Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Chit Chat and eating out at midnight

I can almost hear the conservative groans. “What has this city come to if people drive out in the rain bang in the middle of the night to eat. We have lost our culture,” they would say. And the few cars near Chit Chat are somewhat defiantly parked. People did come in them in the rain and bang in the middle of the night just to eat.

Shifting the idli-loyalty

Even after living in Chennai for nearly six years now, I have been to Pondicherry — barely 120 km away — only once, that too last month. But I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Kerala, which takes about 15 hours. The reason is quite simple and universal: when something is next-door, you tend to take it for granted. “Ok, I’ll go there someday, what’s the hurry. Let me check out the other places first,” you find telling yourself.

Precisely why I rarely go around looking for eateries in my area, which is, literally, a stone’s throw from Panagal Park. The places I usually go to, when I eat out, are Kumarakom on Kodambakkam High Road, New Andhra Meals in Pondy Bazaar, Hotel Safari in Royapettah and Annapurna, the authentic Bengali restaurant, in Egmore. Chennai, of course, has no dearth of meals-ready joints, so no matter wherever you are during lunch- or dinner-time, you could always squeeze into a place where the air smells of steaming rice.

But last week I discovered — yes, discovered; shame on me! — one restaurant around Panagal Park. It’s called Woodlands, next to Nallis. The place is air-conditioned and the food is excellent, especially the idli-sambhar. So far I would swear by the Ratna cafe idli, but here the sambhar tastes even better. I strongly recommend their idli-sambhar to all. Follow it up with the dahi-vadai and you’ve just had a filling brunch.

The ‘meals’ are good too, but a steady stream of shoppers makes it difficult to find a place. Moreover, for Rs 53-a-‘meals’, even if you get unlimited rice, it is unlikely that one would patronise it at lunchtime every day. Yet, the crowd is never ending. Walking, if not shopping, on Usman Road can make one hungry.

Thumbs-up to Murugan Idli Shop

The last time I went to Murugan Idli Shop was over a year ago. I went to the Besant Nagar one. I hated it. And from then on I have been telling every one as to how Murugan Idli Shop is a con and is no match to the likes of Ratna Cafe. But, the experience I had y’day at the Murugan Idli Shop on GN Chetty Road was indeed very very good. This friend of mine who had come down from China insisted that we go there and I obliged, though reluctantly. Athithi Devo Bhava. So they come first. It was about half past eight when we reached the place. The place was packed. We were asked to wait for 10 minutes. 10 minutes it was. Not a minute earlier or later, when we were directed in to our seats. The plaintain leaf to begin with was a welcome sign. I still prefer those to the melamine plates or the stainless steel ones. And no forks nor spoons. We started off with a Sakkarai (Sweet) Pongal, Ghee Pongal which we split and a Medhu Vadai to go along with it. The Sakkari Pongal was piping hot. It was delicious. Just had the right amount of sugar in it. Probably the only one which according to me comes even close to the one at Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane.

CopperPoint@GRT – a let down

Yesterday was a weird day. I went to work. Came back home. Went again. Came back. Went again. And it was almost dinner time. I had lined up plans with a couple of friends. I was contemplating between Citrus at Savera and Bell Peppers, the new joint opposite Prarthana on ECR Road. But somehow we landed up at GRT Grand in T.Nagar. Still can’t figure out why. I had last been to Copper Point, the Indian Restaurant there a good 4 years ago, and I had thoroughly enjoyed the food then. So I was expecting something similar this time. And boy, it was a real let down.

We reached the hotel by 8.30pm, was directed to our table by a plesant, nice & charming lady. The table was neat and clean, with Copper Plates and looked grand. We scan thro’ the menu, pretty exhaustive one. We start off with the Murungakkai (drum stick) Soup, Masala Kuzhi Paniyaram and Zaminda ke Kebab. First, the soup was cold. Rather warm.

Singapore Rex

As usual, I was off on a restaurant hunting spree and I ended up at this place. Singapore Rex. Well, what’s in a name. So let me not dissect why thy name. It was about half past eight in the evening, when we walked in. I was delighted. 2 reasons. I found parking. And a table free. In today’s Madras that itself is a rarity. The menu was pretty basic. We started off with the Chilli Golden Fried Baby Corn with Schezwan Sauce. Was indeed good. But really spicy. The corn was tender and batter fried, was succulently crispy (whatever that means). It had a sprinkling of chilli flakes over it, which I presumed added to it being really really spicy. I must mention at this point about the Chinese Tea, a really hot fragrant tea which is served on the house. For the main course we settled for the Fried Rice with Schezwan sauce accompanied with Tofu. The fried rice was too good. The rice cooked to perfection, a healthy mix of the right vegetables and chillies and served piping hot. I quite didn’t like the Tofu. They had some interesting items lined up in the dessert section. But we skipped desserts.

A smart perk

If you have been to the Copper Chimney restaurant after its renovation, this is probably old news. If you haven’t, read on.

Olives Restaurant Deccan Odyssey

Ajantha Hotel was a prominent landmark in chennai. Now, there is a hotel called ‘Days Inn Deccan Odyssey’ at the same place. The best part of the hotel is its 101 % vegetarian restaurant ‘Olives’. Atleast thats what they advertise. Very good and simple ambience, good food, decent service. And not very costly. They charge 229 Rs for a veg buffet, which is really filling. And they have a good mix of north and south indian dishes.

Do try this place, if you enjoy vegetarian meal

Ambience – 7/10
Location – 8/10 (No 36, royapettah high road. Take a right at the Lloyds road and Royapettah high road junction while coming from Llloyds road. Just before the flyover starts, you will find Days Inn at the left. You can take a right from peters road towards royapettah high road and come straight too)
Food – 8/10
Service – 7/10 (Service can be improved a little bit)

A lunch/dinner for 2 will cost around 500 Rs maximum. Check it out!

Above Sea Level

Open air, a dreamlike yet informal ambience, the soothing blue black of the night sky, pleasant waiters to help you with food and drink, time stretching itself for cosy conversation, Above Sea Level is an ideal place to savour a special evening.

The FarmHouse

It was another saturday night yesterday. And like every other saturday I was out for dinner. I didn’t plan it this time though, so we knew exactly where we were heading. It was either Basera or FarmHouse. Something told me not to go to Basera, and to my luck the place was packed. There was a waiting of close to 45 minutes. And I was quick enough to drive straight to The FarmHouse. The place is on ECR, a good 8-10kms from Basera to your right. We parked our car, and went straight in. The Manager came up to us and enquired where we would like to sit. We said we will have a look and decide. Now, this place has 3 beautiful options where you can relax and have a meal with the sound of waves and the cool sea breeze. There is the garden, the aircon restaurant and the open terrace. I quickly jumped and headed straight to the open terrace. And the place is just soo nice. Quiet, it has about 6-8 tables at max and a breeze that will make you want to live in there forever. The ambience was near perfect, mostly moon-lit except for a little candle on each table.

Hardcore Punjabi food? Try Shan-e-Punjab

Restaurant or food reviews are usually of two kinds – one that is written with a sense of duty, and the one that is written out of consideration. This one is payback. The story is like this: A couple of months ago, a friend and I found ourselves stranded on – of all places – the Vepery High Road. It was 10.30 in the night, a Sunday, and the place was deserted. His bike wouldn’t move. But getting home was presently problem no. 2: it was hunger that was on top of our minds.

Suddenly we noticed a restaurant, Shan-e-Punjab, on the ground floor of a hotel called Park View Inn. The rest of Vepery seemed to have gone to bed, but this restaurant was aglow, and from the glass wall, we could see a couple of families eating. In we went. And in walked Mr and Mrs Varma into my life. About six months ago, they had brought the flavour of Punjab to Chennai.

The food, purely vegetarian, is authentic too, cooked by men from Ludhiana. That night, my friend and I had several stuffed parathas, dal makhani, paneer butter masala and curd. And the bill did not exceed Rs 200. What made me return was the stuffed parathas: they are superior, unlike the ones you get in so-called Punjabi dhabas where all parathas taste just the same. But this time the Varmas insisted that I try the traditional makke ki roti and sarson ka saag.

Last Sunday I returned to Shan-e-Punjab again, and this time Mrs Varma suggested I try their missi roti (missi is gram flour). “You can call it the Punjabi pizza,” she said. The sight itself of the multi-layered missi rotis, cut into round-edged triangles, is as good as having a starter. The main course begins when you actually lift the triangular piece and tear it to dip it into the accompaniments. This time I had aloo methi. Believe me, it would be a sin if you live in Chennai and have missed their missi roti and aloo methi.

I am going to go there again – this time to try their nargisi kofta and kaju curry. But the reason I keep going there is this: in most Punjabi dishes you get in various eateries in Chennai, the oil or the ghee expresses its dislike for the other ingredients so strongly that it stands out like a pond. At Shan-e-Punjab, the oil agrees with the other ingredients and in turn agrees with your stomach. And yes, the place is cheap: can you imagine a quality Punjabi thhaali for Rs 55, and a Sunday buffet for just Rs 85?

(Shan-e-Punjab is on No. 5, Vepery Church Road. Call 9381006304 or 42661888)

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