Maharashtrian flavours at Ayna

If it's a homely Maharashtrian meal you've been longing to have, do head on over to the Hilton Chennai. Chef Nagarjun Kamble from the Conrad Pune is in town with a stock of spices and masalas to give us the true taste of the flavours from his home state.

Chef Kamble

As you enter Ayna, take a look at the photographs that hang at the entrance. There's nothing like a touch of nostalgia to accompany this kind of food.

Kokum sherbet; mattha

Two very welcome drinks, kokum sherbet and mattha with bondi, gave us respite from the searing summer temperatures. Both were served cold and were very refreshing.

Chutney platter

A typical meal begins with a platter of chutneys. The combination of coarsely pounded green chillies, garlic and groundnuts in the techa looked like it could burn our mouths but it was actually quite mild. Each of the dry chutneys, made of groundnut, sesame or dry coconut, tasted different, and were a wonderful accompaniment to the starters.
Sabudana wada

Kothimbir wadi

Mutton che sukke

The sabudana (sago) wadas were a riot  of textures with a crisp crust, chewy sago and bits of groundnuts flavoured with mild spices and served with a sweet yoghurt sauce. The little nuggets of Kothimbir wadi too were well made and had the lingering flavour of coriander leaves. Mutton che sukke, made with tender cubes of mutton, was coated with a thick masala. Tawa surmai was a large slice of king fish coated with masala and fried. It tasted different from the usual south Indian fish masala and the chef revealed that it was the variety of chilli that gave it that unique taste. 

Maharashtrian starters

This is poli, a flatbread layered with ghee. Don't ask me to pronounce it.

Main courses: Mutton kala rassa; bharlee wangi; shenga bhindi; kombdi cha rassa; Malwani zinga.
Indian breads include poli, puri and thalipeeth

The main courses were a good representation of regional Maharashtrian cooking. Mutton kala rassa, a speciality of the heartland, had been cooked into a rich, almost black coloured curry. The meat was tender and the gravy had a familiar flavour and a slight bitterness that is customary. A sprig of dill garnished the dish. One of the ingredients in the masala is the black stone flower (kalpasi). Brinjal is not one of my favourite vegetables but the bharlee wangi was so unusual that I did not mind trying it. The gravy had been thickened with coarse-ground peanut and it was delightful.  Groundnuts are a common ingredient in Maharashtrian food and the shenga bhindi too had coarsely pounded nuts and other spices in a very simple and homely dish, a nod to the chef's style of cooking. I've had several versions of the famous Kohlapuri chicken but the kombdi cha rassa with its wickedly red gravy, was super. It was spicy too, but not the type of heat that makes your eyes water and nose run. And of course, there was Malwani zinga from the coastal region. The prawns were large and succulent, the gravy, rich and coconut-ty. Both thalipeeth, made with multigrain flour, and the puri were great for mopping up the gravies but the poli was rather tough. 

Bharlee wangi; shenga bhindi

Masale bhat, similar to a veg biryani and very fragrant

Aamkhand; aamras; puran poli

The aamkhand on the dessert platter was rich and creamy. Aamras, on the other hand, needed to be made with a sweeter variety of mango. The puran poli, served hot, was perfect, especially when dipped into the aamkhand.

'Flavours of Maharashtra at Ayna' is on till May 24th and served at both lunch and dinner. The menu is à la carte.
Do call +9198401 02453 for reservations.

*This was an invited review 


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