KooX @ Novotel Chennai Chamiers


There's a brand new Asian grill in the city and this one is up on a rooftop, the rooftop in question being the one at Novotel Chennai Chamiers. Called KooX, it's the domain of 2 chefs, one specialising in Japanese fare and the other, Sichuanese.

From the outside looking in

Invited for a preview, I loved the place at first sight. Up on the 8th floor of the hotel, it has the pool and gym for company. KooX has an alfresco seating area from where you have a good view of Chamiers road and the adjoining flyover. What a view! It's pleasantly breezy and right now, open to the sky but before the first of the monsoon rains hits the city, it will have a roof.

Perfect lighting

The adjoining grill room has a bar counter where the bartender makes some real cool KooXtails cocktails! On the opposite end is the glass-enclosed kitchen where you can watch the KooX cooks chefs at work. The lighting is dim, the space is very cosy and the music is so cool.

Drunken Chemist

There's cinnamon in my cocktail!

My cocktail, Drunken Chemist, had vodka, celery leaves and sour mix with dehydrated apple slices clipped to the side. The first few sips tasted very nice but after a bit, the celery leaves became a bit too much.

A second cocktail had pineapple juice and a nice hit of cinnamon. A torched stick of cinnamon floated around and yes, this one was so much nicer.

Conversation starter - edamame

Veg sushi

Seafood sushi in a boat!

A couple of boatloads of sushi arrived on the table, one vegetarian and the other, seafood. The interesting one on each platter were those made with Assamese black rice. How dramatic can rice look? Slightly nutty and absolutely delicious, it held together so well while being lifted with chopsticks and presented a beautiful contrast for the other components of the sushi.

Salmon tartare

Chilli chicken skewers with house made dips

Our appetisers included  salmon tartare with green onion, cucumber slices and aged soy sauce. The composition was very pretty and the salmon was fresh. Chilli chicken skewers was nicely done and they do pack quite a punch, perfect with drinks.

Watermelon carpaccio

Watermelon carpaccio was delightful. Take alternate bites of the melon and balsamic caviar and you'll know what I'm talking about. Pondicherry feta is much less saltier than its Greek counterpart and with briny olives to provide contrast, this was a refreshing take on the usual watermelon and feta salad.

Norwegian salmon & NZ lamb chops

Sichuan dry pot with broccoli, lotus root & parsley

Salmon, lamb chop; sprouts, cabbage & beancurd; noodles; dry pot veggies & sticky rice

The main course was a mix of their speciality cuisines. Norwegian salmon fillets and New Zealand lamb chops graced the tabletop robata. The salmon, glazed with mirin and teriyaki, was delicious. The lamb chops, with soy, garlic, togarashi and sesame oil, had been cooked perfectly. The centre was pinkish and the meat tender. The Asian main courses of sprouts, baby cabbage and bean curd were a little overdone. The Sichuan dry pot of lotus root, broccoli and parsley as well as the Koox-style Sichuan noodles could do with a little more heft while truffle garlic sticky rice was good. 

Dessert arrangement

Gooey 5 spice molten chocolate cake

The pastry chefs were having a whale of a time laying out dessert - really laying it out! Tiny bowls of yoghurt brûlée, green tea tiramisu, 5 spice molten chocolate cake, little bowls of tender coconut ice cream, macarons, cake crumbs and tarts filled their canvas, interspersed with micro greens. Such a pretty sight.

KooX is a great place to hang out with friends. It has great music, a lovely ambiance and good food too. Timings are from 6pm - midnight.

Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road
11, Chamiers Road
Nandanam. Chennai 600035.
+91 44 2302333.

A Tamak afternoon


Modern Asian cuisine is the in thing at a lot of restaurants and that's what Tamak presents. Cheery, bright, cosy and trendy, the 70-seater restaurant at Feathers Hotel is just the place you go to when you want to forget your woes for a little while, for the warm and soothing ambiance and the food there does just that.

Scenes outside and inside Tamak

Mocktails and cocktail

When the drinks are named after towns and localities of the city, that will surely bring a smile to your lips. That's another trend these days and that's how the Kanjeevaram, a mocktail, rolled in. Made with apple juice, tamarind and jaggery, the tamarind sweets that accompany amp up the flavour. My choice of cocktail was Triplicane, made with white rum, fresh pineapple and orange juices and coconut water and it was so refreshing. At Tamak, all the juices are freshly made.

Tamak team - Associate F&B Director, Ankit & Rajya

We had been invited for an afternoon of conversation and food tasting. Behind the glass-enclosed open kitchen, there's plenty of action. Rajya, one of the partners at Tamak, talked about the menu that features small plates, meal bowls and Asian BBQ. When the amuse-bouche - tiny paneer canapes arrived, she pointed out that India was also very much a part of Asia ...that's so true! The chilli cheese toast coated with sesame seeds, was equally engaging.

Grain chaat

The grain chaat had 4 kinds of grains that included black rice and a dressing with just the right balance of mustard paste and sweetness from pomegranate arils. It didn't look pretty but this is one dish where looks do not matter at all. One mouthful and you'll be reaching for more!

Iranian lamb kebab; steamed prawn wantan; chicken kebab; scallion sesame cake

From the small plates listing, we were served Iranian lamb kebabs that just melted in the mouth. Steamed prawn wantons had fluffy skins but the chilli oil was rather mild. Crisp scallion sesame cake had to be an exercise in restraint - the bun was so crisp and the shiitake mushroom filling within was so delicious that it was so difficult to stop with just one portion.

Spicy Thai pomelo salad

The spicy Thai pomelo salad with lettuce and yam beans is something you can tuck into without any misgivings. The spice was rather subdued but the pomelo is sweet and I loved the crunch of yam bean and peanuts. Such a refreshing salad it was.

Anda paratha

Anda paratha was the one that that stole the show. Straight off the tawa, we almost burnt our fingers trying to tear it apart. I was told this is street food in Delhi but whatever the provenance, this is a must order dish. The paratha was fried so crisp that it was almost like a puff, the egg filling spicy. Together, they made for a deadly combination.

Grilled eryngii

The eryngii mushrooms were sliced really thin. Miso butter gave it an umami flavour but because of the thinness of the slices, parts of it got charred more than they needed to, resulting in a slightly leathery texture. Still, they tasted good and probably they would have been a fabulous accompaniment to some sticky rice. Achaari broccoli has a mix of kasundi and caraway seed which add a lovely pungency to the rather bland veggie.

Stir fried chicken with green beans
A selection of Indian bread, kali dal; sarson sag

Two main courses - the first was stir fried chicken with beans but it seemed to have lost the plot somewhere. The other main was Indian bread and we selected makki roti and mattar paratha, with kali dal and sarson sag as accompaniments. The breads were good, the dal and sag, passable.

Rhubarb tres leche; triple chocolate mousse with berry compote

Matcha tiramisu with soju and yuzu syrup 

Of the 3 desserts, the most appealing was the triple berry mousse. A little less setting agent would have made it even more appealing. As for the rhubarb, it's not a vegetable that's seen in the local markets but I think it is a good way of toning down the sweetness of a tres leche.

At Tamak, it's the appetisers that score on all fronts.  They are innovative, addictive and so darn tasty!

Tamak is at Feathers A Radha Hotel
4/129 Mount Poonamallee Rpad
Manapakkam, Chennai 600089.
Reservations at 07358018814.

New menu at Focaccia, HRC


I'm not sure what it is I like about Focaccia. It could be food - as Italian as it should be or maybe it's the ambiance of the restaurant or perhaps even the chef. So every time the menu undergoes a change, we are invited to try it out and we have Chef Mauro explain it to us. Of course, he never reveals the recipes.

Tartare di tonno, salsa ravigote, microgreens

One of the new appetisers is tuna tartare with ravigote sauce and microgreens. Tartare is always about the freshest of ingredients and tiny dices of fish are blush pink; the slightly tart dressing and drizzle of olive oil is all that is needed to round off the flavours.

Insalata di fichi e pomodorini con burrata fresca

Chef Mauro's salads are very simple, an alliance of as few ingredients as possible. The fig and cherry tomato salad with burrata is a good example; the creamy cheese needed only the sweetness of figs and cherry tomatoes and the acidity of balsamic vinegar to complete it. If it's crunch you need, the slice of toasted brioche provides it.

Flan di peperoni gialli, succo di pomodoro e bufala

Yellow capsicum flan, tomato juice and buffalo mozzarella is a flan unlike any other. It simply melts in the mouth with absolutely no evidence of having been made with a pepper. If you're looking for a vegetarian appetiser, you can't go wrong with this one. For me, a little more tartness in the tomato juice would have worked wonders.

Risotto ai gamberi e pepperoncino, avvolto nel branzino

Ravioli al brasato, burro salvia, fondo di carne e tartufo

Chef Mauro's pasta courses are always interesting. Prawn risotto wrapped in sea bass carpaccio had juicy prawns and rice cooked in a flavourful seafood stock. However, the braised lamb ravioli with sage butter and truffle wowed us completely. Silken pasta enclosed the most exquisitely braised lamb filling which was then drizzled with a luxuriant sage butter sauce. The medley of flavours and textures left us craving for more.
Pesce spada grigliato pesto rosso e zucchine grigliate.
Sundried tomato pesto is a perfect foil for the meaty swordfish.

Pollo dorato in salsa Villeroy, verdue allo scalogno, polenta al funghi

Breaded chicken breast Villeroy is the other dish that we absolutely loved. The chicken had been coated in a creamy sauce before being crumb fried. Moist and very tender, I'm sure there's more to the technique and it was truly divine. Mushroom polenta and mixed vegetables completed the dish.

From top: millefoglie al cioccolato e mousse al gianduja; salame di cioccolato; crème brûlée

Leave it to an Italian chef to make the most wickedly delectable desserts with nuts and chocolate - chocolate millefeuille and chocolate salami. The sugar crust on the orange and pistachio crème brûlée shattered with a single tap but the custard below could have done with a little more baking.

Millefoglie al cioccolato and how to eat it!

Chef Mauro 

Focaccia is at Hyatt Regency Chennai.
365, Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai.

Do call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations. 

An evening at Sky Terrace, Fortune Select Grand Chennai


It was a long drive from the ECR to Singaperumal Koil near Maraimalai Nagar. Traffic was heavy at that time of the evening but I had interesting company. Even after living in Chennai for so many years, many of the localities we passed were ones I had only read about. Soon enough, the imposing Fortune Select Grand was before us. The lawns of the property are beautifully manicured and the lights glowed their welcome.

Fortune Select Grand Chennai is an upscale 5 star business hotel with 171 rooms, 4 restaurants and 6 banquet halls. It's the only such starred property in the area which is a hub for the IT and automobile industries and an upcoming retail and recreational destination. We were greeted with shell necklaces and a refreshing drink. F&B Manager, Karunakaran and Executive Chef Sarafath took us on a quick tour of the property.

Orchid - the all day diner

Executive Chef Sarafath Khan

Desserts at Orchid

Neptune Bar

The serene pool and Aqua Grill in the background

Fortune Select Grand has the advantage of space and it is this spaciousness that adds to its charm and elegance. Orchid, the all-day diner, serves a multi cuisine menu, both buffet style and à la carte. The restaurant was packed and of course, I couldn't resist having a peek at the desserts on display. We also checked out the split level Neptune Bar & Lounge where there's a DJ on weekends. Aqua Grill with its poolside barbeque area is a lovely space that promises a romantic setting for a dinner date with that special someone.

Sky Lounge

Live teppan counter at the  Fair Weather section 
Open Terrace that's perfect for open air dining

Finally, we were at the Sky Terrace, the rooftop restaurant. It's a 4 part area that comprises the Sky Lounge, Fine Dining, Fair Weather and Open Terrace which, as the name indicates, is open to the sky. The first, furnished with dark leather and dim lighting, is perfect for a quiet drink before dinner. The Terrace was so breezy but because it too was dimly lit, we opted to sit in the Fair Weather dining area.

Apple Tonic

Onion rings; dahi ki kebab; dal ki shammi; satay

Open from 6pm to midnight, the restaurant is stylish and the floral upholstery is so pleasing to the eye. We were welcomed with Apple Tonics. The first of our starters was batter-coated onion rings threaded onto skewers. They stayed crisp even after we had spent time photographing them, the batter was light and allowed the onion to shine through. Both dahi ki kebab and dal ki shammi were all about textures, one soft and the other crisp; hung curd and yoghurt mint chutneys were perfect to dip them into. The chicken satay was tender and the aroma of lemongrass was enticing while the peanut dip tasted quite raw and too smooth. Not a problem as the satay was moist enough to be had by itself.

Mixed meat sizzler

A platter of mixed meats sizzled its way across the room. It held chicken, fish, jumbo prawns and lamb. Marinated in Indian spices, it was a delicious dish where each protein had been beautifully cooked, even the prawns remained succulent after their stint in the tandoor. Attention to detail was very evident.
Prawn tempura

Sky Terrace serves global cuisine that includes Japanese, Thai, Mid-Eastern and Indian, of course. If you opt for Japanese, you could sit in front of the teppan and watch your meal being prepared. Our prawn tempura was perfectly done, the prawns were fresh and the batter crisp. The soy dipping sauce had very well balanced flavours.

Burnt garlic chicken dumpling soup

Grilled veg salad

Tiny little dumplings and bright colourful vegetables made up the burnt garlic soup. The soup was light, the garlic flavour mild and just delicious. The grilled vegetable salad was full of colourful veggies, a mildly spiced and tangy dressing would have made it a more interesting combination.

Mongolian lamb with fried rice

Mongolian lamb had strips of tender lamb cooked with peppers and onion slices. It was a tasty dish but steamed white rice would have been a better accompaniment than the fried rice.

There was also an aromatic Awadh-style biryani. Partially cooked biryani is stuffed into a length of bamboo and it gets baked for another 45 minutes. The foil cover was opened at the table and the aroma of the biryani wafted around. Topped with nuts, it's a wonderful blend of rice, meat and spices.

Garlic naan; dal makhani; lachha paratha

If there was one dish that wowed us that night, it was for sure the dal makhni. It was the perfect marriage of lentils, spices and aromatics that resulted in a chocolate brown, thick, fragrant, mellow yet hearty dish. The combination of the dal and lachha paratha was simply mind blowing.

F& B Manager Karunakaran and Exec Chef Sarafath

Ice cream with tender coconut; rasmalai

Secretly, I was glad that they had kept the desserts simple - vanilla ice cream with nuts and chocolate sauce. It was served in a coconut shell which accounted for the diced tender coconut, a nice twist. The soft and spongy rasmalai, another in-house creation, was delish.

The team of chefs at the hotel have ensured that the food they serve, across cuisines, is memorable. Probably that accounts for the fact that as we were leaving, a large group of visitors were trooping into Orchid for a late night meal.

A meal for 2 at Sky Terrace would cost around 2200/ all inclusive.

Fortune Select Grand, Chennai
1, GST Road, SP Koil, Maraimalai Nagar
Chennai 603209.
044 67414243/ 044 27464646.

Paan in a cup

This was an invited review 

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