Asian Food Festival @ The Square, Novotel

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The Square, Novotel Chennai OMR, is where you start on a culinary trip around Asia. The multi-cuisine restaurant is celebrating a 10-day Asian Food Festival, featuring the food of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. (Want to jet off to Bangkok? Find out how to at the end of the post.)

Executive Chef Muthu Kumar


Executive Chef Muthu Kumar explained to us the principles of yin and yang that govern the mind and body which necessitates the need to bring about a balance in what we eat as well. Hence, this festival underlines the culture, tradition, wellness and nutrition of this cuisine and does it in a delectable way. The menu has been curated by the masterchefs of Novotel Siam Square, Bangkok and Novotel Chennai OMR's Chef Sagar.

These are some of the specials from the festival menu that we tried:

Vegetarian dim sum

Chicken dim sum

Crisp fried spring rolls
Sambal and chicken satay
Vegetarian Thai green curry served with steamed rice
Braised shoulder of beef (hong shao niu nan)
Do not miss the mixed mushrooms (chao san gu) & mixed veggies
Chilli crabs (la jiao pang xie)
Ayam gulai
Mackerel in banana leaf (luang senunuh)

Main courses:


Pad thai from the live station
Mie goreng

The highlight of the meal was the mie goreng. We asked for the prawn version and it was just a little spicy and just fabulous.

Desserts - mango cheesecake; mango crumble cake; caramel eclair & blueberry cream; summer pudding

There were no Asian desserts on offer but the chef revealed that he had 8 flavours of ice creams that he would be serving at the festival, along with some innovative toppings.

The Asian food Festival will be on till June 2nd and it's a buffet service priced at 1299/++ for lunch and 1399/++ for dinner.

Is today your lucky day? Have a meal at the restaurant and take part in the lucky draw. You might just win yourself a 3 night complimentary stay at the Novotel Siam Square, Bangkok.

For reservations (highly recommended), do call 89398 42258.

*This was an invited review 

The flavours of Burma

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Talk about Burmese cuisine in Chennai and it's atho and khow suey that come to mind. But I've just learnt that there's much more to this cuisine than just these 2 dishes.

Chef Nay Myo Htet

Chef Nay Myo Htet from Burma is at Soy Soi to give Chennai diners the real taste of food from his homeland. He's also a licensed tour guide and apart from food, gave us an insight the country. There are 8 states and 135 ethnic groups in Burma, the most dominant being the Barmar. Where food is concerned, there are many similarities with Indian food. The staple crop is rice, very little wheat is grown; chillies, tamarind and coriander are used in their curries. Split chickpeas are a common ingredient, used not just to thicken curries but also as a main ingredient. People in coastal regions eat a lot of seafood while further inland, pork and chicken are preferred. Also, the Burmese make awesome salads. 

A group of us were invited to experience a degustation menu. Chef Peter was also on hand to explain the salient points of the food we were going to taste that evening.

Htamin lone gyaw

Nga sope

Balachang phat htoke baung

Samusa thoke with lentil sauce

We started with Htamin lone gyaw - fried rice cakes with a spicy tamarind sauce. The rice had been pounded into a paste, mixed with fried garlic and other aromatics, shaped into cakes and fried. The sauce was delicious but not that hot. Yummy!
Fried fish cakes - nga sope were a little too strong on the fish flavour.
The Burmese too have dumplings and balachaung phat htoke baung looked and tasted like a fully enclosed siu mai. The squid dip it was served with was shmeared along the side of the plate and tasted unusual. If you like squid, go for it!
There's something familiar about samusa thoke, yes, they do look like our potato-stuffed samosas all cut up. It was topped with a dhal curry doppelganger and tasted like one too as it had been made with split chickpeas.

The salad platter: Lahpet thoke; khwai ywat thoke; thayat thee thoke

And then there were the salads - lahpet thoke, made of tea leaves, topped with fried shallots. Did you know pennywort (vallarai) can be used to make a salad? Well, that's the main ingredient in myin khwai ywat thoke, shallot oil giving it a gorgeous flavour. Thayat thee thoke is the Burmese mango salad, different from the Thai version. The dressing of all three delicious salads had shallot oil and roasted gram flour which acted as a thickener. By now, it must be evident that thoke is the word for salad 😁

Mohinga

Mohinga is considered the national dish of Burma, a one-dish meal, a hot and sour soup and this one is like nothing I've had before. It starts with the dominant flavour of fish but soon enough, other aromatic flavours take over. It has a boiled egg, rice noodles, a raft of crunchy bits and a slice of banana stem and tastes delicious. Do squeeze the lime over for it brightens up the flavours instantly.  

Khayanthi hnat

The main courses were served with fragrant coconut milk rice. The vegetarians had khayanthi hnat, aubergines cooked in a thick onion and tomato gravy.

Nga hin

Gyat karlatha chat

For the others, there was nga hin, grilled sea bass with roesti and Burmese gravy. The fish was beautifully cooked and flaked effortlessly. 
The chef explained how gyat karlatha chat or bachelor chicken got its name - it's so easy to cook that even a bachelor could do it. Well, it might be a simple dish but it was so darn tasty. 

Shwe yin aye

Sanwin makin

Most Asian desserts have something made of coconut and shwe yin aye had sago cake and pandan noodles in sweetened coconut milk, the Burmese version of ice kachang. But the semolina cake, sanwin makin, served with caramelised orange, chocolate cream and honey ginger was what I preferred. Absolutely delicious.

The Burmese Food Festival is on till June 2nd and it does showcase food of the different regions of the country. The menu is à la carte and a meal for 2 would cost about 1500/-    

Soy Soi
2/10, Gandhi Mandapam Road, 
Kotturpuram.
Do call 9791555851 for reservations.


Maharashtrian flavours at Ayna

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If it's a homely Maharashtrian meal you've been longing to have, do head on over to the Hilton Chennai. Chef Nagarjun Kamble from the Conrad Pune is in town with a stock of spices and masalas to give us the true taste of the flavours from his home state.

Chef Kamble

As you enter Ayna, take a look at the photographs that hang at the entrance. There's nothing like a touch of nostalgia to accompany this kind of food.

Kokum sherbet; mattha

Two very welcome drinks, kokum sherbet and mattha with bondi, gave us respite from the searing summer temperatures. Both were served cold and were very refreshing.

Chutney platter

A typical meal begins with a platter of chutneys. The combination of coarsely pounded green chillies, garlic and groundnuts in the techa looked like it could burn our mouths but it was actually quite mild. Each of the dry chutneys, made of groundnut, sesame or dry coconut, tasted different, and were a wonderful accompaniment to the starters.
 
Sabudana wada

Kothimbir wadi

Mutton che sukke

The sabudana (sago) wadas were a riot  of textures with a crisp crust, chewy sago and bits of groundnuts flavoured with mild spices and served with a sweet yoghurt sauce. The little nuggets of Kothimbir wadi too were well made and had the lingering flavour of coriander leaves. Mutton che sukke, made with tender cubes of mutton, was coated with a thick masala. Tawa surmai was a large slice of king fish coated with masala and fried. It tasted different from the usual south Indian fish masala and the chef revealed that it was the variety of chilli that gave it that unique taste. 

Maharashtrian starters

This is poli, a flatbread layered with ghee. Don't ask me to pronounce it.

Main courses: Mutton kala rassa; bharlee wangi; shenga bhindi; kombdi cha rassa; Malwani zinga.
Indian breads include poli, puri and thalipeeth

The main courses were a good representation of regional Maharashtrian cooking. Mutton kala rassa, a speciality of the heartland, had been cooked into a rich, almost black coloured curry. The meat was tender and the gravy had a familiar flavour and a slight bitterness that is customary. A sprig of dill garnished the dish. One of the ingredients in the masala is the black stone flower (kalpasi). Brinjal is not one of my favourite vegetables but the bharlee wangi was so unusual that I did not mind trying it. The gravy had been thickened with coarse-ground peanut and it was delightful.  Groundnuts are a common ingredient in Maharashtrian food and the shenga bhindi too had coarsely pounded nuts and other spices in a very simple and homely dish, a nod to the chef's style of cooking. I've had several versions of the famous Kohlapuri chicken but the kombdi cha rassa with its wickedly red gravy, was super. It was spicy too, but not the type of heat that makes your eyes water and nose run. And of course, there was Malwani zinga from the coastal region. The prawns were large and succulent, the gravy, rich and coconut-ty. Both thalipeeth, made with multigrain flour, and the puri were great for mopping up the gravies but the poli was rather tough. 

Bharlee wangi; shenga bhindi

Masale bhat, similar to a veg biryani and very fragrant

Aamkhand; aamras; puran poli

The aamkhand on the dessert platter was rich and creamy. Aamras, on the other hand, needed to be made with a sweeter variety of mango. The puran poli, served hot, was perfect, especially when dipped into the aamkhand.

'Flavours of Maharashtra at Ayna' is on till May 24th and served at both lunch and dinner. The menu is à la carte.
Do call +9198401 02453 for reservations.

*This was an invited review 

New menu at Stix, HRC

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Stix at Hyatt Regency Chennai has pulled out all the stops to showcase their brand new menu. Resident Chef Sun Wenlin is from the Sichuan province and he has been delighting diners in Chennai with authentic flavours from the region for a while now. The new menu has a set of interesting dim sums and main courses.



There was quite a sizable crowd of guests who had been invited to the exclusive preview. We helped ourselves to the assortment of freshly steamed dim sums served with pairing sauces and dips. 

Dim sum baskets

Seafood dumplings

Lobster dumplings

Kung pao bao

Lamb pot stickers

Baked baos with wasabi vegetables


The clash of cymbals and drumbeats heralded the commencement of the dragon dance. Soon enough, the cutest little dragon came into view, its bobbing head keeping in step with its brightly lit pink body. The dancers weaved their way around the lobby and as everyone knows, the dragon is the symbol of good luck in Chinese culture.

Dim sum starters

Kung pao bao; seafood dumplings

Edamame dumplings. These green bundles are tiny but so addictive

Lobster, chicken and shrimp dumplings with chilli dip

All the dumplings were well made - thinly rolled skins, neatly pleated and stuffed with good amounts of filling. The stand outs were the pan-fried pot stickers and kung pao baos. The dough of the baos was fluffy and definitely the best I've had in town. On the vegetarian menu, the baked baos were the ones that kept disappearing the fastest. The combination of crisp pastry that enclosed the mild wasabi-coated diced vegetables was particularly nice.

Main courses

Lamb dry pot

Stir fried prawns in XO sauce

Barbeque fried chicken; kung pao chicken

Sichuanese food is spicy and pungent. Chillies and garlic are the most common ingredients, along with Sichuan peppers, and many of the dishes are made with the famous doubanjiang sauce. The lamb dry pot was deliciously spicy, the meat was tender and the onions provided the necessary crunch. The dish of stir fried prawns in XO sauce was delightful. It had king prawns that had been butterflied and cooked in XO sauce - succulent prawns that were coated in fabulous umami flavours.

Our bowl of barbeque chicken fried rice was so tasty. The rice was the sticky variety and that did add to its appeal. We paired it with kung pao chicken which had plenty of cashew nuts. Yum yum!

For the vegetarians, some of the items listed on the menu are fried eggplants in sweet-spicy sauce and Sichuan-style green veg in pickled chilli and cashew nut. There's much more of course!

Tender coconut ice cream; mango brûlée 

We had tender coconut ice cream and mango brûlée for dessert. Two great fruit-based desserts, a fitting end to a superb meal indeed.

Stix is open for both lunch and dinner, from 12 noon to 3.30 pm and from 6.30 to 11.30 pm. Choose from the à la carte menu, a meal for 2 without alcohol, could come to around 2200/-

 
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