South Indian flavours at Aadhirai

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At Aadhirai, anything that is served in a glass is worth relishing. The panagam granita is fabulous, the karupatti coconut even more so and the rosemilk is to die for. Even the desserts are served in cutting chai glasses.

The restaurant is housed in a beautifully preserved 80 year old building at Nungambakkam. And since it was once a residence, the seating area is spread over a couple of rooms on the ground floor and there's more on the 1st floor including one called the Buddha Room that has a beautiful mural. 

A beautiful brass knocker; old fashioned room layout; a painted window; the mural

Red oxide floors, slatted windows and old fashioned but beautifully polished teak furniture give the space a rustic feel. At one time, this property was known as Mango Tree, (there is majestic mango tree that stands tall in the compound) but ever since The Mad Chef aka Kaushik Shankar took over as chef consultant, Aadhirai has positioned itself as an authentic South Indian restaurant with a few twists thrown in, just for fun!

Dagamukti; panagam granita; karupetti coconut milkshake; rose milk

It would be a shame if you asked for plain drinking water because they have dagamukti and jeera water (served warm) and cucumber water. These flavoured waters help with digestion and have a host of other benefits. My dagamukti, made with pathi mukam, nannari and vetiver was the colour of a golden sunset. The panagam granita, laden with jaggery and dry ginger was absolutely sensational. Coconut milk and palm sugar is a standard pairing in many Asian desserts but the karupetti coconut milkshake was something else. Why was the rosemilk special? Because the humble beetroot was used for colouring it and no, there was absolutely no taste of the beet. What it did have instead was cubes of pink agar agar, a natural coolant.   

Chef Kaushik

Vadams & tomato thokku; garlic dip; mirapakaya pachadi; avakai mayo with bits of mango pickle

Playing the perfect host, The Mad Chef and the service crew explained the details of each dish as it was served. The complimentary starter of vadams came with 4 dips. We kept asking for refills of the tomato thokku and garlic dip because they were perfect with every one of the starters, especially the loaded yam nachos which came with its own topping.

Loaded yam nachos

English kai kari vepudu

Cauliflower 2019

Karuvepilli paneer

After batter frying the English veggies, they were dusted with Andhra paruppu podi, coating them in a carpet of spicy lentil powders. The vegetables had been cooked soft so there was no crunch to them. Cauliflower 2019 is a deep fried version and thankfully without the lurid orange colour and tossed in onion and garlic butter. Karuvepillai paneer, quite the star of the evening, was cottage cheese fingers finished off in curry leaf powder. The flavour of ghee was aromatic and satiating.

Mirapakaya kodi

It's interesting how ghee tones down the spiciness of green chilli paste (mirapakaya). Lavishly coated on the chunks of chicken, we didn't even break into a sweat. The chicken is on the bone that adds to the flavour and is a little messy to eat. At this point, we were told to ditch the cutlery and eat with our fingers.
  
Madurai mutton chukka

Kozhi kaal nei roast

Ghee kept making its appearance. It was there in the Madurai mutton chukka with boneless chunks of meat and is so delicious. The spices had mellowed down in the long, slow cook which also leaves the meat very tender. It was also there in the kozhi kaal nei roast, perhaps the southern version of tangdi kebab, and is equally delish. 

Prawn ghee roast

Prawn ghee roast is a perfect fusion of South Indian style roast prawns served on sheermal. The bread was almost crisp, microgreens not only add to the prettiness but packed a hit of pungency.

Puliogarai uppu kari

The combination of tangy puliogarai and the mildly spice uppu kari was nice. What was even nicer was that the meat had thick gravy that coated it which in turn, moistened the rice sufficiently. Here, too, the meat is on the bone.

From right - pomegranate payasam; kubani ka meetha; salted caramel akkaravadisal;
falooda; karupatti pannacotta; coconut souffle

Dessert was served in cutting chai glasses which is a smart exercise in portion control. Kubani ka meetha and the falooda were my favourites. Cold and perfectly sweet.

Aadhirai is at 31, Jambulingam Street, Pushpa Nagar, Nungambakkam.

Kamarkattu in a box
*This was an invited review 

Utsav at Hamsa

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Many, many moons ago, during the season of Lent, my dad took us to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant run by Buddhists. There were predictable groans from us kids (!!), a completely vegetarian meal was not something we would have chosen but there was no negotiating with Dad once he decided on something. To cut a long story short, we staggered out of the restaurant after that meal - it was about the best meal that we had ever had. Even now, I remember what I liked about it - each dish was composed of several vegetables, the integrity of each vegetable was maintained and there was a cohesiveness in the whole.

The charming young lady who invited me to Utsav at Hamsa asked me why I was not too confident of reviewing a vrat meal. The Buddhist meal came to mind, so, on the appointed day, I found myself at the Gandhinagar restaurant.

Navaratri, or Durga Puja, is an auspicious Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil. It also marks the approach of winter; people observe a nine day fast to prepare for the change in climate, sattvik food is the norm as it helps to detoxify the body.

Utsav is Hamsa's way of celebrating Navaratri. It's a time of vrat (fasting) and it tests the cook's ingenuity in coming up with dishes that are vegetarian (of course), and with no onion, ginger or garlic. Sattvik food is naturally grown food and absolutely no processed ingredients are used. Fresh and seasonal ingredients come into play which include millets, water chestnut, both as vegetable and flour, buckwheat, sago and nuts.

Celebrity chef, Rakesh Raghunathan has curated a menu that incorporates these ingredients. It would be gluten-free, nutritionally balanced, rich in antioxidants and light on the stomach, he promised. The dishes are based on recipes from Maharashtra, UP, Bengal, Jharkhand and Gujarat.

 

But first, Hamsa's little filigree bell has to be opened. Inside, there is a little gulab jamun that has become the restaurant's signature amuse-bouche. A traditional Indian meal starts with a sweet.

Sabudhana moongphalli thalipeeth; kuttu aur paneer ki kachori; shakarkandi tuk chaat; singhare aloo tikki

The sago was chewy, the peanuts were... well... nutty. The size of a small pancake, sabudana moongphalli thalipeeth is an interesting combination of textures. Green chilli thecha added a measure of spiciness. Singhare and aloo tikki was a little patty made with water chestnut flour and potato. Both the mint chutney and tomato, date and raisin chutneys were perfect for these little tikkis. The buckwheat pastry crust of kuttu aur paneer ki kachori, was short, crisp and light. Deep fried slices of sweet potato formed the base of Shakarkandi tuk chaat which was then layered with paneer, yogurt and sweet chutney. Chaat masala brought about balance of sweet and savoury.

Mathura aloo

Paneer shahi gulabi; dahiwale singhare ki subzi; annanas ki subzi

Mathura aloo, one of the curries in the main course, is a very homely dish; dry mango powder adding a slight tang to the mashed potato gravy. Pineapples help in digestion and annanas ki subzi was my favourite. Cubes of it were cooked in a thick coconut gravy and the tempering was sufficient to not overpower neither the fruit nor the gravy. Sliced water chestnuts rather than whole ones in dahiwale singhare ki sabzi might have worked better in the spiced yoghurt gravy. For a touch of the exotic, there's paneer shahi gulabi. Dried rose petals and almonds had been stuffed into cottage cheese slices and cooked in a cashewnut gravy. What appealed was the crunch of nuts.

Kuttu aloo paratha; singhare & kuttu puri

Both breads were very good. Kuttu aloo paratha, stuffed with mashed potato, was crisp yet soft though the filling was barely perceptible. Dark brown and puffed up beautifully, singhare and kuttu puri, made with a mix of water chestnut and buckwheat flours, were served hot. Being gluten free, it did not have the slight elasticity that wheat-based puris have. It was slightly greasy but was the perfect accompaniment to the gravies.
     
Vrat ka pulao

Vrat ka pulao, made with saamai (little millet) did look like it had been made with rice. It has loads of fiber and does taste a little nutty. Peppercorns, cumin seeds and nuts added to the flavours. Ghee gave it richness and it was good enough to eat it by itself. 

Mewa ki kheer; sitaphal basundi

Sitaphal basundi had the pulp of custard apples cooked along with milk into a porridge-like consistency. I found it rather sweet and thick. Mewa ki kheer, on the other hand was much lighter in consistency, not too sweet  and had a good amount of nuts for texture. Fox nuts were a welcome addition.

As promised, the meal was  gluten-free, nutritionally balanced, rich in antioxidants and light on the stomach. And enjoyable!

Utsav by Hamsa is on till October 29th and all the vrat dishes can be ordered from the à la carte menu, both for lunch and dinner.

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

Oktoberfest 8 at Hyatt Regency Chennai

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Checked blue and white tablecloths and striped tents, wursts and beer mean only one thing - it's Oktoberfest once again. It's Season 8 and the party is at 365 A.S.

Exec Chef Hermann

The tradition of "breaking the barrel" was done by German Consul General Karin Stoll. Executive Chef Hermann Grossbichler from Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty and his team cooked up a veritable feast. Luckily, everyone brought along their appetites for food and fun and with foot tapping German folk music playing, it was an extremely spirited evening.


Beer

Cheeses; mushroom stew that had everyone raving; cannellini bean&shrimp salad; spinach spaetzli; potato   

The pretzel tree!

More breads

Wursts on the grill

Pork schnitzel

Roast potatoes & sweet potatoes 

Blond beer roasted chicken ...so very good!

The star of the evening - roast pork knuckle with sauerkraut



Cheeses, plentiful salads and an array of breads had been laid out. There was mushroom stew, beer roasted chicken and spinach spaetzli and sausages grilled to perfection. Along with a selection of German beers, it all made for an awesome combination. But the star of the evening was the roasted pork knuckle. Well marinated and beautifully roasted, everyone raved about it.

And then, there it was - the train dance! 

Apfelstrudel; black forest; berliner; rote grutze; sacher torte; kaiserschmarrn

Berliners are doughnuts without holes and it was a nice addition to the dessert selection. We also got to sample the black forest cake and kaiserschmarrn with plum compote.

Oktoberfest is on till October 6th and it's recommended that you make a reservation. It's priced at 1599/++ for buffet with soft beverages and 2299/++ for buffet with German beer.

Hyatt Regency Chennai
91 44 6100 1234.



Oktoberfest Vintage Bank style

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Hilton Chennai kicked off Oktoberfest 2019 in the city with a festive launch party. The hotel chain is celebrating its 100th year while Oktoberfest, as everyone knows, has been happening since 1810!



Mr. Ruban Das, GM of Hilton welcomed us and then, Deputy Counsel General of Germany, Mr. Wegener gave us a few stats - last year's Oktoberfest at Munich attracted more than 6 million visitors. As for the food, 500,000 chickens and 25,000 kilos of fish were consumed, along with 6.6 billion glasses of beer. It took us all a while to digest that!!

Mr. Wegener & Mr. Das

This is the 2nd year that the hotel is celebrating the Bavarian beer and sausage festival. Beer barrels took centre stage, the familiar blue and white checked tablecloths at the Vintage Bank adorned tables on which stood jars of mustard and other condiments.


Mr. Wegener tapped the barrel open and to cheers and cries of "O'Zapft", the golden brew flowed into waiting glasses.

Beer in a bottle

Tankard & stein

The beer came in bottles, pilsner glasses, tankards and steins. The wheat beers are particularly nice and went fabulously well with the food. Have you seen pictures of the waitresses in the beer tents carrying 6 steins (1 stein =1 litre) of beer in each hand? Err...some of us needed 2 hands just to lift up a stein!! 

Pretzels, potatoes and mash

More mashed potatoes

The best wursts!

All this plate needs is some mustard!
Pretzels


5 kinds of wursts were being served hot off the grills. Accompanying them were mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, corn on the cob and baked potatoes. And of course, pretzels and rolls.

The beer menu

German folk music played while the more enthusiastic folks sang along.

Ein Prosit!

On till the 6th of October, The Vintage Bank is the venue for Oktoberfest and at Q Bar on Wednesdays. Timings are from 7 - 11 pm.
Do call +91 9600669107 for reservations.

*This was an invited review 

Masterclass with Maestros @Sheraton Grand Chennai

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Sheraton Grand Chennai had organised an informative baking session with their pastry chefs. We were an eager bunch of participants, all ready to learn the secrets, tips and tricks of making Classic chocolate brownies; Chocolate chip cookies; Peanut butter cookies; Chocolate textures and a Classic tiramisu.

Here are scenes from the class:

Exec Chef Mukesh & Chef Rajesh

Mis en place

Portioning the brownie mix into the moulds. Definitely a fun job!

Shaping chocolate chip cookies

Choco chip dough before baking

Shaping peanut butter cookies

All ready to be baked

Melting chocolate for chocolate textures
Textures ready to be filled into shot glasses

Eggs getting whipped while the syrup reaches temp for tiramisu

Bountiful table with tiramisu, chocochip cookies, brownies & peanut butter cookies

All prettied up - chocolate textures in a shotglass

A colourful lunch spread
After the class, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch. 

Red cherry crumble tart

Chocolate gateau

More such masterclasses are in the pipeline and if you want to know the schedule for future classes, do follow their page, Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa.

 
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