Why fans of the speciality restaurant and chef Praveen Anand must make time for a whistle-stop tour of its anniversary menu
25 years after its first South Indian meal, Dakshin is still the toast of Chennai. Back then it introduced a menu that was divided according to the Southern states (a format other restaurants would soon be inspired by) with recipes that were diligently sourced from private homes. Many of them went on to gain iconic status, starting from the Iyer’s trolley – fresh snacks like banana dosais and chutneys – that you polish off irrespective of what has been decided as the first or main course. And who can forget the rasam or the addictive coffee here.
Repeat guests are usually acquainted with executive chef Praveen Anand – a meeting with the man who has been with the brand from the very beginning is always humbling. To this day, he is the go-to person when you are researching south Indian cuisine. His recent introduction of Creole food from Pondicherry is certainly worth another article. That said, it is strange that the ITC group, with its multi-volume tomes on culinary traditions, has not given Dakshin its own coffee table book. Especially since the brand has spread to other Indian cities and has held wildly successful festivals on well over 20 communities. Which brings us to the mega-celebration of eight communities over 25 days, that is currently underway.
We visited during the Syrian Christian weekend, where the efficient chef Harish Kanda and team served up a tangy fish curry with short grained red rice, pearl spot heavily blanketed in masala yet succulent after the grilled banana leaf treatment, and near perfect fish pickle. It helps that Dakshin’s chefs continue fine-tuning recipes with aunts and neighbours. Up next are celebrations of Thanjavur, Moplah and Creole food, till April 27. Don’t miss it. Approximately Rs. 4,500 for two. Details: 24994101
— Rosella Stephen