Art brunch at Paprika Café


Paprika Café at Courtyard by Marriott was the venue of the Sunday Art Brunch where art and food occupy parallel worlds. From the artist's palette, there's a series of paintings on diverse subjects; the chef expressed his art through food that tempted the palate. A bond had been created, one that filled our senses and tastes with flavour, pleasure for the eye and food for the soul. Symbiosis?

Paintings by Pradeep L Mishra, Madhu Venugopal, K Sudeesh and PP Pradeep were displayed around the lobby and café. My knowledge of art is zilch but Curator Jitha Karthikeyan told me that like food, art was open to interpretation.

Pradeep Mishra and "Living High Hope"

Living High Hope - Pradeep Mishra
Motherland - Pradeep Mishra

Pradeep Mishra explained that the stem of the rose he painted was composed of several layers till the texture and colour was just right, signifying the struggle we go through every day just to survive.

Departure from the Land - K Sudeesh
Island Cherala series - K Sudeesh

Still Life - PP Pradeep

An Antique Piece of Love - Madhu Venugopal 
Ajay with his brews; charcoal burgers

Art appreciation is serious work but Ajay's bartending skills knew how to keep us engaged. He's got some interesting infusions and his version of the Asian gin and tonic with green tea and spices was fab.

Chef Sanjeev Ranjan

Rosemary and cornflake biscuit with mango sphere
Executive Chef Sanjeev Ranjan's food art was one that I could understand much better - innovative salads, cheeses, a stall with black food and the cheong fun stall with fusion fillings was designed to add colour and texture to the palate. The chef was a busy man, giving instructions to his team, putting deft touches to plates and interacting with the guests.


Cheese wheel for pasta; black food


There were some unusual salads and salad pairings. The mascarpone cheese with olive dust that I shared with a friend was mind blowing. Pops of colour from a beautifully cured ceviche presented in mussel shells was definitely what a summer salad is all about - light and zesty.

Spectacular pork belly roast glazed with maple syrup added a subtle sweetness though the crackling didn't quite crackle
Sushi with wasabi discs and black soy caviar

Cheong fun

Chef Paritush's cheong fun stall made paper thin steamed pancakes; stuffings included chicken, prawn, cabbage and mushroom. They're really yummy especially when topped with soya sauce caviar!
Starters and bisque

Paprika's famous cheesy thin crust pizza

Some of the starters were served at the table. Thai salad could have been more piquant but the prawn bisque was phenomenal. Many kitchens tend to overcook the shells leaving a faintly bitter aftertaste but here, it had been beautifully done, imparting a wonderful depth of flavour.

Did you know bamboo biryani originated in the Araku valley?

Art on a plate - main course 

The main course was a neatly frenched lamb chop with glazed carrot, olive dust and black rice. The meat was pink in the middle and super tender. You can have bamboo biryani at the biryani 'shed' and even watch it being removed from the cylinder with a few practiced thumps. However, the Hyderabad biryani won hands down - meaty, flavoursome, and absolutely yummy!

Mango mousse baskets; lemon pie

There's so much more that we just couldn't get around to - pastas, squid ink risotto, wraps, pad Thai and the entire Indian section. That was only because the dessert table was calling out to us. It was laden with mousses, cakes, tarts and pies. The mango mousse in a white chocolate shell was deliciously inviting and the unusually presented lemon pie was awesome. You could confidently take a selfie beside the three-tiered chandelier cake knowing that it would not fall on your head.

Art Brunch at Paprika Café is on for the next 3 Sundays, the last one will be on May 13. The spread is vast and except that a couple of dishes were salty, everything else was remarkable in terms of quality and novelty. Impressive indeed.

Art Brunch is from 12.30 - 4 pm and costs 1699++ and 2299++ per head for the non-alcoholic and alcoholic brunch respectively.

Summer menu at Focaccia, HRC


If you're looking for true Italian food, you'll find it for sure at Focaccia. The Italian restaurant at Hyatt Regency Chennai serves some of the best Italian food in the city. Invited to review the new menu, we were wide eyed as dish after dish made an appearance at our table.

We like it when Chef Mauro Ferrari goes to Italy for a break. Cos we know that when he returns, he brings back new ingredients and new menu ideas to tantalize his diners. Yup, he's done it again!! The menu is perfect for Chennai's summer; the classic dishes are all there and new ones too with lighter interpretations and perfect plating. Yeah, I'm talking about the flowers 😍

Carpaccio di branzino, arcancia, cipollotto, mandrole tostate

Millefoglie di parmiggiano, flan di zucchine al tartufo, crema di carote e formaggio di capra

It's not only Japanese cuisine that has raw fish. Chef Mauro does a sea-bass carpaccio with orange segments and toasted almonds. It's delightfully light and a complete no-carb dish.
Not to be outdone was Parmesan millefeuille, truffle zucchini flan, carrot and goat's cheese cream. The dainty flan was more like a mousse on a sauce of carrot and goat's cheese. Parmesan crisps are studded into the sides of the flan in a spiral. Chef Mauro likes to add a touch of whimsy when he's plating up.

Panzanella, burrata, olive oil & basil; trio of flavoured cheese, dry fruit, apple compote & pear savoury tart

Insalata caprese featured decadent crisp panzanella and creamy burrata; it seems to be the cheese of choice in many restaurants. There was also a trio of cheese balls - feta, goat's cheese and Gorgonzola coated in hazelnuts, pistachio and raisins. We were told to eat them along with the spiced apple compote and a smidgen of balsamic vinegar. I tell ya - there was a party dancing on my taste buds - sweet, salty, spicy, cheesy, crunchy, umami ...did I leave anything out? The pastry of the pear tart was the only thing that didn't quite fit into the scheme of things.

Risotto allo champagne, capesante, riduzione di bisque

Casoncelli verdi all'aragosta fonduta di porri -
green lobster ravioli with leek Parmesan fondue and tempura prawns - so yummy!

Champagne risotto with bisque reduction and scallops was lovely. The creamy rice was so perfectly done, the scallops juicy and the seafood stock - I could drown in that flavour.

Branzino avvolto nelle zucchne, zabaione al pomodoro, verdure saltate

Filletto con riduzione di porcini e vino rosso, patate al bacon e verdue

The fillet of sea bass was wrapped in zucchini ribbons and baked. The meat was moist and the blush pink sabayon a wonderfully creamy accompaniment. There was stiff competition from the melting-ly tender medium-done beef tenderloin and sauce made from porcini mushrooms and red wine reduction, served with mashed potatoes, sautéed zucchini and asparagus.

Zuppa inglese

Meringa alla menta e cioccolato

You just cannot pass up an Italian dessert. Or 2!  It was as if pictures from a food magazine had come to life in front of us. While the zuppa ingeles had chocolate, custard and stewed apples, the mint parfait meringue was exquisite. Delicate crusty meringue, the smoothest of parfaits and raspberry coulis for a touch of zest.

Head on over to Focaccia to taste Chef Mauro's new à la carte menu. And those desserts.
A meal for 2 is about 2500/++.

Fusion Asian at The Flying Elephant


Chef Myo's salmon tataki wrap was rolled up with rocket leaves and cucumber wasabi mayo, the beef carpaccio too had rocket leaves and Parmesan shavings but dressed with a tangy wafu dressing. The strange thing was that this blend of flavours worked.

Chef Myo Zaw Aung

Chef Myo Zaw Aung is from Myanmar. A chef for the last 24 years, and in India for the last few months, he has a pretty good idea of the kind of food his customers like - Asian fusion with a slant towards Japanese and utilising modern cooking methods for sure. Fresh ingredients and fuss free presentation put all the focus on the food and only the food. For our tasting menu, he had chosen to showcase more starters than mains and a mix of both veg and non veg, according to our preferences.
Salmon tataki with rocket leaf, avocado, cucumber wasabi mayo & tobiko

Chef Myo's special beef carpaccio, wafu dressing, rocket leaf & Parmesan

It was definitely the first time I was tasting salmon tataki with rocket leaves and the combo was just wow. Adding more wow was the mild yet numbing cucumber wasabi mayo and crunchy tobiko. By the time the carpaccio came around, I was a fan of this fusion. The wafu dressing with sesame oil paired beautifully with the peppery leaves, cheese and wafer thin slices of meat, essentially an Italian appetiser with a Japanese twist.

Deep-fried sweetcorn with red curry paste & sriracha chilli sauce

Kakiage with chef's special yuzu chilli sauce and unamayo

Biting into the deep fried sweet corn was akin to biting into bubble wrap though of course, this was edible but the red curry paste was barely discernible. The kakiage was better, it had a good mix of shredded vegetables and was crunchy. Yuzu chilli sauce and unamayo drizzled over the top gave it a zesty finish. Both these were paired with sriracha chilli sauce.

Veg rice paper roll with chilli lemon dipping sauce

Vietnamese-style rice paper rolls were filled with sliced salad veggies and strips of watermelons with chilli lemon dipping sauce. Chopped peanuts added the crunch factor and the rolls were light, wonderful to snack on after the previous two dishes.

Sushi platter: salmon; tuna; crabmeat; tamago; sashimi & nigiri with fusion makimono 

Cajun soft shell crab with wasabi mayo & togarashi

Chef Myo's sushi platter had salmon, tuna, tamago sushi and assorted makimono. It was a good variety and the freshness of the seafood was definitely a plus point. The parade of starters ended with Cajun soft shell crab with togarashi, where I thought the flavour of the crab was a little off.

Grilled Australian lamb chop with red wine miso and pistachio

Marinated deep-fried prawn with panko

Baked baby chicken with miso and soya

The red wine miso on the lamb chop was an unusual flavour pairing but it was the baked chicken that stole the show. A whole little chicken that had been boned, marinated in soya sauce and mirin and grilled. The charred bits were fantastic, the meat so tender. Served with pickled ginger and more soy, the flavours were truly delightful. 

Dragon fruit soup with lychee and lemon sorbet

More than the elements of the dessert, the presentation was the showstopper. Dragon fruit halves filled with chopped fruit and a light syrup, lychees and a scoop of lemon sorbet under a spun sugar cage. As the sorbet melted, it added zestiness to the "soup". Wow!!

Chef Myo's Asian Food Festival is on only till April 22nd and only for dinner. The menu is à la carte and is about 3500/++ for two.

For reservations, do call +91  8939871109.

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

Pulling wires at the Wire Room


Walk into the Wire Room and your eyes will be drawn to the ceiling. All you see are wires and even more wires that crisscross each other which will keep your eyes riveted (pun intended) to them.

Spools and weights

Plumb bobs and wires

Illuminated carvings

"Madras checks"

Design Hotel Chennai by jüSta lives up to its name. Right from the entrance, up the lift and to the corridor leading to the rooms, there are textures and designs on the walls. However, it's the newly renovated Wire Room Bar + Kitchen that evokes the most interest. 20 kms of copper wires run across the ceiling and down to the floor, making the famous "Madras checks" pattern. The ceiling is covered with painted wood shavings and plumb bobs hang down like fat metal raindrops. Spools hold weights, each spool holds 6 weights each weighing 1.5 kilos and it's these weights that keep the wires that run across the room taut. Behind the bar counter is a series of carvings that are lighted up and enclosed in glass, intensifying the sense of depth.

Cushioned seating is arranged around each table and the DJ spins tracks at the console. I'm still mesmerised by the wires when Karthick, Wire Room's Associate Head of Business and Operations tells me that they need to tighten the wires every two months to prevent them from slackening.   

The DJ and his console

Taste of nostalgia - thaen mittai; ginger chips & sliced mango


Magzhchi and a familiar face

The decor is not the only thing representative of Madras. From the names and ingredients in the cocktails to some of the food, there are touches of whimsy, nostalgia and fusion in the menu that started with a plate of thaen mittai, mango slices sprinkled with chilli powder and salt and then ginger chips. Karthick revealed that with his background in mixology, he has designed the cocktail menu and suggested Covealong for me, a mix of whisky and panneer soda. A lovely cold, cold drink that helped to quench my thirst and cool some of the gingery heat. My friend's Less Old Fashioned was a twist on the Old Fashioned with maple syrup, smoke and drama! He also had a Marina Mule with vodka and nanari while I tried Magzhchi - gin with ginger, karupatti and egg white. One look at it and I'm sure you'll figure out how it got its moniker!

Galouti Shots

Executive Chef Mir Hafizur Raheman's food menu is quite delicious. He calls them Galouti Shots, put one of those kebabs into your mouth and they'll just melt without any effort. Deft spicing, superfine meat and the almost biscuit-y ulte tawa ka paratha make it so memorable.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

If you like quinoa, you'll flip for the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. The coloured stack has a layer of mashed avocado over the top and topped with salad greens and pea sprouts. Blue pearls jazz up the plating. Definitely a well balanced dish, if you know what I mean!

Cilantro pesto and harissa prawns...spicy!

Tikka taster platter

Harissa and Cilantro Pesto Prawns are big and juicy and the harissa paste is deliciously spicy.
The Tikka Taster has 5 kinds of kebabs on a platter, nice but no wow factor. 

Surf & Turf

Surf and Turf was the main course with large, juicy prawns and medium done steak. Accompaniments were asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy in a toy sized pressure cooker. The meat was juicy with a faint hint of rosemary. The portion was generous enough for the two of us to share.

Chocolate Marquise & lime sorbet

Chocolate chilli baked yoghurt

We tried 2 desserts, absolutely loved the dense and flavourful Chocolate Marquise. The lime sorbet  was certainly very refreshing. If you're not too fond of chocolate, there's Chocolate Chilli Baked Yoghurt with a chilli-studded chocolate disc that toned down the overall sweetness. The little gulab jamun that sat in a chocolate cup was a nice touch.

Just in case you're wondering where the Design Hotel is, it's at Phoenix MarketCity. Cocktails at Wire Room are about 600/++ each and a meal for 2 people would come to about 1400/++.

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