Monday, April 25, 2016

RWI Preview - Dakshin - Crowne Plaza, Alwarpet

As a part of the ongoing restaurant week celebrations, I was invited to preview the offering from a given list of restaurants encompassing different cuisines and outlets of most leading five star hotels. I chose Dakshin for three reasons:

1. For the heritage value of the restaurant and its long history
2. The cuisine - it is one I enjoy and appreciate best
3. The restaurant has been on my hitlist for a very long time (had reserved it for a special occasion and maybe I never considered any occasion for special enough in recent times). 

I took my cousin brother along and we were privileged to have the company of Sous Chef. Harish Rao, who guided us through the dishes, its history and affiliation to the restaurant. 

About Dakshin and its ongoing promotions: 
The hotel has seen multiple change in banner names, but this restaurant has been has stood through all test of times. Established in 1984, the restaurant has been pioneers of luxury south Indian food. Their menu encompasses specialities from all five southern states/union territories (Tamilnadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka); as a part of their annual celebration the restaurant has food festivals ongoing on a weekly basis which brings to you unidentified and distinguished menus and dishes from the southern region. 

When I visited, they had the third (Coorgi food) of the nine weekly food festival ongoing. Thanjavur Marata food festival (which is the last of the lot and expected to happen around May-end/June) is something I am looking forward to; for it brings dishes and kebabs of south India that very few people have heard of or tried. 

Restaurant Week Menu: 
The menu is comprehensive and encompasses regular and signature dishes. A course includes single selection of: appetiser, main course, staples and desserts; one could avail extra dishes at an additional cost of INR. 100-200. 

The course is priced at INR. 750 for lunch and INR. 1000 for dinner. 

The restaurant has a grand and traditional setup. They also have a small podium with live instrumental music playing. 

Service & Hospitality
From my experience one thing was clear, the staff have stuck together for long and share a family like bond. If you are willing to join them as a family for your experience you are guaranteed to enjoy your meal better. 

Even otherwise, the staff are very courteous, friendly and hospitable with their service. 

Food & Desserts
Got to try out the following: 
1. Iyer special - included banana flat-cakes and adai (dosa styled preparations). Together they offered a sweet and savoury quotient for starting the meal. The banana dish is an in-house speciality and is clearly something they have perfected over time. 

2. Pookosu melagu peratti:
Was a mildy spiced vegetarian starter with cauliflower tossed with mustard and pepper corns. 

3. Vadai of the day
Crispy and just the way it's meant to be. 

4. Kozhi Kempu Bezule and Dakshina Yera Both of these were fried preparations and had comparable flavours. The meat was well cooked and adequately spiced. 

Having tried three fried dishes, it did cause an overdose for me and I preferred to quickly move on to the main course. 

5. Royyala vepudu
A spicy andhra styled prawn preparation. Loved the flavours and the dish combined well with parota, appam and even curd rice. 

There was also a chicken curry I tried, the name of which I don't recollect. 

6. Staples
All of the staples (parota, appam, idiyappam, kal dosai) were decent and kal dosai was the best. 

The parota could have been crispier/fluffier. 

Among the items we tried (not part of RWI menu), their south Indian adaptation of fried rice with shredded mutton and egg stood out. The balance in this preparation was perfect that it did not require a curry or side as accompaniment.

The house special ice creams were an absolute delight. It included:

1. A three flavoured infusion of banana, jackfruit and mango
2. A custard apple ice cream

Unlike the naturals ice cream where you get to taste bits of the fruits, these were made from freshly prepared extracts (puree) of the fruits. 

Other desserts I tried were decent but did not exactly stand out when compared to my personal quality benchmark for the same. The desserts included: elaneer payasam, basandi (unlike the regular thick and layered basundi, this was more fluid. It is a common ingredient in jigarthanda - a dessert drink from Madurai) and palada paysam. 

The one I regret missing out is the vattapalam - an interesting South Indian version of caramel custard. 

On a summary note, it was a great dining experience and the long lunch with the chef was enlightening in many ways. Looking forward to trying their regular classics and some of the upcoming food festivals.

Dakshin - Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Courtallam Border Rahmath Kadai, T.Nagar (4/5)

Being a hardcore fan of parota and south Indian chicken preparations, its been a difficult few months to read reviews about this place and not being able to visit them. Finally got a chance to visit them today and pounced on this opportunity. 

Food (5/5)
The items I tried were:
1. Naatu kozhi biryani - had the country chicken biryani several times from other prominent food joints in the city, none would come even in a 100 metres distance to the quality of this offering. 

Country chicken is known be tougher meat and I was stunned when the bone came clean as I tried to pull the chicken piece from the biryani; this in other words showcases the tenderness of the meat. Wow! 

As for flavours, both the biryani rice and chicken piece had good traditional flavours and combined with salna was a delight for spice lovers. You could alternatively pair it with raita or brinjal dalcha if you aren't able to handle the spice levels. 

2. Chicken dishes (chops and gun chicken)
Both of these preparations had comparable flavours - well cooked meat (stiff, if you aren't used to country chicken), adequately spiced and combined great with parota and briyani. 

Salna - served pipping hot, it was comparable to spicy non veg curry (I doubt if they include any meat while preparing it - because it looked like a serve to all dish). 

My friends who ordered the veechu parota (stuffed parota) and mutton biryani seemed to enjoy their meal just as much as I did. 

Ambience (2.5/5)
Needs improvement. 

The dining area in the ground floor feels like a furnace, even-though it seemed partly air-conditioned. The first floor had old air-conditioners but temperature-wise was definitely a relief from the heat outside. The presence of house flies in an air conditioned dining joint is not common and they definitely need to work on the hygiene quotient. 

In terms of seating, they have tried to make maximum utilisation of available space, but in the process the space feels feels way too cramped. 

Service (3/5)
The food is served quick but the staff's attention to tables need to be better; it would also help them in lowering the dining time per customer group which can fix the crowd management issues they seem to be facing. 

A meal for four heavy duty consumers cost around INR. 1350. I would consider that reasonable considering the quality of their food. 

On a summary note, the place is new and has several areas of improvement when it comes to non food aspects. That said, their food is an absolute delight and there was not one dish that I could find fault with. 

P.s - Skewing my rating marginally based on the quality of their food.

Courtallam Border Rahmath Kadai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ola Prime Restaurant Week

Have you had fantasies of dining in luxury five star hotels?
Has cost factor stopped from you trying out these luxury options?

If yes, the next ten days is perfect timing for you to dine at the country's finest luxury diners. Priced at INR. 750 for lunch and INR. 1,100 for dinners (in Chennai) this is your best chance to try the following premium restaurants:
1. Ayna, Hilton Chennai
2. Benjarong, Alwarpet
3. Beyond Madras at The Dining Room, Park Hyatt Chennai
4. Dakshin, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
5. Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai
6. Golden Dragon, Taj Coromandel
7. Jamavar, The Leela Palace Chennai
8. Lotus, The Park Chennai*
9. On the Rocks, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
10. Prego, Taj Coromandel
11. Salt.Co.531, Radisson Blu Hotel Chennai
12. Teppan, Alwarpet
13. The Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt Chennai

Visit Restaurant Week India to make reservations and know more about the offer. 

Mexican Food Festival @ Aloft - Cessna Business Park

Bangalore has been an epicenter of the South for several global cuisines and tje city's Mexican food could be ranked among the best in the country (or at least in South India). While there are several standalone restaurants that have been doing a great job in bringing these cuisines to our city, the five star hotels have followed a different strategy and have religiously hosted food festivals to offer these global delicacies to us.

I was invited with a few fellow food bloggers for a preview of the Mexican food festival at Aloft - Cessna Business Park. The festival is on till April 22, 2016.

The promotional menu is priced at INR. 1099 and each add on cocktail could be bought at INR.199 (both of these priced are excluding taxes).

They offer five margarita flavours (Cinnamon, Watermelon, Hazelnut, Tamarind, Cucumber and Pineapple) along with the buffet for this food festival. With tequila being the base liquor - these cocktails are perfect summer coolers if you are looking to beat the recent heat wave in the city.

Highlighting the key dishes from the menu:

1. Nachos with dips - While we love our nachos with regular salsa or Guacamole, one gets to try a few more adaptations and variants of these dips with their nachos here. They offer the following five dips for nachos:
- Pica De Gallo
- Guacamole 
- Mango Salsa
- Salsa Roja
- Gemada Salsa

2. Tacos - With fresh and crunchy taco shells, the chicken tacos was filled with tender and succulent chicken chunks, black beans and veggies. They also offer a vegetarian substitute for the non meat eaters

3. Quesadilla -Again chicken and vegetarion options; the chicken quesadilla was outstanding and is probably among the better quesadillas I have had.

4. Ceviche de camaron - I would have refused to eat raw prawns if not for the description given by the chef. In this dish, prawns marinated in lime for over 16 hours is served with corn, sliced tomatoes, olives and jalapenos. This salad styled offering was a perfect melody of flavours and had a great balance to it.

5. Ensalada Espinaca Y Aguacate
A fresh salad with fresh and green spinach, mangoes, avocado, radish and cilantro-olive oil dressing.

6. Chicken Mole - Chicken breast topped with chocolate sauce
It was my second attempt at mole and I found it more compatible to my taste preference this time around. Unless you have already tried mole's before - it is a dish you might struggle to appreciate.


They had two mexican desserts:
1.Tres leches - this was decent, but I must concede that I have had better.
2. Flavoured churros with mango and chocolate dips - found this to be a little off; probably the better churro experiences I have had at other places is the reason.

While the promo menu has enough items to meet your hunger needs, you could also try items from the regular buffet spread if you are dining as a part of this offer.

Nook - Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato