Merry Christmas


It's been a subdued season. As many of you know, Chennai experienced very heavy rains in November and earlier this month. When excess water was released from a reservoir and when lakes breached their banks, the resultant flood waters inundated homes, offices and businesses. Many friends lost so much, rising waters did not discriminate between the poor and the rich and every one of us was affected some way or the other. But it was ordinary people who went out of their way to do extraordinary things to save and help those in distress.

It will be some time before things settle and those who were affected the most can go back to a semblance of what life was like before  the floods.

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with hope and peace.

Entrée at E-Hotel


Reviewing a vegetarian meal is a tough challenge for me. As tough as cooking a vegetarian meal for I can't think beyond a dish with paneer or mushrooms or an "English" vegetable curry. Which was the main reason I decided to attend this blogger's meet and see what a true blue vegetarian restaurant would serve at a buffet.

Many of us tend to miss E-Hotel in the hurry to reach one of the stores at Express Avenue Mall. The hotel is tucked away in a corner and has its own entrance. Perhaps it is the location that cocoons it from the rest of the mall. Colours catch my eye as I walk in. The lobby has an arrangement of glass vases awash with flowers and baubles in shades of fuchsia and pink.

Large vats with flora, not walls, separate the lobby from the dining area and behind them is Entrée, the all day diner that has white counters and burnt orange and green chairs set around white tables. The bright colours perk up an otherwise dark space.

We were served a welcome drink and spent the next few minutes guessing the ingredients that had gone in. Definitely ice cream, strawberry syrup and pineapple juice. Nice but sweet!

Spicy corn veg soup; paneer tikka

The spicy corn veg soup was gluggy with cornflour and tasted flat. The appetisers, both paneer based, had been treated much better - golden smoky flavoured cubes of paneer tikka cooked perfectly in a tandoor and croquettes made with a mix of cheeses and fried to a crisp golden brown.

A range of salads

Six salads were on offer and included aloo chat, corn and cheese salad and an interesting thenga manga - coconut and mango salad.

We were told that Entrée serves global cuisine. There was a dish of roast country veg, a nice pasta in Alfredo sauce and vegetable hakka noodles with sapo dumplings. The noodles were quite good but the dumplings were rather doughy. More's the pity as I did wish there was a cheesy bake to justify that section.

Golden onion fried rice; vegetable biryani

There were 2 kinds of rice - a delicious and  flavourful golden onion fried rice and a vegetable biryani.

Baingan Shimla mirch; satrangi subzi

Gravy based dishes included baingan Shimla mirch - eggplant and capsicum,  satrangi subzi, a mixed veg curry and papad ki subzi - a curry made with papad and yoghurt that was quite sour. There was also dal bukhara, thick with lentils. Indian breads were served at the table. They were a trifle greasy and tough. Paneer butter masala and the baby corn tempura were the other favourites.

Dal bukhara

Entrée even has a section for die hard fans of South Indian food. There's steamed rice, drumstick sambar, beans poriyal and a spicy rasam.

Mocha pannacotta; kiwi jar; strawberry mousse; lava cake; mango pastry

The restaurant's speciality is definitely dessert. Seven were on offer and the standout was the mocha pannacotta with a lovely hint of coffee. The mango pastry and strawberry mousse were also very popular with the crowd. We loved the little decorative touches on the serving plates.

Entrée is an all day diner; one can opt for either the lunch or dinner buffet at 750/ per head or choose a la carte. The restaurant has won the Zomato user choice award which is no mean feat.

Do call +91 44 2846 3333 for reservations.

Dining at Fuji


The flavour of the season seems to be Japanese and there's a new place in town to have it - Fuji, situated on the ever busy Chamiers Road. Once inside the restaurant, the noise of traffic is shut out and a sense of calm envelops the visitor.

The serene Japanese style dining area

The vestibule-like entrance has wooden slats decorated with artificial flora that demarcate the private dining rooms on one side. On the other side is a large room with low tables and cushions to sit on with a space below for your feet to rest. Earthy tones on the walls and floor and the dark brown of tables, cushions and pillars are in contrast to the white napkins placed at each seat. You have to take off your footwear if you want to dine in this room. We opted to sit in one of the PDRs, not because of the no footwear requirement but because for those not accustomed to sitting on the floor, it would be quite a contortionist's act to manoeuvre oneself into position!

This is Fuji's second restaurant in India and we met the team that promotes it where we learnt that one of the partners is the owner of 40 restaurants in Japan!

Spinach; dashimaki tamago; sunagimo

Fortunately for us, our tasting menu had been preselected to showcase Fuji's specialities. We started with an appetiser trio of fried chicken gizzard - sunagimo, dashimaki tamago and spinach. The tamago was excellent - juicy, slightly sweet and well made. The spinach had merely been blanched with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on it.

Seafood sashimi platter

A platter of sashimi was served next - slices of salmon, red snapper and squid. The wasabi added the necessary kick, along with the palate cleansing pickled ginger.

Steamed fish with bamboo shoots and spring onions looked pretty as a picture. The fish had been rolled into shape but I wasn't too keen on it as it tasted ...well... fishy but the sauce was delicious.The bamboo shoots provided a lovely textural contrast.

Nothing like munching on a bowl of edamame to pass the time

The stand out dish for me was chicken karashi yaki - grilled chicken with miso and mustard. Tender, juicy slices of  chargrilled chicken with the hint of miso and a dab of mildly pungent yellow mustard. Simply sublime!


My basket of tempura had prawns, squid, capsicum, eggplant and pumpkin. The coating was crisp but if you do order it, remember to eat it fast as it loses its crispness the longer it sits around.

Nigiri sushi platter

We had Fuji's nigiri sushi that included a roll with salmon, and rice topped with salmon, squid and prawn. There was also an interesting little roll stuffed with a preserved plum paste. The sushi was ok but the toppings kept falling off the rolls while being dipped into the sauce.

Fuji has plenty of options for vegetarians. Every dish we were served had a vegetarian version as well.

Nasu dengaku - fried eggplant with miso and sesame seed paste

Dessert was a bowl of ice cream with cubes of apple, kiwi and mochi. The menu had no listing for desserts so I have no idea if anything else is on offer.

Sauce bowl and soya sauce jar

The food is light on the stomach as a good Japanese meal should be. Our bowls of green tea were replenished periodically. Incidentally, we opted for the hot version.
Fuji is a good place to dine at if you're unfamiliar with Japanese food as the flavours are mild enough. The service crew was kind enough to explain the dishes as they were being served. Portions are just right. I loved the tableware which is imported from Japan and the lacquer bowls which were used for serving green tea and soup.

A meal for 2 would cost approximately 2500/++.
Fuji is at 134, Chamiers Road, Nandanam, Chennai 600 035.
Call 044 42112511 for reservations.

The Diabetic Food Trail at Park Hyatt's Flying Elephant


World Diabetes day is observed on November 14th. The Diabetic Food Trail, conceptualised by Semora Entertainment and with the support of Britannia NutriChoice, Biocon and Zomato, has over 100 restaurants in the 4 metros across India taking part in this initiative. At Chennai, a group of us headed across to Park Hyatt Chennai's Flying Elephant restaurant to sample a diabetic friendly menu.

With inputs from wellness expert Dr. Waseem, Chefs Greg and Vamsi  have translated the concept into a menu that spans various cuisines and meets the dietary requirements of diabetics, pre-diabetics or those who just want to indulge (!!) in a healthy meal.  

We were not disappointed. Our menu had plenty of choices, the meal was high on flavor and what’s more, had the calorie count listed beside each item on the menu.

So what’s a healthy meal for a diabetic?  A plate of food that includes plenty of fibre, is low in carbohydrates, low in calories and has a low glycemic index. And of course, it has to be mostly sugar free.

Thin crust pizza loaded with toppings - 294 kcal

We started with a thin crust whole wheat pizza with the usual tomato and cheese topping and then it got interesting with ricotta, lots of aragula, superthin apple slices and a dusting of sumac resulting in a pizza full of flavor and crunch.  

Chicken wantan soup with spring onions and pak choy -184 kcal

The vegetarians in our group opted for the Turkish lentil and bulgar soup, spiced with dried mint and coriander. For the rest of us, it was a wantan soup. A flavoursome yet light broth with chicken wanton and pak choy, it was seasoned perfectly and the hint of sesame oil added to the warmth of the dish.

Quinoa pomegranate salad with orange and zucchini -92 kcal 

The salad had aragula, quinoa, pomegranate, orange segments and thinly sliced zucchini. The passion-fruit dressing was light and tangy, the pepperiness of the aragula toned down by the sweet orange segments.

Tandoori lasooni prawns -194 kcal

At 194 calories, prawns are allowed on a diabetic plate, the key is moderation. So we had juicy lasooni jhinga – smoky garlic flavoured prawns cooked in a tandoor. 

Chargrilled marinated veg salad- 130 kcal

A second starter was chargrilled eggplant with pear and radish slices for crunch. An interesting miso dressing and toasted oat crumbs added the finishing touches.

Mocktails ranging from 45 - 300 kcal

By then a trayfull of mocktails came around. We had a sip of everything but the one I liked the most was Flue, a mix of juiced carrots, spinach, orange, celery and beetroot. Only 110 calories!! 

Brown rice congee with greens - 232 kcal

The brown rice congee was delicious with the earthiness of shiitake mushrooms, pak choy and bits of gingery warmth. For me, congee is comfort food and this one definitely pleased. 

Steamed Chilean sea bass - 282 kcal

Another stand out main was the steamed Chilean sea bass in a clear tomato fennel broth. Perfectly cooked white fish with clean flavours served with edamame, carrots and cress. The dish and the presentation was a visual delight. There was also dahi methi murgh - chicken with yoghurt and fenugreek and served with steamed brown rice.

Cheesecake mousse with a berry compote; papaya; peanut butter fro-yo 

A trio of desserts was served and that included slices of papaya, a peanut butter yoghurt cup with oat and granola crumb and a lemon cheesecake mousse topped with a mixed berry compote. Very nice.

The Diabetic Food Trail will be on till November 30th at Park Hyatt Chennai. Do call 044 7177 1234 for reservations.

The Yakiniku experience at Hyatt Regency Chennai


Pop up restaurants seem to be the flavour of the season and the latest one is at Hyatt Regency Chennai, dishing out Japanese fare. Stand at the entrance and the amazing aroma of grilled food will draw you in quite effortlessly.

Housed in the space that used to be Biscotti, Yakiniku is like a bustling street-side restaurant. The space is really small, a sushi counter, a display case bursting with fresh produce and the grill dominate one half of the restaurant while the rest of the space is occupied by tables and chairs. Shelves on a wall near the kitchen are stacked with Japanese sauces. Can it get more authentic than this?

Origami in the wall niches

Panels like this one hung on the walls

I reached a little late and so missed the inauguration but the place was humming with activity. Busy chefs manned the grills and the sushi stations, harried service staff rushed about with orders and happy diners of many nationalities were busy tucking into the food. You know what - this is a good time to show off your chopstick skills!

Jumbo prawns, scallops and tuna

Going through the menu, we realised that several more visits would be needed to make a fair assessment! A friend was tucking into a plate of nasu dengaku - fried eggplant with miso and sesame seed sauce. Eggplant is not something I relish or even like but I tried a small piece and it was delicious. Loved the smoky charred flavour of the vegetable and the sauces. Asahi beer is on offer.

Chef Kenny from Hyatt Regency Guam

We watched Chef Kenny from HR Guam make sushi and sashimi. His hands were a blur of motion and in the space of a minute, 3 kinds of nigari sushi sat pretty on the plate.

My vegetarian friend had ordered a plate of California maki sushi. It was a large roll studded with toasted sesame seeds and the vegetables inside were cooked perfectly with just the right amount of crunch. However the wasabi was disappointing, lacking the characteristic "steam coming out of the ears" punch.

Niku tofu and okonomiyaki

Another friend joined us and he ordered niku tofu with thinly sliced beef and cotton tofu in a broth, chopped scallion, dashi and a sprinkle of chilli powder. The meat had been sliced wafer thin and it was a deliciously light and flavoursome dish. I found the okonomiyaki - a pancake made with flour, cabbage and carrot quite doughy and heavy but the thick tangy sauce and mayo it was served with were the saving graces.

We also got a platter of nigari sashimi that had two slices each of salmon and tuna on a mound of grated daikon and 2 scallops on a lime half. Once again, the wasabi disappointed with its mildness . The seafood sushi was average.

The seafood tempura comprising prawns, squid and fish was served with tempura sauce. I was a bit disappointed with the batter as it wasn't as crunchy as I've had at other places. However, the seafood was very fresh.

Grilled tenderloin

Our main course was grilled tenderloin. The tender cut of meat was grilled perfectly, lightly seasoned and sliced into smaller pieces and served with grilled broccoli, slices of pumpkin and tomato. And to dip in, there was the trio of sesame, ponzu and teriyaki sauces.

Chef Subrata 

Other Japanese favourites like tonkatsu, teppanyaki, octopus dumplings and soba noodles are also on the menu but we decided to leave them for another day and dive instead into the desserts

Almond jelly soup; fresh fruit with sweet agar and red bean paste

Three desserts were on offer. The almond jelly merely hinted at an almond flavour but in the fruit dish, the bean paste had been cleverly disguised to look like grapes; the slight chewiness of the paste was in beautiful contrast to the agar slices. But best of all was the green tea cheesecake with its neat layers of green tea sponge cake sandwiched with a cheese filling.

Experience the flavours of Yakiniku, open only for dinner till December 10th, 2015. A meal for 2 would be around 2600/++.
For reservations, call 044 6100 1234.

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