The Gourmet Experience Centre

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Haddows Road is the address of the Gourmet Experience Centre. This is a space where cooking experiences can be created not just by masterchefs but even by cooking enthusiasts. The Centre houses a 1000 sq. ft. cooking studio and a cook area fitted with the latest in kitchen equipment by Siemens.


Fridge-freezer


The sleek side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with black glass finish had us enthralled. It has a digital display and touch electronic controls. The shelves are adjustable. The doors too have shelves and there's quite a bit of stuff that this fridge can hold. Sigh...my dream fridge for sure...


Built in oven, combi oven & the coffee machine

Any kitchen needs an oven and this one has two!! There's a built-in convection oven and a combi steam oven. This is great for not only steam cooking but even for proofing breads! The ovens are energy-efficient and self-cleaning to boot. Fitted beside it is a built-in fully automatic coffee machine and below that, a warming drawer... my dream ovens and a coffee machine too...sigh!

Works on gas & electricity


Multi-functional cooktop

The Domino cooktop is multi-functional. There's a standard gas burner that can be used for wok cooking, a ceramic induction cooking zone and beside it, a lava grill, a deep fat fryer and a teppanyaki grill. Meats and veg can be cooked on it and even dosas, we were told. The last 3 come with flush fit covers and once the cooking is done and the covers fitted back, they practically go out of sight.


Siemen's dish washer

And who's going to do the washing up after a dinner party? This semi integrated dish washer takes care of that job. It has three racks and a fourth basket is just for cutlery. Even stemmed glasses stay stable during operation. The complete wash cycle in this machine is shorter, thereby saving water.


Island workspace

In the centre is an island countertop, providing sufficient working space. While the kitchen occupies about a third of the area, the remaining space is multi-functional - it could be converted into a dining area for guests attending a private dinner or double up as space for a cooking classes.

The Centre is the baby of chef and entrepreneur, Regi Mathew. The idea behind the setting up of this enterprise is manifold:

*Want to play chef? The space can be used for hosting parties where you could either cook the meal yourself or get one of the Centre's chefs to help with the planning and cooking;

*Large windows let in plenty of sunshine and the setting and lighting is perfect for photoshoots and food-styling classes;

*Culinary workshops can be conducted here;

*Standalone restaurants and star hotels can use the kitchen and the expertise of the Centre's chefs to standardise their recipes;

*Corporates can conduct cooking and baking sessions as part of their team building sessions;

*As an experience centre for Siemens products. All the equipment is by Siemens and you could even watch a demo before deciding to buy any of them.

If you love the cuisine of Kerala, there's Kappa Chakka Kandhari on the floor below. KCK translates to tapioca, jackfruit and bird's eye chilli, 3 ingredients that are a must have in most Kerala homes! The restaurant, run by Chef Mathew, John Paul and Augustine Paul serves 'neo-stalgic' food - the kind of food made in Kerala homes, food that every Malayalee pines for when he/she is away from home.


Kappa & fish curry

After we were shown around the Centre, we were served kappa and red fish curry, one of the most popular and iconic dishes of Kerala. Delish! Plenty more followed at the food tasting:

Crisp corn in cups, chilli mess; pork with puttu; vegetable money bags
Finger foods

Vegetarian baos; teriyaki chicken

After a while, we weren't sure if we had to eat the food or admire it. The team's culinary prowess is truly remarkable.

Orchid tempura!





Banana payasam and tres leches cake

While KCK serves a huge variety of Kerala dishes, Chef Regi is an expert in Asian and Thai cuisine in particular.

Gourmet Experience Centre
No. 10, Haddows Road,
Nungambakkam,
Chennai 600034.
9884396210

Chef Costa's Italian feast at The Flying Elephant

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He's an Economics graduate but whatever is he doing in the kitchen? Well, you have to taste his food to know that great cooking is not only picked up in cooking schools; it also has to run through your veins.

Chef Nicola Costa is from Naples and learnt cooking from his grandmother and mother. Since then, he has been around the world, working in award winning restaurants and under Michelin-starred chefs. Now at The Flying Elephant, he has curated The Italian Food Festival and believe me when I tell you that his food is simply fabulous.

Pappa al pomodoro, mozzarelline fritte e maionese al basilico
 
Introducing the first appetiser, Chef Costa told me that in Naples, Tomatoes, Tuscany compote, fried mozzarella and basil mayonnaise was a way of using up leftover bread. The compote, made with onions and tomatoes was delicious but the combination of basil mayo and the fried cheese was stunning. Hidden under the compote was indeed the bread but it was anything but leftover!

Carpaccio d'anatra affumicata, rape, misticanza, arance e polvere piccante

A second appetiser, Smoked duck carpaccio, crispy salad, oranges and spicy powder had the thinnest slices of duck resting on fried slices of brioche. Everything on the plate, from the baby arugula to the baby beets to the slices of radish, the powder and the glorious jus paid testament to the duck.

Zuccotta



Naples is the birthplace of pizza; pizza Margherita was invented there. Well, we didn't get to try the pM  but the Pumpkin cream, goat's cheese, mozzarella, toasted hazelnuts, parsley and onions was mind blowing. Pumpkin in a pizza ...I wouldn't have thought anything good could come out of such a combination but I was wrong. What beautiful balance of flavours and textures. And colours!

Lasagna verde ai funghi e tartufo

Tortelli allo zafferano ripieni di Genovese al burro nocciola

Green lasagna with mushroom and truffle was a vegetarian delight. Layers of handmade, slightly crisp pasta, a mix of mushrooms and spinach had b├ęchamel sauce generously ladled over the top. The construction was neat and it tasted fabulous. Saffron tortelli stuffed with Napoli-style tenderloin and onion ragout and burnt butter sauce was exquisite. The folds of the bright yellow pasta enclosed the most gorgeous meaty filling. Cherry tomatoes in the sauce brought in little pops of acidity.

Branzino al guazzetto e zucchine alla scapece

A vegetarian main course of bell pepper stuffed with a mix of vegetables was followed by Seabass with tomatoes, olives, caper sauce and fried zucchini. The sauce, with the big hit of acidity from the tomatoes, olives and capers was delightfully light but the fish itself was not impressive.

Caprese con crema al limoncello

Leave it to the Italians to combine chocolate and nuts into the heavenly Almond and chocolate cake with limoncello. The cake, dark and dense, didn't really need anything else but the fluff of cream with the liqueur helped to brighten the flavour of the chocolate.

It was indeed a memorable review meal, every dish was made and presented well. But you really need to hurry because Chef Costa will be at The Flying Elephant only till Sunday February 4th. The Flying Elephant is at Park Hyatt Chennai and open only in the evenings.

Beer and burgers at HRC

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It's season 2 of the Beer and Burger Fest at Hyatt Regency Chennai and if you like a brew with your burger, the Lobby Lounge has you covered. The menu is a little different this time and vegetarians have a choice of 5 burgers ranging from a pav bhaji to one with potato, pea and Cheddar cheese to another with chilli garlic stir-fried momo burger - extremely innovative or what!!

The Green Juice

Since this was an invite to review, the friend and I, on Chef Arun's recommendation, ordered a crumb-fried chicken burger and pulled lamb burger. And just about then we were told that it was a "dry day" and no alcohol would be served. There went the beer! BUT...but that was a good thing as I wouldn't have got to order The Green Juice made with green apple, celery and basil. So healthy and refreshing and I could literally feel the vitamins and minerals gushing through my veins! There was another called Stress reliever; since I wasn't feeling stressed out that day, I gave it a miss.

Pulled lamb burger

The burgers were served on black trays. Each burger is served with a basket of fries, sweet mustard mayo, a red cabbage coleslaw and homemade relish. The burgers were well crafted, lettuce and tomato slices lined the bases. The pulled lamb filling was generous yet easy to cut through. Thankfully, there were no toothpicks or skewers to hold the bun halves together. The meat was oh-so-tender, having been cooked for 6 hours but I would have liked it with a little more heavy on the flavour and seasoning.

Crumb fried chicken burger

The crumb-fried chicken burger, on the other hand, was a stunner. Meat from the leg of chicken had been coated with panko and fried. A slice of cheese placed on the hot patty melted, adding to its deliciousness. The crumb coating was so crisp that you could hear the crunch from across the room! Ok, maybe I exaggerate but I'd really like to know if there is an elegant way to eat a burger so good.

To wash down those burgers, there's a choice of imported or local beers. There are beer and burger combos which are a good deal and reasonable rates for top ups.
 
Iced tea

I also had a glass of iced tea. This one's not on the menu but you can order it. Very nice, very balanced flavours and it was a huge glass. Which reminds me, the burgers and the sides are pretty filling and you can make a meal of it.

The fest is on every night till Jan 30th at the Lobby Lounge, from 11 am -11 pm.


Novotel, ibis and The Square on OMR

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Novotel ibis Chennai OMR is AccorHotel's newest combo property in Chennai. It's situated just before/after the Sholinganallur junction. 12 storeys high, the luxury brand has 3 room categories while budget brand ibis has 1. Together, they have a total of 342 rooms. 


The 2 hotels share a driveway and pillars divide the portico into 2. We had been invited to review Novotel's all-day restaurant, The Square. While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, the MarCom manager took me around the property that has a contemporary, stylish look.

Reception area at Novotel; the lobby; kids' corner

Novotel's Lobby Bar; Spice It at ibis

The lobby is a compact one, the walls, floor and curtains are in shades of tan, colours pop out from the carpets and upholstery. What would gladden the hearts of parents who come in with their little ones is a kids' corner with activities to keep them busy. The lobby bar would have been a stark space if not for the bright red accents on the seating and cushions. This colour scheme is repeated in ibis and in their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, Spice It. It's a lovely space that exudes warmth, cheeriness and an air of informality.

The suite at Novotel
 
Meal stations at The Square

The Indian section

Dessert buffet

Clip art - fried snack and a refreshing malted drink

The Square is a busy place, if alfresco dining is what you prefer, you could step out onto the breezy deck. Back in the restaurant, Executive Chef G. Muthu Kumar had put in place a tasting menu for us. What kept the evening interesting was not only the food but also the quirky presentation.

Top: papads with brown onion sambal and tomato coriander chutney
Bottom: green veg & broccoli cheese dimsums with 2 dips

The brown onion sambal and tomato coriander chutney were both delish. Tiny papads were served to scoop them up with. I usually skip veg dimsums but I'm glad I did try both as they were yummy. The dumpling skins were a little thick but otherwise they were well made the fillings were flavourful and scallion, roasted chilli and tomato dip had just the right amount of heat and tang to accompany them.

Gosht gilafi seek kebab and blueberry yoghurt dip

Gosht gilafi seek kabab with its cheese crust was delicious. The meat was finely ground and the spice mix was perfect, no one spice dominated. Served with an interesting blueberry yoghurt dip in a gleaming little pan, I couldn't decide if it looked or tasted better!

Tofu and prawn roll with Thai chilli dip
 
Chalupa stand

Steel buckets on a bamboo frame caught us by surprise mid-conversation. The buckets held chalupas - roasted veg mash with Mexican spices, refried beans, sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese and a slice of dehydrated orange that tasted like a dried apricot. To scoop it up was a polenta-masa harina nacho. This dish certainly brought smiles to our faces.

Palate cleansing lime syrup
Crisp chicken flower rice with Siracha sauce


Carrot pearls

Chicken burgers 2 ways

Our trays held a mystery box and they were opened to reveal chicken burgers. The meat was done 2 ways - pulled and crunchy. I preferred the pulled meat filling as the crisp chicken in the other kept falling out. The buns looked dramatic, were very soft and well made - they didn't crumble or break apart. The burgers were served with potato wedges and carrot caviar pearls.

Gosht roganjosh ; millet & ragi breads; murgh makhani

To showcase the Indian section, we were served murgh makhani and gosht roganjosh. With tender meat and balanced mix of spices, the tiny portions of ragi and millet roti were just the thing to mop up those gravies. The rotis were a little dry, guess you should eat them as soon as they are served.

Fantastic Four - and they truly were!

Dessert was served in a little dimsum basket - a river of whipped Philly cream cheese, macerated strawberries, soft-centered chocolate cake and an absolutely delicious chilli jangri. No, it wasn't spicy but the combination of heat and sugar was the perfect end to a dinner of surprises.

The Square has buffet services but if you'd like to have a meal like what we had, you could ask the chef to help customise one for you.

Novotel & ibis Chennai OMR
+91 44 6644 4777.

Dehydrated orange

 
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