One of my most recent memories of feeling low was when I discovered that my favourite TV show, White Collar was done for the season and that the next part of the season would go on air only from January 2012. I was irritated and upset that I’d have to wait the b etter part of 7 months for it. As a loyal fan, I expected Jeff Eastin to keep me humoured longer with his classic tale of a conman and a cop combining to keep crime at bay. I am sure its the same with the most die-hard fans of cine idols like Rajinikanth & Aamir Khan who often go almost 12 to 18 months without an installment of their demi-God’s exposure.
Not drawing any parallels, I feel the need to start this piece with an apology to you, the reader of TheSharck.com who somehow managed to chance upon this motley collection of a fat man’s opinion on food around Chennai & India. I know I have been irregular and especially for those of you who found this blog through the piece in the Times of India, sincere apologies.
What’s even worse is that its not like Chennai has been short of culinary action. The last 12 months and 9 days since my last post (gulp!) has seen numerous fabulous outlets dot the Chennai city-scape. One such and easily amongst my top five dining options in Chennai is Fusion 9. I have been to this very classy restaurant atleast 14 times in the past 7 months that it has been in operation. Driving further guilt is the fact that I haven’t given this place its due – a review. So here goes.
Swanky, hip and chic are the words I’d use to describe the design of Fusion 9. Add a very before those adjectives. From the first time I walked into F9 in March and till my most recent visit about 3 weekends back, the place still evokes the same thought in my head – once inside, close your eyes and sit back and you’d never guess you were in Chennai or even India, for that matter (save for the people around you of course). The design is very international resto-bar like and set design standards for the city when it opened. The private dining area seats a maximum of 12 and is designed unlike the rest of the area and is steeped in grandeur.
Given the lengthy story at the start of this post, I will keep the rest of the review crisp.
The restaurant boasts world cuisine from the Americas, Europe, India and an interesting slew of far eastern culinary options. The delectable mix on the menu combined with the deconstructed presentation style makes for a very visually pleasing dining experience.
Following come highly recommended:
Tandoori Cheese Broccoli (not as sinful as it sounds, and a MUST order)
Thai Corn Lemongrass cakes
Lamb Galouti Kabab
Soya & Honey Glazed Pork Chops
Roasted Salmon Steak
Arabic Grill Platter (Oversize portion)
Veg Katsu Curry
Thai Veg Green Curry and Jasmine rice
Sliced lamb tossed in chilli oyster and Hakka Noodles
Mushroom leek pyaza with lachha parantha
Pizzas & Pastas – overall quite good. Order any and experiment
Desserts (from & by Sandys)
Chocolate Walnut Fudge Sundae
(Regret, I have never been able to order anything else past this. Thus there is no other recommendation)
The best news of course is the full scale bar, replete with a nice collection of whiskys from India and abroad. The wine list is short and unless you are a discerning connoisseur, you will come out satisfied. However, I advise against the cocktails. My highlight amongst the bar tender’s mixes is most definitely his fresh lime soda! Yes believe it or not, it is so good that it has prompted me to considering doing a story on Chennai’s best options for fresh lime soda!
Fusion 9 is good news. I have had maybe one rough experience out of my 14 times there which I will live with. Even on that one occasion, it was only the food, never the service. It also helps that F9 is very conveniently located in what is soon becoming the mecca of gourmet dining in Chennai – the Quality Inn Aruna (now Fortune) complex at the Sterling Road signal.
Kudos to the team at F9. Ably led by late-20s Rajesh (formally known as Rajeshwaran Palaniappan), chef Raja and ever-smiling restaurant manager Sajith, they have done well to bring the Fusion 9 brand to Chennai while doing justice to the lofty achievements of their Hyderabad franchise and give Chennai a truly international, world dining experience.
For Reservations – Call Sajith on +91 44 4266 4299
Address- 2nd Floor, Aruna Centre, 144/145, Sterling Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai – 34
Driving Directions – As you approach the Sterling Road signal from Loyola College, its the last building just before the signal. 2nd floor of the annexe building of what used to be Quality Inn Aruna.
(In the same building as Mainland China and Sigree)
Average Cost per person – Rs. 650 without alcohol, but with starters, main course and dessert.
Quirk - Fusion 9 is the only public place I have been to in India where I have seen an installed air conditioning unit in the lavatory!
Official website – www.f9Chennai.com
Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fusion-9-Chennai/175475619152697
Now those who know me will probably lend this article a great degree of credibility considering my penchant for all things sweet.
I am a happy guy. Perfectly happy with having good old ice cream as dessert after every meal. But matters of the waist keep me honest and ensure I give in only as advised. On one such cheat day, I was out with a friend who didn’t particularly fancy ice cream. This led us to seek out a speciality dessert joint where both of us could be kept happy. That day also led me to compile this list – a collection of not-so-run-of-the-mill options post dinner, or lunch (for the adventurous). As you might expect, this list will not feature your usual Chocolate Truffles, Gulab Jamoons, Gajar ka Halwa, Tiramisu or even Ice cream – at least not the Vanilla-Chocolate-Strawberry-Butterscotch variety.
White Chocolate Muffin, Kleio – Dr. Nair Road, T. Nagar.
This little cafe on Dr. Nair road had made quite a first impression on me when I went visiting in August 2009. One year on, I’ll still never forget the moment when I had my first bite of their white chocolate muffin. Designed to appeal to pram-monsters, these kiddy treats are an absolute must-try for those who haven’t yet sampled it. Served warm, it’s best eaten without any toppings or accompaniments. Caution – let it cool down a bit or the muffin sans the molten chocolate could leave you with a burnt palate.
Damage Level: Budget
Inside Out Chocolate Cake, Sandys - Off Greenways Road, RA Puram or Rutland Gate, Nungambakkam
This little heart-shaped dessert struck a chord with it’s unique warm outer and a cold gooey inner core filled with dark chocolate. Served with vanilla bean ice cream, the combination is absolutely sinful.
Damage Level: Loosen your purse strings
Cream Donut, Sathyam Cinemas – Royapettah
I can smell cynics throwing their heads back at the mention of a donut on this list. But for those of you who did, you haven’t experienced joy on a budget. Throwing wind to the conventional annular shape of a donut, this long’ish donut reeks of the finest ingredients (much like all else in the complex barring the cinematic content) and is made to perfection with a generous cream-filled centre pouring out of it’s thick outer dough-shell. It’s cheap, served across a counter and not messy – the perfect supplement to popcorn, your next time at the movies.
Damage level: Budget
Opera, La Boulangerie – Nungambakkam @ Harrisons Hotel and at other spots around the city
Somehow, I don’t crave chocolate-based cakes and pastries. It was thus with great reluctance that I was coerced into trying the Opera from La Boulangerie. Boy, am I glad I gave in. This layered cake comprises almond biscuit, chocolate ganache, coffee butter cream and topped off with chocolate glaze. Served slightly warm (just enough to unnerve the glaze) makes for dessert nirvana. Sure the French too would approve of this version of their famed recipe
Damage level: Budget
(My March 2008 review of La Boulangerie)
Mississippi Mud Pie, Tangerine – Murray’s Gate Road, Alwarpet
*sigh. A two inch high block of vanilla ice cream frozen between two layers of chocolate coated biscuit served absolutely rock frozen. Go try it – not your typical mud pie but works like a charm!
Damage level: Loosen your purse strings
OMG, Sandys – Off Greenways Road, RA Puram or Rutland Gate, Nungambakkam
This I would recommend only as pure indulgence and if you are in the pink of health. To draw a frame of reference, a thali meal where you stuff yourself is approximately 750 gms of food. The OMG (yes, it does evoke similar reactions) is 1.2 kilos of pure sin. It’s composition: 1 tiny chocolate cake (450 gm dessert by itself), 2 brownies, 3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, 3 scoops of natural chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, 1 house cookie (huge!) and garnished with whipped cream. I obviously haven’t tried it as yet and doubt I will for a while. But kudos to the outlet for indeed thinking out of the box.
Damage level: Empty the wallet
Ecstasy, Sathyam Cinemas – Royapettah
Anything dude. Just pick anything and prepare to be ‘off-beaten’. But yes, some of the recipes do go beyond weird names and overwhelming presentation to leave you very satiated. The ‘Flak’ has long been my favourite indulgence while the recent addition, Rum Baba is supposed to cook up quite some magic.
Damage level: Empty the wallet
Fruit & Indian sweet flavoured Ice Cream, Fresh Bakes (Hotel Saravana Bhavan), Peters Road / T. Nagar / Annanagar
Hotel Saravana Bhavan’s (HSB) Ice Cream division makes the best ice cream in India. Period. I am a hard core Amul loyalist and it’s thus taken a lot from me to say this. But their investment into the ice creams business is bearing rich fruit (no pun intended) as demonstrated by their range of ice cream. Besides their stunning vanilla bean ice cream, Fresh Bakes, the bakery and desserts division of HSB has a crazy range of Fruit and Indian sweets flavoured ice creams – each better than the other. I am not a big fan of natural ice cream or cold stone ice cream, yet this ice cream absolutely takes the cake (err..). The gulab jamoon is the closest you’ll get to the real thing without having to deal with the guilt of it being deep-fried while the Kaju Kathli has some of my diet-conscious friends swearing by it. A must, must try for everyone when in Chennai or at their outlet in Connaught Place, New Delhi.
Damage level: Budget
Coconut Pudding – Fruit Shop on Greams Road, on Greams Road and other parts of Chennai
Included on strong “recommendation” from my fellow foodie, Videep Vijay Kumar, he claims “the Coconut pudding is epic and any likeness to the malabar option served out at Crescent is purely fictional – it’s the real original and the greatest”
Cream Bun, New Iyengar Bakery – VM Street, Mylapore
I am not sure about today’s generation but for us back in school, the cream bun was our greatest after school sweet treat. And the one served at the above mentioned outlet is head and shoulders above the rest, again as recommended by Videep Vijay Kumar.
Rabri Malai, Gangotree - Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai / Annanagar
An absolutely super twist to your everyday Indian dessert scene, sample it and savour the flavours of malai, almonds and saffron as they come together in an eclectic mix.
I can’t believe I am going to allow the rest of today to be a disciplined food day, but I’ll try for sure. Hope your appetites are suitably whetted.
Hello me hearties. Firstly, many thanks on the positive feedback and constructive criticism to my last top 5 story on the best Sambar in Chennai. I am glad you acknowledge that my lists are nothing but personal opinion coated with a layer of generalization to serve as nothing more than a guide to your gastronomic experiences.
Even as I was reaching the tail end of my Sambar trail, I had already decided my next top 5 list – Biriyani! Undoubtedly one of the finest representatives of Indian cooking, the biriyani occupies a special place in almost every person’s heart as a defacto selection when eating out or on a Sunday afternoon at home.
In sync with the diverse nature of our great country comes a host of schools of this iconic rice delicacy. The most popular school in Chennai is the (comparatively) light, mildly spiced Ambur variety which finds its place in street-side outlets to the fancy five-stars of the city, followed by the “real, original” Hyderabadi Biriyani.
During this trail, I was joined by my comrades – Rohit Koliyot and Videep Vijay Kumar – both great friends and with well trained taste buds. We covered no less than 14 different options including Ajmal Biriyani, Mughal Zaikaa, Velu Military, Buhari, Dindigul Thalappakkati, Amaravathi, Sanabel, Kalyani, Anjappar, The Park’s 601, Ponnusamy, Paramount, Cosmo Club, Samco, House of Biriyani, Asif & Bros and Taj Coromandel’s Anise. The final cut presented here is a summation of our experiences weighted the closest we could come to agree upon. There was never a clear majority and that, we hope, will create a pleasant problem of plenty for all of you.
Chennai’s top 5 Biriyanis, in no particular order:
Mughal Zaikaa – Most of you must be wondering where the hell this is. But our wonderful adventure seeking the epitome of biriyani greatness culminated in this quaint little joint located behind Ega theatre, just off Vasu Street. Serving biriyani of the Ambur style, Mughal Zaikaa’s biriyani was amongst the best all-round preparations we tasted. The fragrance of each spice with the zest of saffron and perfectly cooked mutton came together to give us one of Chennai’s best biriyanis.
o Try with: Chicken masala, Phirni (dessert)
o Call: 28588902
o Comments: No air-conditioning, No home-delivery
601 @ The Park – It’s rare for any top 5 list to include outlets from five-star hotels. Among many reasons, the food’s never really uber authentic, the price is prohibitive and at some other times, it’s just the most obvious choice. But all of that changed with the Lucknow Mutton Biriyani (LMB) at The Park’s coffee shop – 601. Easily Chennai’s best dhum biriyani, the LMB stays true to its traditional Awadhi roots and the layered style of the preparation is unmistakable, with the meat layer sandwiched between two thick layers of fine, long grain basmati rice of the highest quality. A must try when you feel like eating out towards the start of the month!
o Try with: the Raita – its special! Carrot Halwa for afterwards.
o Call: 42676000
Dindigul Thalappakatti Biriyani – Yes you’ve seen this place while commuting to work or during your weekend shopping. But trust us when we say that their vulgar red branding is no reflection of the Biriyani they are so famous for. Intent on creating a new school of biriyani, the Dindigul biriyani is a unique combination of fabulously cooked meat made using Seeraga Samba rice instead of the usual basmati rice. This rice is generally of shorter grain size and is just as aromatic as basmati and popular throughout Tamil Nadu. A lot of people, including yours truly have been highly disappointed on our first visits to this outlet. I have learnt to attribute this to the hype and expectation associated with this well done up joint chain. However, with time, you realize that the mutton biriyani is addictive for its consistency in flavour and the tenderness of its meat. At Rs. 112 a portion, its definitely not for regular consumption – but then again, biriyani never really is. Save it for that special occasion, especially when with friends after a drink or two and head to their outlets at Anna Nagar (Behind Kandasamy Naidu College), T Nagar or Nungambakkam High Road (Opp The Park).
o Try with: Chicken 65 (amongst the top 5 in the city!), Chicken Kothu Parotta (one of the best portions tasted at any restaurant in a while)
o Call: 66321411 (Annanagar), 45506263 (T Nagar), 43090684 (Nungambakkam)
Velu Military Hotel – Yes, that little hole in the wall off Valluvar Kottam High Road. Recently redone, the iconic “Velu Military” still serves one of the best biriyanis in town. A cross between the Ambur and Hyderabadi schools, the biriyani is long grain basmati with a faint smatter of spices served at a particularly delectable temperature makes this a must-try for everyone. A must try is the King Prawn biriyani which, unlike other attempts at sea food biriyani, is actually very desirable. Pricey at Rs. 250, you get a healthy offering of 8 to 10 fairly large prawns per portion. The mutton preparation is more usually priced at Rs. 105 and is also recommended.
o Try with: Fish Fry
o Call: Don’t bother, just land up!
o Comments: One of the few outlets to still retain ‘family rooms’.
Sanabel – a decrepit outlet along Annanagar’s ultra wide third avenue main road between the roundtana and the K-4 Annanagar Police Station, Sanabel has been around for over 10 years, serving the finest quality muslim biriyani in both chicken and mutton varieties. Not recommended for dine-in, a parcel is accompanied by brinjal salna which is very well done and goes perfectly with the biriyani.
o Try with: The brinjal salna it comes with
o Call: 42057107
Special mentions –
Paramount Hotel, Kilpauk & Annanagar – For over 15 years now, they have been consistent in producing the best fish biriyani this city has to offer.
Anise, Taj Coromandel – Was hard leaving this out of the top 5 but the fact that it makes a very unique variety of biriyani – Ghilli Biriyani – is the reason it had to be left out as well as why it makes the cut! The name originates actually from a very literal hindi transliteration of “Geeli” biriyani to depict it’s molten and liquid state. With fine mutton pieces in rice soaked in a gravy of mutton stock and spices, this biriyani is definitely a must-have.
A side note to mention my childhood friend and school mate J. Giridharan who took the effort to respond to a Facebook message of mine about this artice. He sent through a good list of 10-12 places by email – thanks mate, nice touch.
Sambar served from a mug, the traditional way at Ratna Cafe, Triplicane.
Image Courtesy: Anand Hariharan
I must admit, this has been the one story that has consumed the maximum amount of effort, time and money till date. Whether it was traveling to Sriperumbudur to sample a sambar at a small joint based on a tip off or wrestling for parking to get into Triplicane, at the end of it all, I can only say that it was entirely worth it.
I will thank right at the start, Videep Vijay Kumar, my co-author for this story – I respect his taste buds and his forthright nature with opinions. We haven’t really been able to convince each other about this list but it’s the best we could settle on. Many thanks also to Venky, Mansi Mehta, Rochna, Sudhir Natarajan and others who have helped me put this piece together along with the many on Facebook who threw in their opinions.
I believed for to be a significant member of Tamil Nadu’s culinary palate, often not given it’s due perhaps owing to its ubiquity. However, this journey has convinced us of how a good sambar can lift a south indian meal or more importantly, how a bad one can ruin it. Discover with us, Chennai’s top 5 Sambars:
My tryst with Mathura’s sambar happened by chance. After being chased out of a near shut joint for lunch in Besant Nagar, I decided to venture into Mathura, having read about it on Facebook, amongst the many opinions expressed by people, recommended by Rakesh Gowtham. Unlike the high hopes I carried into the more illustrious Sambar across the road in Triplicane, this Sambar didnt promise much. However, my first spoon and I had decided that this had to top the charts. The most eclectic mix of the pulses, spices, coconut and a hint of ghee served at the right temperature set my taste buds rolling. Deservedly, Chennai’s best Sambar.
Tried as/with: Sambar vadai, Rava Dosa
Location: Mathura, 2nd Floor, Tarapore Towers, Anna Salai, Chennai – 600002
2. Ratna Cafe
Touted by most to top this chart, I personally was a little let down by my Ratna Cafe experience. Videep and me made it a point to head to the “real original” Triplicane branch and sit in the non ac section to enjoy it the way it is meant to be. However, I perhaps was a victim of over-expectation though I must attribute that to the 17 odd recommendations that came in for this sambar to be numero uno. Served hot and from a mug, this sambar is thick and works best as a tiffin sambar.
Tried as/with: Idli-Sambar, Ghee Roast
Location: Ratna Cafe, Tripline, Near Zam bazaar, Chennai
Just take our word for it – head to this Egmore icon (located within 150 metres of the Egmore station) to enjoy rich, thick udipi sambar unlike anywhere else in Chennai. It’s hard to explain why this made it only to 3rd spot, but I guess it’s a competitive world out there for the Sambars! Best tried after a few drinks at 1am with Mysore masala dosa.
Tried with / as: Pongal vada, Mysore masala dosa
Location: Near Egmore Railway station. Ph: 044-28191900
4. Ashoka / Palmgrove
The only “meals sambar” that made the cut, the sambar at Ashoka as well as it’s cousin Palmgrove (same management) has remained uncannily consistent, more or less, over the decades (or so we hear!). Served hot, this will definitely appeal to those who prefer their sambar not-so-thick and bereft of asafoetida. It’s versatility is on display when tried either with rice and ghee or with their signature ghee roast.
Tried with / as: Meals, Ghee roast, Sambar vada
Location: Ashoka – Pantheon Road, Egmore, Chennai-8; Palmgrove – Kodambakkam high road, Nungambakkam, Chennai-34
5. Hotel Saravana Bhavan
It’s really not easy to operate at the scale at which ‘HSB’ does and yet achieve the consistency that they’ve managed to sustain. And for that sheer reason, HSB’s sambar manages to face-off with rival Sangeetha and iD (Sathyam Cinemas) to make the final position on this list. Try any HSB at any point of the day either as Bisi Bela Bhaath, Idli-Sambar, Meals or just with a medu vadai, you will NOT be disappointed. Strong flavoured and medium thick is how this sambar has stayed for many years now.
Tried with / as: Pongal, Sambar Vada, Mysore masala dosa, bisi bela bhaath
Location: We tried the one in Pondy Bazaar, next to Maya Plaza and on Peters Road. To view details of their 18 other outlets in South India, click here.
Special mentions - Karthik Tiffin stall (Annanagar 12th main road), iD at sathyam Cinemas, Sangeetha and Raj Bhaavan (Nungambakkam high road)
Tribute - Woodlands Drive-in, we miss you
We made a conscious effort to not include the Mysore variety of sweetened sambar as made famous by Sukh sagar in Chennai and Chalukia in Bangalore since it has an entirely different, acquired taste. Moreover, this story was to discover Chennai’s best sambar.
We were very keen to include Hotel Maris (adjacent to Sheraton Chola, Dr. RK Salai) in the list but didn’t manage to make it there and were running out of time to release this. We are told that their idli-sambar is unique and a definite treat. If any of you know about this, do let us know.
I am hoping this story attracts lots of opinion, brickbats, feedback and more. Look forward to the same.
(Pic courtesy: thehindu.com)
It indeed did come as a surprise to me as I was stepping into the swanky new Cream Centre on Haddows Road that I had never had a meal at any Cream Centre across the country, especially since I have been vegetarian for the better part of the last three years. I have heard everything from ravishing praise to strong loyalty amongst pure vegetarians and others towards the franchise. As expected, I had this inkling that Cream Centre was an Indian joint. But my first glance at the menu and I was thrown off – Indian, Italian, American, Lebanese, Mexican, Continental and street food on the same menu. Not much of a fan of multi-cuisine restaurants, this degree of mix ticked me off instantly.
We went as a group of 5 + 1 kid and all of us were quite hungry. My company included a few who were regulars here and I was told that the American Corn Cheese balls came highly recommended. We ordered that along with Papdi chaat and Bambaiyya Ragda pattice. My mother and I are both suckers when it comes to good Ragda pattice, having been spoilt with it as a great evening snack when in Mumbai.
I frankly wasn’t looking forward to the Cheese balls but was very impressed – they were indeed very tasty and yet didn’t leave a sick dairy after taste that usually accompanies dyna bytes or cheese fritters / balls. The papdi chaat was a far cry from that at Gangotree and / or the recently opened Kailash Parbat (Harrington Road – not that I love it either, but their papdi chaat is very good) – shall not order again. The ingredients as such were good by themselves but they didn’t mix very eclectically to leave me happy.
The Ragda pattice – I did have high hopes. Cream Centre is from Bombay, home to Ragda pattice. Even our friendly restaurant manager was from Ghatkopar, Mumbai and I was expecting authentic stuff. The pattice (patties I know, but this is how this is referred to as!) was hard and didn’t seem to go harmoniously with the ragda (channa). It seemed a tad over fried and wrongly spiced.
Main course between us was a Pizza Siciliana, Macaroni Magic, Masala Bhatura with Channa and Methi Aloo Paratha meal. To cut a long story short, dinner was a downer. Except for the Paratha meal which was fresh, well tempered and served with a good measure of tasty raitha, the rest were just below average. The macaroni was just plain macaroni dipped in a white sauce made of cheese. The menu mentioned mushrooms and I did find one or two imposters swimming around but they were either too old or genetically modified to lend any unique taste to my pasta. There was no form of chef’s seasoning – I’d have expected basil or thyme at the least if not a dash of vodka or wine – okay perhaps I am pushing it but I just demanded that my pasta have a flavour of SOMETHING. The pizza was the worst I have had at a public place. The base was stuck between crisp and soggy, cheese tasted old and the peppers on it again, seemed to have no taste.
I had read on the internet of Cream Centre being tagged as serving the “World’s best bhatura” – I don’t know what they were talking about. Just like a lot of other people on the internet and specifically posts on burrp on this topic, I too was quite taken aback that they served the Bathura and Channa as separate portions, costing Rs. 35 and Rs. 95 respectively. Didn’t really cut any ice with me. I’d still recommend the Channa Bhatura at Ashoka or Sukh Sagar.
Desserts – Sizzling brownie, thumbs up.
I did toy with the idea of visiting the place again before writing this review but I guess the place’s reputation and it’s inability to satisfy me on my first visit put me off badly enough for me to write this straight away. I have been told very good things about their sizzlers and biriyani. I will try it again sometime soon though I don’t expect too much since I heard the same about the macaroni and the “World’s Greatest Bhatura”.
Cream Centre is stuck between being a fine dining restaurant and a food court and I don’t see why I’d want to pay the fancy price for something like that.
Ambience: The place is neatly done without being over the top. The first thing I registered was the bathroom door that opened outwards instead of inwards – I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere else in Chennai. Brightly lit interiors are always preferred by me over dim interiors and that was a good plus. Somehow, I am growing a little tired though of the brown veneer finished laminate woodwork in most public places these days. Tip off: Visit the AC section of a Saravana Bhavan these days and it’ll look exactly the same as Cream Centre! But overall, comfortable seating and happy lighting = no complaints on this front.
Access: Is the biggest challenge at this location. Located on a one way road means circuititious entry and exit and very little parking compared to it’s large fan base means hassled valet parking drivers, not a relaxing thought during weekends.
Staff: Most of them seem to be from Bombay, an interesting trick which hopefully works for them. The waiter tending to us didn’t seem to understand what we were asking for and the moment one of us got slightly exasperated, the alert and very warm restaurant manager replaced the waiter in a jiffy. Neat touch. But overall the service was quite quick and no-nonsense. Don’t expect broad smiles and lectures educating you on what you are eating. But then again, what do you teach Indians about Parathas and Channa Bathura they’d argue.
Facilities: Good clean toilets and hand wash.
Cost: Steep, not expensive. Just that it feels weird paying so much for what seems like fast food.
Date: 25th August, 2009
Place: Chennai, India
Reviewed by: Harish Anand Thilakan
Must Order –American Corn Cheese balls & Sizzling brownie – but then again, would you travel all the way anywhere just for a starter & dessert?
Average Cost per person - Rs. 350-450 a head including a beverage (obviously non alcoholic, this is TN remember!) and dessert.
Address- 45, College Road, Chennai – 600006
Driving Directions - Enter College Road from the Good Shepherd school / Sterling Road side and you’ll find it past the first bend on the left, just before the Meteorological dept office.
- Cream Centre has replaced Bombay Blue at the same location.
Hi All – the next installment coming up from The Sharck will be a feature on the Best Sambars from across Chennai city. Be it the idli-sambar from Rathna Cafe in Triplicane or the Sambar vadai at Sangeethas, you’ll find your favourites right up here, classified as the best Sambars for Tiffin or Meals.
This article will be the first co-authored, public participation post on TheSharck. So do keep your opinions flowing in.
Article expected shortly – keep checking.
Strengthening their commitment to food and beverage, Sathyam Cinemas earlier this year announced their latest culinary foray – iD. Located on the first level of the multiplex (opposite the popular Magic Hat), iD abbreviates from Idli-Dosa, the name saying it all. iD has been around for about five months now. Launched as part of the line of outlets being rolled out by celebrated chef Mickael Besse, iD opened to much fanfare and full houses, much like the cinema it resides within.
While the name may conjure up a Murugan Idli competitor in our heads, boy it does compete and out-do it in certain aspects and how.
Interiors & Styling:Keeping with the standards set within the complex by the cinemas, Ecstasy and recently Blur, iD too comes with contemporary designer styling and furniture – a world apart from Murugan Idli and the best efforts of Hotel Saravana Bhavan. Set in pristine white with contrasting black linen, the snazziness of the interiors can be quite something to fathom.
The walls on either side have interesting potrayals of the solar system depicted by food shot at iD. A sequence of Idlis showcase the lunar cycle while a tight shot of a dosa seems to reflect the sun. Very quirky, shot on location by Sharad Haksar.
The incredibly expensive imported square shaped stainless steel plates (a friend of mine referred to them as prison plates!) add to the style quotient while throwing up question marks whether the company running it is interested in their bottom lines at all! To complement the plates are very designer and interestingly anguled cutlery – especially the chutney pick ups.
There’s no doubting the effort and pains taken at getting the styling right for iD – the best of European furniture and tableware find their way to enhancing your idli-dosa experience.
Service Concept: Taking further the thought of a service concept, iD has interesting menu cards that are placed on each table with the waiter marking off your order on the card and using it as a base for your bill – neat and transparent, much like the rest of the place’s theming.
Food: The menu is limited but sensibly at that. Instead of indulging in a hundred frivolous iterations of the unassuming dosa, the iD menu lists the following:
- Idli: Plain, Rava
- Dosa: Plain, Masala, Rava
- Vada: Medu, Keera, Masala
- Pongal: Ghee, Sweet
- Appam: with Coconut milk, Vegetable stew, Ullitheetu
- Beverages: Lassi, Buttermilk, Fresh juice, Coffee
- Dessert: Kasi Halwa, Semiya payasam, Sweet pongal
The food is very consistent. I have visited iD about 8 times in the months since it’s been open and have enjoyed the same textures, spicing and temperature each time.
To be honest, none of the fare served has any character unique to itself – served in the ambience it is set in does make the food taste better than it really is. But that is not to say that the food isn’t good – it’s satiating for sure. Special mentions to the Keera vada and the Idlis. The sweet lassi or the buttermilk are good accompaniments.
Most of the food is accompanied by the usual suspects – Kaara (spicy) chutney, Mint chutney and Coconut chutney along with excellent sambar. While definitely not close to being amongst the best in the city (Mathsya and Ratna Cafe hold on to that crown for now atleast), this Sambar definitely has a unique spicing and taste to it and consumed at its hottest, is very tasty.
The desserts are excellent though terribly filling in themselves. Would recommend the payasam and the kasi halwa strongly.
The biggest shock of them all is the pricing, and pleasantly so. Average bill per person for an average meal is about Rs. 100! Even HSB costs you more!
Staff & Service: Clearly the achille’s heel for this otherwise great experience, the service has definitely waned since iD’s inception. There clearly seems to be something wrong internally since the bunch of boys have remained the same. Just that the same smiling, eager waiters are nowadays bereft of facial expression, rushed and not very forthcoming. Wait time for food too has gone up from about 3-4 minutes earlier to close to 7-10 minutes these days, well providing for crowds or their lack of, as the case may be.
Considering the variety of food brands now at their disposal and with most of the outlets not requiring knowledge of rocket science (except perhaps Ecstasy), the corporate team at Sathyam could explore rotating the staff around to ensure that the boys are always freshly challenged.
Most of us in Chennai do land up at Sathyam Cinemas every once in a while. Do plan to spend a little extra time, either before or after your next movie to experience iD – the entire experience is worth enjoying.
Facilities: Again, designer ware hand wash at the outlet itself. Toilets of the cinema are availble for use.
Cost: Cheap. There’s no better way to put it. Brilliant value for money.
Date: 15th August, 2009 (last visit)
Place: Chennai, India
Reviewed by: Harish Anand Thilakan
Must Order –Keera vada, Sweet lassi, Appam-Coconut milk, Ghee Pongal, Kasi Halwa .
Average Cost per person - Rs. 100 (group of 3 and above)
Address- Sathyam Cinemas, Thiru-vi-ka Road, Royapettah, Chennai
Driving Directions - Off Mount Road, every one in Chennai knows Sathyam theater! (If your auto chappie feigns ignorance, try Sathyam they-ter.)
A Guns n Roses styled dark brown coloured ‘chocolate’ rose was definitely not what I was expecting to see at Chennai’s newest cafe (am almost growing tired of this word). Christened Kleio, this snazzy one thousand sq. ft. eat out immediately conjures up positive vibes as you enter its bright, naturally lit interiors. Stylish cane furniture (needless to say, chocolate shaded) don’t look comfortable but pleasantly surprise.
Food: Impressive arrays of quick eats (sandwiches, rolls, wraps, pastas etc) complement a selection of cakes, beverages and other interesting dessert.
My first experience to the outlet was rather surprising with almost everything I tried flooring me. But I decided to go back a few times before writing this and boy, am I glad I did. Glad we left behind love-at-first-sight in school.
All the food fare sampled till date has never disappointed – the chicken mayo sandwich, the Cole slaw sandwich (innovatively shaped like a pastry), paneer wrap, veg pasta (mixed on-location). Special mentions due to the Paneer wrap which unlike most wraps around the city, was actually palatable.
The beverage menu seems strongly “inspired” from another city cafe though the concoction is anything but borrowed. The Snicker bar shake and Dream shake (Toblerone) are easily the best around town while the Oreo shake fell short of its contemporaries. The iced lemon tea was a hit as was the Cold Coffee Lite (sugarless).
It was the dessert department that interested me the most, especially thanks to the recent proliferation of dessert options in the city. The first dessert I sampled was the white chocolate muffin and I am still quite mesmerized by it – the white chocolate itself to be precise, was absolute heaven while the muffin could do with a better bake. The Nut corner was delicious, a biscuit made up of a mixture of nuts and served (on request) with ice cream, the apple pie was awry. My biggest disappointment was undoubtedly the Death by Chocolate. Along with Chocolate Truffle, any outlet that attempts to serve up the DBC will have to live with being benchmarked by these two landmark desserts. It was one of the poorer renditions of DBC I have come across, to be kind. The feedback was well received by the people in charge and they’ve set to work on getting it right.
Brand story: Kleio’s tag line, Sinfully Expressive explains the chocolate rose. “We want Kleio to be a destination where people head to express themselves. The rose is synonymous with expression and served in chocolate, it was a perfect fit” explains Rajesh. Taking forward the theme of a destination cafe, a lot of space has been left underutilized to make space for a dais of sorts. Rajesh plans to use the venue to organize Stand up comedy, karaoke sessions, activity for children, etc to help keep the crowds enthused beyond just his food – not a bad plan on paper but time will tell its success. The in-store and display branding is very refreshing for this space. Credit to their design agency, Whoa Mama.
Kleio operates from a centralized kitchen that caters to its 2 locations – opposite The Residency’s in-gate on Dr. Nair road, T. Nagar and DLF IT Park, Porur. My four visits before penning this review have all been to the T Nagar outlet. All the food is made by an in-house team with its owner, Rajesh Bysani (31) himself assuming the role of Chief Taster & QC Head.
Staff: Courteous and friendly though finer knowledge about the products are limited to the seemingly experienced.
Facilities: The toilet is usable and hygienic, for men and women alike.
Cost: Very reasonable, almost under priced. Only the special shakes are in excess of Rs. 120. All else average around Rs. 40 each.
Date: 13th August, 2009
Place: Chennai, India
Reviewed by: Harish Anand Thilakan
Must Order – Paneer wrap, Chicken Mayonnaise sandwich, Dream Shake, White chocolate muffin.
Average Cost per person - Rs. 135
Address- Dr. Nair Road, T. Nagar, Chennai – 600017
Driving Directions -Opposite the in-gate to The (old?) Residency hotel, at the junction of GN Chetty road and TP Road.
Business Today’s Lifestyle supplement magazine “More”, issue dated July 13th carries an elaborate article on The World’s 10 Best Restaurants. It obviously caught my attention and I did pick up a copy.
I will admit, I was expecting it to be a rights borrowed article from Conde Nast and the like. However, I was pleased to see that it was indeed a Business Today special with Rashmi Uday Singh traversing the world trying out the best eateries. As Chairperson, Central Asia Region of the London-based “World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy”, she did have access to a list of the top restaurants as a start off but I was happy to see her visiting the various places concerned.
A quick round up:
Location: Montijoi, near Barcelona, Spain
Meal: Euro 200 (Rs. 13,200)
2. Bernard Loiseau
Location: Saulieu, France
Meal: Euro 200 (Rs. 13,200)
3. Le Bernardin
Location: 155, W 51st Street, New York, USA
Meal: Three course Lunch $64 (Rs. 2,750); Four Course dinner $107 (Rs. 4,600)
Location: Kent Street, Sydney, Australia
Meal: $200 (Rs. 8000)
5. l’ Arpege
Location: Rue de Varenne, Paris, France
Meal: $495 (Rs. 21,280)
6. Alain Ducasse
Location: Paris, France
Meal: Euro 240 (Rs. 15,840) or Euro 360 (Rs. 23,760)
7. French Laundry
Location: Yountville, California, USA
Meal: Nine Course menu $300 (Rs. 12,900)
Location: The Regent Hotel, Singapore
Meal: Lunch $115 (Rs. 3,560); Dinner $195 (Rs. 6,040)
9. Oaxen Skargardskrog
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Meal: 1,350 Kroner (Rs. 9,450)
Location: Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, US
Meal: $250-500 (Rs. 10,750-21,500)
A very well written story I must say. A must grab copy.
Nestled in the silken sands of a beach popularly known as Calangute, this North Goan beach lays the perfect setting for an idyllic, laid back yet delicious dining experience called Souza Lobos. On a recent visit to this paradise, this particular joint was highly recommended by friends and locals alike along with Brittos, its other beach front apettite whetter counterpart.
Now being the Monsoon and thereby the off season in Goa, many are discouraged from visiting. However, as I recently found, this is probably the best time for Indians to be in Goa. Rock bottom room rates, easy availability of two and four wheeled self drive transport options, resturants welcoming customers all mean that its Goa served to you at half price! Yes the beaches might be off limits since it does get very very rough but the pouring rain can often be a sight to behold amidst the greenery of Goa. The best part of the rain is also the fact that it never lasts more than 10 minutes at a stretch. Now this is also that time of the year when most popular joints operate for restricted times instead of till late into the nights. Historically, Brittos as well as Souza Lobos have been shut through Monsoon. This year however, Lobos did stay open while Brittos is shut.
Saturday night and Lobos had a live performer belting out popular Goan as well as English hits and I must say, the tempo and atmosphere was quite eclectic. Coupled with the lapping of the waves of the Arabian sea, Souza Lobos is a definite must on the tour diary of any holidaying couple.
Needless to mention, like most Goan eateries, the alcohol on offer was elaborate – from the choicest of local Feni to Finlandia, Smirnoff Black, variety of Bacardi and the best of Scotland, it was all on offer. We decided to sample the local Coconut Feni and were recommended to try it with Limca! While it was quite a strong concoction, the Limca did help derive a very unique, full taste. Thoroughly enjoyable.
The food was very good. The fare included everything from Continental to Indian to authentic Goan. We sampled a little of everything and a clear thumbs up was awarded to the Grilled Prawns, Sorpotel, Pork Sausage fried rice and a sumptuous vegetarian preparation feigning to be a Mushroom Spinach pancake! That was to be the tastiest vegetarian preparation I was going to sample in Goa through my entire trip.
The service was a little indifferent but I also have to hand it to the waiters that the place was absolutely packed! Someone at the hotel told us that 10.30pm was the last order but orders and guests kept flowing till about 11.15pm and the last drinks were handed out at 11.45pm. In the peak seasons, we are told that this place knows no start time and you’ll stay here so late that you’ll never wake up before this place opens!
The interiors were very spartan but added to the beach shack feel that the place was trying to provide. At Rs. 400 a head including alcohol, I thought the place was quite the steal. However, another review of the place elsewhere on the internet deemed Souza Lobos to be an expensive option.
All said, I’d highly recommend Souza Lobos for the entire Goan-beach-shack-meal experience. Try and visit on a week night to soak in the best atmosphere. Reservations recommended – your hotel should be able to make the reservation for you.
Date: 27th June, 2008
Place: Calangute, Goa
Reviewed by: Harish Anand Thilakan
Must Order – Goan Fish Curry with Rice, Sorpotel, anything Prawn, Pork Sausage Fried Rice and Mushroom Spinach Pancake
Average Cost per person – Rs. 400-500 (including alcohol)
Address & Phone - Calangute Beach front, Goa
Driving Directions - Drive up to Calangute beach and walk along the beach! You cannot miss it.