuscan Tiramisu)
(Oreo Kaboom Shake)
To bring closure to the evening, we decided to order their signature ‘Manhattan Mud Pie’, ‘Oreo Kaboom’ shake and a ‘Tuscan Tiramisu’. The mud pie lived up to the expectation by being the best dessert of the evening. The shake unfortunately lacked the characteristics of a shake and felt more like an Orea Coffee flavoured drink while the Tiramisu definitely did not par to the original Tiramisu as it again seemed to be their own interpretation and had a different twist. But we fell in love tremendously with the mud pie that we decided to order another portion to offset the mild disappointment with the other desserts.

Overall, The Manhattan Fish Market would be a paradise for ardent sea food lovers looking to savour and experience the best of catches using different cooking techniques. Joining the ranks of just a handful of stand-alone speciality of seafood restaurants, I’m sure this fish market is bound to last long in namma Chennai and provide us with this differential experience.

The Manhattan Fish Market is located on RK Salai opp to Marvel Wedding cards. A meal for two should cost you around ₹ 1500 if it’s the regular fare. If lobster is a preferred choice then be prepared to splurge as the Grilled Lobster platter is priced at ₹ 2490 but is worth every penny.

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gone are the days when there were only a handful of amazing restaurants located within five star hotels. With the mushrooming of several new properties every year, the existing hotels are continually looking at increasing their revenue by revamping the restaurant offerings situated within. One such chain of hotels that has been consistently great with their restaurants is Hotel Raintree. Among my multiple visits to both their properties in Chennai, I’ve never left back with a single iota of worry. So when I was told that the Coffee Shop at their St. Mary’s road hotel had been renovated, I just couldn’t wait to check the new place.

First things first, the restaurant has been rechristened as ‘The Colony’ and flows seamlessly all the way to the lobby with a different ambiance set up near the lobby and a very colonial set up with art pieces depicting the Colonial era of Chennai inside the main dining area. As I settled down into my place, I was greeted by the Executive Chef Mr. Hushmoin Patell, whose looks immediately made me feel that I’m in for a delight tonight. After brief pleasantries, Chef informed that their concept of buffet is slightly different as in addition to the spread, a few dishes are made on order and served hot and fresh right at the table.
(Chicken and Mushroom Cappuccino)
(Salad Counter)
(Cold Meat spread)
(Cold Platter)
(Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous)
While I waited for the soup to be served, I made a visit to the spread and was quite surprised at the same. The cold counters had an assortment of salads with a cold mezze platter too. Some of the salads that were intriguing were a ‘Salad of Broccoli, Orange & Bocconcini’, ‘Surati Fafda’, ‘Vietnamese rice paper rolls with raw Mango & Vermicelli noodles’, ‘Salad of Wine poached Pear, Asparagus and Arugula’, a delicious ‘Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous’ and a whole lot of dips including ‘Mustard Mayo’, ‘Hummus’, ‘Babaganoush’ and ‘Labneh’. By the time I could pick up my choice from the cold counter, the ‘Chicken & Mushroom Cappuccino’ made its way to the table. The soup had the perfect balance of both flavours and along with the biscotti made me feel as if it was a meal all by itself. The beginning was just fabulous.
(Mutton Chapli Kebab)
(Spicy Bean Fattayar & Kudamulagai Bonda)
(Prawn Pollichathu)
With the entrĂ©e’s complete, there was an order placed to the kitchen for some of the made to order items from the buffet. First up was the ‘Mutton Chapli Kebab’. Although looks similar to the Galouti, this is quite different as the texture is coarser. On enquiring, Chef informed me that the Chapli is from the Indus region and is considered to be the forefather of the Lucknowi Galouti. With the plate completely swept, I made way for some ‘Spicy Bean Fattayar’ and ‘Kudamulagai Bonda’. While the fattayar was a mix of flavour, the bonda did not fancy me much. Not wanting to stuff myself, I wanted to try out something that was unique to the restaurant. So ask the Chef and he says I’ll get you some ‘Prawn Pollichathu’. I was excited to try it out as it has always been Meen Polichathu and being a prawn lover, was expecting a burst of flavours. The presentation was cute with the prawn beautifully wrapped in the leaf served along with some crunch. However, the first bite and I was slightly confused as I couldn’t feel the taste that you get from a claypot. Upon enquiring, Chef revealed that they don’t use a claypot due to the complexities involved as this is the only dish on the menu that may require one. Nevertheless, the prawn was still amazing and great selection.
(Buffet Spread)
With different flavours playing inside my mouth, I just had a quick sneak peak of the other main courses on the spread which included a yummy ‘Badami Murgh’, a crispy ‘Kozhi Erakai Varuval’ and ‘Roasted lamb with waterchestnuts’. In addition, I also tried the ‘Shahi Paneer’ which had a very succulent paneer. With about 60+ items on the buffet menu, it was one large spread yet by the way the spread was placed didn’t look that massive.
(Dessert Counter)
(Dessert Counter)
To bring closure to the evening, I headed to the dessert counter and realized that vast variety of selection that was displayed. Being very confident that not more than a couple can be accommodated by myself, I picked up the ‘Apple Strudel’, ‘Carrot Pudding’, ‘Rasberry Mousse’, ‘Chenna Malai Sandwich’ and a ‘Mango Velvet cake’. With this done as I was just about to call it an evening, the Chef asked me if I wanted to try a speciality dessert of theirs. Me being someone who will go to any extent for desserts, was game for it.
(Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta)
What came next took me by a big surprise. The speciality dessert was a ‘Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta’. Mighty heavens it was just mind boggling. The aroma was just like our original filter coffee while the panna cotta was perfectly set and to balance the textures it was accompanied by a lime curd and peanut Florentine. This was by far one of the best panna cotta that I’d savoured during my food journey and is on the must have dish list that I’m compiling for Chennai. Truly outstanding. If you are looking for a different buffet experience with a wide variety of cuisine, then I may say that “The Colony” awaits you.


The Colony is located at Hotel Raintree, St Mary’s Road in Alwarpet with the buffet priced at ₹1,300 plus taxes.

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chennai being a city encompassing people from all across India, there is no void of any particular cuisine in the city. This provides visitors and Chennaities with a vast array of restaurants to choose from when it comes to dining. Although Chennai is home to numerous Kerala cuisine restaurants, it’s a rarity that I visit them as most of the Kerala delicacies are readily available at home for me, thanks to the influence of my extended family members.

One prominent restaurant that has established itself a name for the Kerala cuisine in Chennai has to be ‘Ente Keralam’, which is part of the Oriental Cuisines chain of restaurants. Oriental Cuisines has played an integral part in shaping up the restaurant scene in Chennai by bringing a host of varying cuisines and being consistent in their offerings. So when a fellow foodie asked me if I would be willing to try out the “Kuttanadan Food Festival”, I jumped in as I knew it would definitely be different to the regular fare.
(Tender Coconut Water)
(Kappa Cutlet)
Upon being seated, the very enthusiastic Chef Jayaprakash gave us a brief overview of the Kuttanadan specialities. He revealed that Tharavu aka Duck is the main protein next to fish in this region as it is surrounded on three sides by water bodies. With the pleasantries exchanged, we were served with the signature ‘Tender Coconut’ drink. This was followed by the ‘Kappa Cutlet’, which was the regular cutlet made entirely using Kappa aka Tapioca. I’ve had kappa in many forms including the famous ‘Kappa and Fish curry’ but this was completely different. I liked the way the cutlet had a very crispy coating while the tapioca inside retained its flavour. 

(Karimeen Polichathu)
(Konju Ularthiyathu)
The next up was the ‘Karimeen Polichathu’ which is a signature Kerala dish. The dish being cooked in a clay pot had all its flavour incorporated into the fish and the masala that accompanied it made it a stand out. The last of the starters was the ‘Konju Ularthiyathu’ which was basically jumbo prawns grilled in a stone pot that provides it with earthen flavours. Although mine was a little dry the flavours sure made up for it.

(Kuttanadan Tharavu Mappas)
(Kozhi Curry Kuttanandan Style)
(Pineapple Puttu & Parotta)

(Payasam)
With the starters all done, we ordered for two curries, the ‘Kozhi Curry Kuttanandan Style’ and ‘Kuttanadan Tharavu Mappas’. To go with the curries, the accompaniments were a ‘Pineapple Puttu’, ‘Malabar Parotta’ and ‘Appam’. The chicken curry was rightly spiced and also had the essence of the clay pot incorporated into the gravy and proved the perfect accompaniment for the Parotta while the Duck gravy was perfect for the Pineapple puttu. Puttu being a regular fare at home, the pineapple puttu was different in a way that the flavour of pineapple was completely infused into the puttu. The chef did reveal the secret but unfortunately it shall remain a secret as a mark of recognition to the hard work put in by the Chef and his team. The evening was brought to an end with two type of Payasam. These were from their regular menu as the Kuttanad cuisine provides more importance to the mains rather than desserts.

The Kuttanadan Food Festival is on at all Ente Keralam outlets across Chennai until the 15th of Feb. A meal for two should set you by ₹ 1200.

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