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    With Chettiar cooks recreating recipes from their homes, Masala Pattinam offers comfort fare that is pleasing to the palate and easy on the stomach

    SHOTS OF FOOD AND INTERIOR AT MASALA PATTINAM FOR INDULGE-EXPRESS/P.RAVIKUMARThe last time we stopped at No10 on Sir CV Raman Road, Alwarpet, the place was called Treehouse and served a mix of North Indian, Chinese and Continental offerings. The space is owned by five brothers (two of whom happen to be doctors) and Treehouse has since stepped aside, to allow something called Masala Pattinam to take its place. “When the brothers approached me, I sent them samples of Chettinad cuisine made exactly as it would be at my home,” says Gomathy Subramanian, the owner of Kipling Cafe and brain behind Masala Pattinam, insisting that authentic Chettinad cuisine is virtually non existent here. “They loved it,” she smiles, adding that Masala Pattinam assures Chettinad food cooked just as it would be in a home. For this, she has roped in three women who formerly cooked at Chettiar homes in Karaikudi.
    Difficult choices
    Subramanian then leaves us to the food, that she speaks of with so much passion. After about 10 starters, four curries and a hearty payasam, her promise still holds good — “Chettinad food is not heavy and does not use as much masala as people make you believe.” Subramanian makes it hard for us to pick favourites. Do we pick the crunchy vazhapoo vadas and coconut chutney that remind us of snack time with grandmom or the chicken pepper fry whose taste lingers long after the last bite? Then there’s the seafood that engages all senses. The prawns in tomato and onion masala is a juicy treat, the sora puttu is heady and full of textures, the vanjaram fry gently crackles as you sink your teeth in and the thick coating of masala on the crab dissipates once you get inside the shell.

    SHOTS OF FOOD AND INTERIOR AT MASALA PATTINAM FOR INDULGE-EXPRESS/P.RAVIKUMAR
    Signature selection
    For mains, Subramanian has a few signatures, like the urundai kozhambu that has dense balls of thoram and kadala parupu in a tangy curry or the egg curry that steals the show despite being the simplest dish of the day — it has generous portions of fluffy omelette soaked in gravy. After polishing these off with soft appams, we reluctantly sample their king fish curry and white rice only to end up asking for seconds — the flavour is distinct and addictive. “We use tamarind that has been aged for no less than four years,” Subramanian beams. We finish with another signature, the kavini arisi payasam (the cuisine of the Chettiars borrows influences from Burmese, where this rice is popular) that’s sweetened with palm sugar (owned by doctors, remember?). This too is so easy on the stomach, that we manage a full serving after our lengthy meal. We have but one suggestion for Subramanian — tone down the oil in the kozhi rasam please!
    Meal for two at approximately Rs 1,000. Details: 33011418
     Ryan Peppin

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