Imbibing Southern Aromas at The Residency Towers


The lobby of The Residency Towers is always a busy place but Southern Aromas, the South Indian specialty restaurant of the hotel is tucked away in a quiet corner and does not call attention to itself. It doesn't need to as it is popular among folks who know that this is one of the best places in the city to have a typical South Indian meal.

Actor Parthiban

Releasing the new menu

The occasion was the launch of the restaurant's new menu by Chef Damu and actor Parthiban last Sunday. The man of the moment was Chef Deena Dalayan who has put together a menu that is representative of the southern states of India.

The Chettinad-inspired restaurant with pillars and tiles and dark furniture

Chef Deena Dayalan

Chatting with the chef who reeled off a list of dishes and their provenance, I learnt that the food of this region has always been what he was interested in cooking. All through the meal, he kept popping by to know if we were enjoying the food.

Panakkam; fish fried with herbs & spices; lentil & banana cutlet; yeral nilgiri perattai 

Panakkam was served first and it was delicious, its mild sweetness perfect for toning down the hits of spice. Starters comprised yeral nilgiri perattai - largesucculent prawns cooked in the restaurant's signature spice mix that had a thick masala which clung to the prawns and was cooked to perfection; neikarapatti vazhakkai vadai - lentil and green banana cutlets had a crisp crust and a filling that was smooth to the bite and idicha malli milagu vanjaram varuval - large, thin slices of seer fish coated with a green paste and grilled. It had a faint taste of rasam, and that was not surprising as the ingredient list was similar. The fish was quite salty, a bit of a let down.

More starters - chicken 65; yam chips

Tawa-fried snapper

A whole red snapper, this fellow still had his teeth on him! It had been tawa fried, the curry paste that coated it was delish. This is not on the menu though.

Brain porichathu -lamb brain cooked with spices and shallots

There is a first time for everything and this was the first time I was having brain fry. When this dish came around, I politely declined but curiosity got the better of me. My dining companion told me it would taste like soft eggs, yes, I guess that is how I would describe the texture.  But that masala - oh man - you've got to taste it to believe it!

Royalla vepudu

For the main course, we ordered appam and royallu vepudu. The appam had a crisp base, and tasted faintly like a dosa, I guess it had been fermented with lentil paste and not yeast. As for the Andhra-style prawns, cooked with shallots and flavoured with fennel powder, it was spicy yet finger-licking good, a wonderful accompaniment to the appams.

Kappa meen curry

The tasting was going pretty well till we decided to order the kappa meen curry. Tapioca and fish curry is a staple dish across Kerala where cooked, mashed and tempered tapioca is served with a fiery red fish curry. Southern Aromas' version was disappointing - the tapioca had been cut into tiny cubes but the fish curry, though delicious, tasted like kulambu, replete with plenty of chopped onions, garlic and the unmistakable flavour of tamarind rather than kokum. A mix up, most probably.  

Lamb biryani

The lamb biryani was fragrant and mildly spiced, though a tad too salty. The meat was very well done, falling of the bone. It was served with a simple raita.

Baked gulab jamun; elaneer payasam

Dessert was a portion of baked gulab jamun. Described as milk dumpling layered with creamy cheese, it looked more like a cheesecake but it wasn't tangy and tasted very ordinary though the jamuns were nice. The tender coconut payasam was served deliciously cold and had shreds of coconut meat, just the thing to cool down with after a spicy meal though I did wish it had been made with fresh coconut milk.  

A few hiccoughs but on the whole, the meal at Southern Aromas is a very pleasant dining experience. They do have thalis, both veg and non veg and a lot of other dishes South India is famous for. If you do go there for dinner, there will be live Indian music as well. A meal for 2 should be around 2000/++.

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

Lombardy Food Festival - tasting Lombardy @ HRC


The 4th largest region in Italy and its capital is Milan - home of fashion, food, finance and entertainment. This is Lombardy, hometown of the very genial chef-de-cuisine, Chef Mauro Ferrari of Hyatt Regency Chennai. Invited to savour some of Lombardy's specialties at Focaccia, a bit of reading beforehand revealed that Lombardy is well known for risotto, polenta, various meats and butter. Also cheeses like Gorgonzola, mascarpone and dried fruit like raisins and candied peel. Not tomato, though.

We started the meal with a very pleasant Allegrini Valpolicella, a fruity wine that was the colour of dark cherry and had a temperament to match. It went very well with all the courses that were served.

Insalata de pere e Gorgonzola

Our very first course, a pear and Gorgonzola salad was an explosion of flavours that featured Gorgonzola cheese and pear sticks. Beautifully plated, acidity from the drizzle of balsamic vinegar and the sweet and sour crispness of pear did tone down the strong taste of the cheese and is a classic pairing. Plumped up raisins added a lovely finish to the dish.

Milanese di pesca in carpione leggero

Fish in Lombardy is the freshwater kind, we had crumb coated and fried perch. A carpione marinade of pickled carrot and onions was placed on it, infusing the fish with a subtle tangy flavour and moistening the crumb coat. More raisins added delightful sweetness. Served on a bed of lettuce which did nothing much for the dish, it was finished with a drizzle of the freshest extra virgin olive oil.

Bigne con fonduta e tartufo

Polenta fritters with cheese fondue was simply exquisite. Shavings of black truffle lent a dark earthiness, enhancing the umami taste of both fungus and cheese.

Tagliatelle con funghi e tartufo nero

Can anything taste better that home made pasta? Chef Mauro's yellow tagliatelli was springy, cooked to al dente perfection. Lashings of oil, butter and generosity of black truffle shavings took it to another level and it was another exquisite presentation.  

Conchiglie or shell pasta with sage and vegetables

Risotto con il persico

A slice of fried perch atop a bed of lemon risotto and balanced on it a sprig of fried sage; while the fish was delicious, the risotto was a bit of a let down as it lacked depth, the only combination that didn't quite work that night.    


The star of the evening was without a doubt the meatballs with red onion and cheese fondue. Mondeghilli is supposedly a peasant dish - lucky peasants! Crisp outside, slightly pink meat in the middle, served on a bed of onion jam and topped with cheese fondue, the sheer chemistry of flavours was mind boggling.

Apple pie; poached pear; amaretti with mascarpone

A trio of desserts comprising a slice of apple pie, poached pear and amaretti biscuits with mascarpone cheese brought the meal to the end. There are apple pies and apple pies but Chef Mauro's version with custard and apple slices was superb.

Chef Mauro

Some exotic and not so exotic ingredients, mastery of technique and beautiful presentation - that's what the Lombardy Food Festival is about. We were given a choice of main courses so it will be a good idea to ask Chef Mauro for his recommendation. A meal for 2, without alcohol would be around 3500/++.  

The Lombardy Food Festival is on till Sunday October 23rd, 2016.

Hyatt Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai.

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

Fine chocolates by Hamsa Handmade


Hamsa, the fine dining restaurant at Adyar, was the venue for the recent launch of a brand new product - artisanal chocolates.

A tasting and appreciation session was organised for a group of us bloggers in the plush settings of the restaurant and the session was conducted by L.Nitin Chordia of Cocoatrait. Nitin is India's only certified chocolate taster; I have attended some of his chocolate lectures and marvel at the way his passion for theobroma cacao rubs off onto his listeners with each telling. Hamsa Handmade has been curated by Cocoatrait.

Good chocolate is a mixture of cocoa solids, cocoa butter (not vegetable oil), sugar and milk, as in the case of milk and white chocolate. Nuts, dried fruit and flavourings are optional.

Seven chocolates were being introduced, but before that, Nitin took us through the regions where cacao is grown and the delicious process by which a cacao pod is transformed into the end product - either a bar of chocolate or cocoa powder.

Artisanal chocolates by Hamsa Handmade

Our first tasting was a single origin 65%  plain bar made from beans grown in Venezuela. We were instructed to place the piece of chocolate on the tongue and to allow it to melt without biting it. As it melted, we were asked to list out what we could taste... bitterness, fruitiness, acidity.

A sip of water was necessary to cleanse the palate before tasting the next bar. A single origin 64% bar from Madagascar topped with Canadian cranberries and Himalayan pink salt, it had bitterness from the cacao, slight tartness from the berries but everything was perfectly balanced by the sprinkle of salt.

Dark milk was what we were given to taste next. With 55% cacao content, it was a mix of South American and African beans and topped with pieces of roasted American pistachios. This one is definitely for nut lovers as the pistachios were beautifully roasted and generously scattered over the top.  American blueberries and cashewnuts from Mangalore topped a 53% bar, again a South American/ African blend. If dark chocolate is not your cup of tea and you find  regular milk chocolate too milky, both the 55% and 53% dark milk will be better choices. These bars have the characteristic acidity, fruitiness and bitterness of dark chocolate but are more palatable.

Tasting chocolates: dark 65%; 64%; dark milk 55%; 53%; milk 38% with roasted almonds and hazelnuts 

Two milk chocolates to taste - a 38% blend of African beans topped with roasted American almonds. A sprinkle of rock salt was perfect to cut down on the sweetness and the almonds were a delightful addition though I did find the chocolate was a little grainy. The other 38% bar from the same region, was smoother on the palate and had Turkish hazelnuts as topping. I could taste just a hint of coffee and Nitin explained that it was due to the roasting of the hazelnut.

White chocolate infused with Spanish saffron 

There's nothing that I like better than a bar of white chocolate and that's because I'm not a chocolate snob. This creamy white bar was filled with the aroma of Spanish saffron, strands of saffron decorated the top and the combination of flavours was smooth and sophisticated.

We also learnt that chocolates should be stored in a cool place like a bedroom cupboard and not in the fridge. A good chocolate has to be enjoyed at room temperature, allowed to melt slowly on the tongue.

As of now, these chocolate bars are available at Hamsa and are priced between Rs. 200 - 300/-

A cup of masala tea and spicy chilli bhajjis - the perfect end to the tasting session

40, B. Ramachandra Adithanar Road
Gandhinagar, Adyar 600020.
044 24459999

Dawat E Lucknow @ Park Hyatt Chennai


The galouti kebab was finally in front of us. Hot off the tawa, the light pink lamb patty had a slightly reddish, crisp crust. A fork was all that was needed to tease apart a small piece and it melted in the mouth. Chef Rehman had incorporated quite a number of other ingredients into it (the list can go up to way over 100, I learnt) but as he explained, the hallmark of a good Lucknowi dish is the right balance of ingredients. Well, none of us were toothless that night and it was the clearly the winning dish of the evening.

Chef Rehman

Chef Rehman is descended from a family of khansamas; with more than 15 years of experience, no cooking school has taught this knowledgeable chef the nuances and intricacies of royal Awadhi cuisine. He and his partner run Kitchenett-E-Awadh, specialising in Kashmiri, Rampuri, Hyderabadi, Awadhi and North-West Frontier cuisines. He is also developing an entirely vegetarian menu to show that this cuisine, while maintaining its authenticity, need not necessarily be a meat-based one. His clientele includes industrialists and Bollywood stars, yet he was humble enough to ask us for feedback about the food at the end of the meal.

At the 10 day Dawaat E Lucknow festival at Park Hyatt Chennai, the chef is showcasing some of the best recipes in his repertoire. We were invited for a tasting session and I quite liked the menu he had prepared for us - varied yet not heavy.

Chowk ki tikki

Paneer peeli mirch tikka

Chowk ki-tikki was a potato patty stuffed with green pea masala. The grated potato added texture, along with shah jeera and desiccated coconut, quite a change from the usual mashed tuber covering. A bit of mint chutney was all it needed to elevate it to the next level. Paneer peeli mirch tikka was a yellow fellow. The cottage cheese squares were soft, slightly charred around the edges which gave it a smoky aftertaste and there were bits of heat from the yellow chilli powder.

Murgh tikka mirza hasnu

Murgh tikka mirza hasnu comprised of super tender pieces of chicken marinated in a number of spices and ingredients and grilled to perfection, yet the meat was moist. What was amazing was that again, no one ingredient stood out, rather they blended together perfectly.

Roti; lagan ka murgh; steamed rice; nawabi paneer kurma

Our main course was lagan ka murgh and nawabi paneer kurma. While the latter was ordinary, a little too tangy for me, the chicken was simply delightful. The meat was tender and the gravy had been thickened with cashewnut paste. Flecks of green from fenugreek leaves only added to the beautiful blend of spices and pastes and the comforting flavour of ghee was soul satisfying. Perhaps this is blasphemy but I would have loved it even more if the meat was boneless. Plain steamed rice and tandoori rotis were the accompaniments.


Dessert was chukander-e-afroz, otherwise known as beetroot halwa. Served warm, I liked that the beetroot had not been cooked to death; it still had plenty of bite and the chunks of pistachios and desiccated coconut added body to an otherwise simple dish.

Dawat E Lucknow is on from 14th to 23rd October at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt Chennai. Lunch buffet is priced at 1250/++, dinner buffet at 1450/++ where guests can have the experience of dining like the royals. A la carte is also on offer.

For reservations, do call 044 71771234/ 044 7177 1305.

Park Hyatt Chennai
39, Velachery Main Road (near Raj Bhavan)
Chennai 600032.

Galouti kebab

  • Bake Tales © 2012