Mamagoto’s food director says finding the right Szechuan chilli is imperative to maintain consistency in Asian cuisine
Khader Nawaz Khan Road has seen the rise and fall of several restaurants over the past few years. From Mediterranean restaurant 5 Senses to Aromas of China and Khansama by the BJN Group and even Mumbai’s Goa Portuguesa. Still, this stretch remains the most coveted address to restaurateurs looking to dip their hands in Chennai’s food pot. No surprise then, that Delhi-based Azure Hospitality’s Kabir Suri and Rahul Khanna jumped at the opportunity to set up shop in the same complex that housed Goa Portuguesa till not so long ago. The approximately 50-cover Mamagoto is scheduled to launch on December 2, but we’re invited to take a look at its kitsch interiors and trademark yellow door a whole week before D-day.
Win some, lose some
Suri and Khanna have perfected the art of turning restaurant into canvas. Wooden frames with colourful screens run across the ceiling like an installation here. Some furniture is yet to arrive and the staff are busy at the juice bar, coming up with fruity concoctions that will substitute the cocktail shakers available at other cities. But before you start lamenting about our liquor laws, know that Chennai’s Mamagoto will serve beef, which is not available in their Mumbai branches. Then again, we will not get to enjoy their pork belly skewers, so I guess there’s just no having it all. “But Chennai will have our first Teppanyaki counter,” smiles Janti Duggal, food director of the brand. We can’t wait to see our choice of meat or seafood sizzle in their special sauces, but this will happen only post launch. For now, we sit down with mocktails and one of Mamagoto’s most popular offerings, the signature basil chicken bowl.
I’m here to interview Duggal, but she ends up quizzing me about the seafood that Chennaiites prefer and the availability of a certain dried Szechuan red chilli. “The flavour of the chilli changes in different regions,” she shares. “And the flavour of the chilli paste that goes into most dishes changes altogether if the chilli is not right,” says Duggal, adding, “South East Asian and Chinese cuisine is all about the balance of flavours. But my concern is that people might want a lot more chilli here.” Save for the difference in meats and seafood, the dishes on the menu are constant across cities and Duggal says that we can expect ramen bowls when they do their seasonal menu once in four months. That said, given the `65 crore funding Azure Hospitality received from Goldman Sachs earlier this year, where will this brand ‘go-to’ next? “Hyderabad and then Dubai,” beams the proud food director.
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— Ryan Peppin