The flavours of Kuttanad at Southern Aromas

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The Kuttanad region is known as the rice bowl of Kerala. Not only is it a paddy growing area but the area also sits below sea level.


Executive Chef Ashok Eapen is treating diners at Southern Aromas, The Residency Towers to the flavours of the region at the ongoing Kuttanadan Food Festival. Invited to review the meal, we landed there for lunch. As we walked in, the rich smell of spices and coconut oil welcomed us.

Pappadams!
Boiled tapioca & sweet potato, chutney & mango pickle

Bowls with boiled tapioca and sweet potato, coconut, chilli and onion chutney and a sliced mango pickle were served first. The tubers were well cooked and went well with the chutney.

Buttermilk
Prawn  & squid ulathiyathu





For starters, there was a chemeen elavanthenga ularthiyathu - delicious prawns cooked till dry in spices. Also koonthal ularthiyathu - squid with coconut slivers that had been tempered in curry leaves and red chilli bits that was spicy but delightful.

Chicken kurumelagu

Kozhi kurumelagu was another stunner of a dish. Powdered black pepper coated the boneless chicken pieces, making us reach for tissues but we were brave enough not to stop. The masala had plenty of personality and the meat had absorbed it all. According to Chef Eapen, pepper is one of the spices that defines Kuttanad cuisine.

Beef perattiyathu

Karimeen polichathu


 After the impressive starters, the dishes that followed seemed to have lost momentum. Matterachi perattiyathu - tenderloin cooked in ethnic spices could have done with more of the spices and curry paste. The meat was well fried but dry around the edges. 

The karimeen polichathu, wrapped in a banana leaf was duly opened and served at the table. The masala, though tasty, lacked that punch of mustard and the fish would probably have tasted better if both fish and masala had been fried a little more.

Red fish curry & rice

The main course was red Kerala rice and red fish curry. The smoky aroma of kokum was enticing, the red of the fish curry appealing. However, there was too much tomato in the curry and not enough of the kokum which threw the balance of flavours out of whack. And it was spicy hot as well.

What we missed was moru kachiythu - yellow buttermilk curry that is usually served with the fish curry. We also missed the duck dishes that the region is renowned for and appams.
 
Wattalappam; karikku pudding


Dessert was a delish coconut custard - wattalappam and the jaggery syrup did cool down some of the heat from the fish curry. The karikku or tender coconut pudding on the other hand, had a bit of an identity crisis. It was far too creamy and the coconut had an odd taste. Presentation of both the desserts could be improved.

The starters on the menu are worth every tear you shed because of the spice levels which also will tingle your palate. So go on and indulge.

Kuttanadan Food Festival at Southern Aromas is on till July 1st for both lunch and dinner.

Southern Aromas is at The Residency Towers
Sir Thyagaraya Road, T'Nagar.
Call 044 2815 6363 for reservations

Mr. Mamagoto and his pop up menu

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Mama's cousin, Mr. Mamagoto, popped into town with a gift and an invitation to dinner. Now that's very gentlemanly of him and naturally, the invite had to be accepted graciously.

Mamagoto set up shop at Chennai more than two years ago and it's one of the more popular pan-Asian restaurants in the city. The Gurgaon-based brasserie has come up with a pop up extension of its brand for a limited time only, serving up a variety of grills, dim sums, baos and Japanese-inspired maki rolls.

Love the decor

It's been a while since I went to the restaurant at KNK Road and was surprised to find the teppan has been removed and in its place, there's more seating. Oh goody...hope those long queues are now a thing of the past! Manga graphics still cover the walls and ceiling, the shades of red add a bit of fun to the ambiance.

The mocktail corner




Spiced apple Collins - not one I'd order again

As its wont, there are small plates (appetisers) and large plates (main courses) which can be shared. The pop up menu is tuned toward a more adventurous, edgy palate, or as the brand says, "sophisticated goofiness".

Poached prawns with chilli lime jelly

Grilled chicken with chilli oil

The prawns in the appetiser were large but a a little chewy. The lime jelly was aromatic and had pops of heat. I flipped for the leche de tigre or tiger's milk. Zesty, invigorating and full of flavour, offset by the tart green apple slices. It was a take on ceviche but here, the prawns had been steamed.

Grilled chicken with chilli oil had boneless chicken finished on the robata grill and sliced for service. Succulent and flavourful, the beetroot dip was quite interesting and the sesame flavoured sticky rice a lovely accompaniment along with the stir fried veggies. Typical Asian flavours that delivered.

Hoisin chicken bao

The cloud-like baos are super soft. Hoisin sauce... no, I couldn't taste any of it and though there was plenty of chicken, it was rather dry and could do with more of the sauce. The pickled cucumber was a delicious addition. 

Katsu chicken

Panko crusted and fried fillet of chicken was so so. The sauce too was gluggy but the soba noodles were a winner. Smooth and fragrant with the aroma of sesame oil, they were perfect in every way.

Rendang Kerala curry with paratha

Indonesian rendang with Kerala paratha - now that for sure is an irresistible combo. However, the rendang curry with cubes of tender mutton was way too sweet, the gravy had an overdose of coconut cream and the parathas were not the flaky kind. In spite of all of this, strangely, it was a combination that worked.



Mr. Mamagoto has no desserts to offer but you can order it from the Mamagoto menu. We shared a plate of vanilla cake with toffee sauce the ice cream. It's one of those desserts where each element enhances the flavour of the other. Lovely!

Kiwi mint Collins - fresh & zesty

Mr. Mamagoto and his pop up menu will be served at both the Chennai outlets. 

Bingeing on Sunday brunch at The Hilton

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For some reason, every time we go to Vasco's, we're seated beside the dessert station. This time too, but now, there is a chalkboard offering pithy advice 😊

Every station has its specials

In fact, there are chalkboards beside all the stations highlighting the specials. In a way, the advice is good because it's a constant reminder to keep space for dessert. Which is an impossible task when you're at Vasco's, The Hilton Chennai, which has relaunched the biggest Sunday brunch in the city. Called the Bingeful Sunday Brunch, Vasco's promises to keep you "overfed and overwhelmed".

Appetisers - prawn tempura, tandoori chicken 

Pizza toppings

Salads

Mezze!

Sushi, sashimi & tapas. The sushi rice does dry out when it's been sitting around so do ask for fresh made ones 

And they are not joking! From appetisers to pizzas served at the table, the vast spread includes sushi, some tapas, mezze and pasta.

Braised pork belly

Breads on display


At the carving station, there's a hunk of braised pork belly. You could pair slices of that with a variety of breads in the shelf on the opposite side.

Teppanyaki counters on the deck. The prawns are always delicious!

Dim sums

Check out the Indian counter if it's biryani you're looking for. My favourite is the dim sum station with steaming hot dumplings and the awesomest sauces to dip them into. The Asian station is another personal favourite. This time, there was Mongolian noodles (yum), a Thai veg curry and this ultra delish whole fish with Thai herbs and it seemed to be everyone's favourite as well.

Roast fish with Thai herbs

Pasta and Western mains
Flaky pastry, tender meat, a nice rendition of Beef Wellington

Jazz up your cocktails



Thirsty? There's a selection of wines from Jacob's Creek and beers from Hoegaarden and Kingfisher.



I was asked to try a Bulldog! I did and it is mighty refreshing. And huuuuge!! Yup, a beer bottle inside a lime mint mojito.

Wine stomping 


It was for sure a lucky day because a wine stomping session was on the cards. Hop into the barrel and squish those grapes till they turn to mush. When you're done, wash your feet in the tub of water thoughtfully provided by the hotel. 

Desserts

Iced lollies

Cupcakes


My selection - baked yoghurt, coconut pannacotta; caramel mousse. All yummy! 
Live music by Ryan and the band 
Little ones have their own space. 



Hilton's Bingeful Sunday Brunch is from 12 noon to 4 pm. As promised, it does keep you stuffed and the spread is vast and delicious. The brunch is priced at 2195/++ per head.


 
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