At Chef Shivajee's pop up kitchen



Someone likened a pop up restaurant to a summer romance - too short to form an emotional connect but good fun while it lasts!!

Pop ups became popular around the start of the millennium and by the very name, suggests something transient in nature. I'm not too sure how many times pop up restaurants have happened at Chennai but when Chef Shivajee told me he was starting one, I knew where I was having dinner that night.

Dewberrys (http://dewberrys.in/), a resto-cafe situated in a lane off R.K.Salai, was the venue. The GPS directed us but on entering the lane, we wondered if we were in the right place. It looked like a residential area but finally we spotted the cafe's sign and had a bit of a time trying to find a place to park.

It was a warm summer's day and the aroma of food grilling on a charcoal brazier led us into the space. Chef was at his counter, surrounded by various ingredients and condiments. A cheery welcome from him and we were led across the pathway into the air conditioned dining area. It is a functional room with no particular ambiance. Two other tables were occupied and a party of sorts was going on in an adjoining room. Well, we were there for the food, right?  

The menu is unabashedly Malaysian in flavour. There were 3 of us and we decided to split everything 3 ways.

Rojak
The first to arrive was rojak, an amalgamation of veg and fruit with as many ways of making it. There was a vegetarian version but we wanted ours with hae ko, a thick black prawn based sauce which might be an affront to those not used to the flavour. The rojak itself had cucumber, pineapple, tofu squares, slices of yiotiau and crushed peanuts sprinkled over the top. We missed the crunchy texture rojak usually has but it was tasty and suitably dark in colour.

Satay with peanut sauce

We had also ordered chicken satay. Eight sticks to a plate and with slices of onion and cucumber on the side, the aroma was heavenly but the meat was a tad dry. However, the flavours were all there - coriander, cumin and lemongrass along with turmeric. The peanut sauce that accompanied it was spot on.  


Prawn and chicken laksa

The dish of the day was definitely laksa. Thick noodles, tofu cubes, beansprouts, half an egg, prawns and chicken in a mildly spiced coconut milk broth. Flavoured with laksa leaves, it was delicious. Tasting that lemak (rich and creamy) gravy, I closed my eyes and for a minute, was transported to a hawker stall in Singapore... When we finished, we almost licked the bowls clean...

Char hor fun
The one other dish that was outstanding was the char hor fun - flat rice noodles and vermicelli cooked in a garlic seafood sauce with greens. Green chillies in vinegar is the ideal condiment for this and we loved the blandness of the noodles that was offset by the bite of the chillies.
Char kway teow


Chef's char kway teow - flat rice noodles with prawns, egg, Chinese sausage, chilly paste and sweet dark sauce is our favourite. When it comes with a calamansi lime, you just can't get more authentic than that. We were so stuffed by now that we had to asked for this to be packed up.

Droolworthy ice cream with nutella sauce

The lone dessert on the menu was apom balik but my niece wanted something cold and we ordered Dewberry's layered chocolate ice cream with nutella sauce and biscuit crumble. It was delicious and if you happen to be a chocoholic, you'll be a very happy one by the time you're done with it.

Plenty more on the menu including otak otak, spring rolls, nasi biryaniwantan noodles and a mean chicken rice. Service was good and the crew was quite attentive.

We had a bit of the tussle with the bill and chef won. However, there was a compromise and I can reveal that the menu has 6 starters that cost around Rs 200/ each and 8 main courses that cost around 260/ each. Most of these dishes have vegetarian versions. The prices are quite reasonable and the portions are generous.

Unlike a summer romance, this pop up kitchen will be open for lunch and dinner every Thursday. For more details, do check out Pop-Up by Chef Shivajee on Facebook.

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