South Indian flavours at Aadhirai



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 

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