The tale of Kappa Chakka Kandhari

When toddy shop cuisine [sic] gets a makeover, the result is what is served at Kappa Chakka Kandhari. The name of the newest restaurant in town translates into three ingredients grown in almost every Kerala backyard - tapioca, jackfruit and bird's eye chilli.

The KCK team: John Paul, Chef Regi Mathew, Augustine Kurian

Fronted by Chef Regi Mathew, Augustine Kurian and John Paul, the restaurant at Haddows Road serves "neo-stalgic" food, the food that reminds many Keralites of their mom's cooking but with a modern, hygienic interpretation. The three men grew up in Kerala; when they settled down in this city, missed their moms' food so much. It is a fact that once out of Kerala, it is difficult to enjoy a proper Kerala meal in a restaurant setting in Chennai. So they did the next best thing - decided to start their own. But before that, they spent 3 years familiarising themselves with the cuisine which involved travelling around Kerala and going into the kitchens of many a home cook to learn the specialities and nuances of food of these regions.

Watch out for this signage on Haddows Road!
Refreshing buttermilk

Eco friendly too - clay water bottles on each table

All the ingredients that are used at KCK come from Kerala and the food is made by home-cooks and cooked in small batches so as to replicate that home-made flavour and keep it authentic. It may be time consuming but they have the integrity down pat! It's something that I can vouch for as the beef curry we tasted was just like what my aunt used to make.

From top left: fried kozhuva (Indian anchovies); fried yam; kakka irachi; koorka ularthiyathu

While I am familiar with the cuisine of South Kerala, my niece is very knowledgeable about the food of the North Kerala-Malabar region and other places like Allepey, Palghat and Trichur so I got a quick lesson in the differences in the ingredients and cooking styles of these regions. What's nice is that the food is served tapas-style - small servings and plenty of variety. The coconut shell serving spoons put us right into the mood. The flavour that coconut oil adds to all the dishes is truly the taste of home. The starters in small plates came in quick succession.

One of KCK's signature dishes - boiled tapioca with kandhari chutney - awesome!

Tapioca bajjis
Idiyirachi - dried and pounded meat

Unda puttu (savoury kozhukatta) with a gingery mushroom filling

Unexpected pairing - beef curry with banana fritter

Kanji payar with pappadam and chamanthi

Steamed prawn and coconut parcels

Soft Ramaserri idlis with sambar

For mains, there are kappa, pathiri, vattappam or the famous Ramaserri idlis that are served steaming hot along with sambar, beef or chicken curry. They even have a cook from Ramaserri and all he does is make those idlis!

Pazham sharbath flavoured with sarsaparilla

Parippu payasam; ada pradhaman; chakka ice cream

Desserts were ada pradhaman and parippu payasam. Both were delicious but we were floored when they served us kandhari ice cream. Flecks of fresh, wickedly red kandhari chillies had been churned into the ice cream. We tasted it in trepidation and luckily, are still alive to tell the tale

Well, we had tried kappa and kandhari in the tasting menu so we asked the team how come they left out chakka. They probably expected that question because in no time, we had bowls of jackfruit ice cream in front of us. And let me tell you, that was simply stunning. Smooth creamy ice cream studded with bits of fresh jackfruit. Sheer bliss!

The KCK team were busy but made the time to talk to us on what made them decide to start the restaurant. John Paul's story involved a mysterious flight with Augustine to Kochi, a visit to a particular toddy shop there and other intriguing details. Alas, we had to promise to reveal no more.

Kappa Chakka Kandhari is at No. 10, Haddows Road, Nungambakkam. They are open from 10 am - 11 pm. Call 044 28201010 for reservations.

Kakka irachi


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