Showing posts with label Southern Spice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Southern Spice. Show all posts

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)
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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