Scheduled to launch in two weeks, VeganeR has a menu sans dairy, but with healthy mains and desserts
The promise of cuisines from 195 countries cannot guarantee a packed restaurant. Mohamed Zacharia will vouch for this. The restaurateur, who recently transformed his Avenue 195 in Nungambakkam into an all-vegetarian restaurant, VeganeR, is looking forward to the next big step — going completely vegan. To achieve this, he has sought out the assistance of Manoharamma Hotel Investments (by the Gemini Group), whose executive chef Virgil James (who comes with close to 20 years of experience at GRT Grand and Radisson Blu) welcomes us to sample his vegan best. “The restaurant is serving vegetarian food right now. But by November 30, we will launch a completely vegan menu,” says the chef, who is confident that he can do without the paneer that is a staple in every vegetarian Chennaiites’ diet.
Trip around the world
Chef James promises vegan fare from as many cuisines as possible and we don’t believe him till the platter of starters arrive. There’s an avocado timbale and raw tomato caponata that’s the chef’s answer to vegans seeking raw food. The Chettinad banana dosai topped with a fruit salsa has lovers of sweet flavours covered. The crunchy falafel al Arab tricks you into thinking you’re eating a vadai, save for the side of garlic sauce. And the sweet and spicy tex mex chilaquiles (tortilla strips in a salsa of red beans, jalapenos, olives and sweet corn) have us licking us fingers. “For dishes like the chilaquiles or pasta that use cream, we substitute with a vegan version made with nuts or white sauce made with soya milk,” James explains, before introducing us to our Oriental mains — ninniku chahan with Thai green curry and a side of temari zushi. The pairing of the Japanese garlic fried rice and vegetable-loaded Thai curry is almost addictive. But do exercise caution with the zushi, for it’s topped with some potent wasabi.
The many cuisines aside, what we really appreciate is the way chef James has made it a point to include healthy ingredients wherever possible — like the ragi aval oothappam (think ragi porridge turned oothappam) and kolu kai karaisal (a sambar-like preparation of vegetables and horse gram). Or even the dessert platter, that has an iron-laden red rice and sesame pudding (could be mistaken for a gooey brownie) and nannari delight (a cooling concoction of the root, pumpkin and orange, topped with a layer of coconut porridge), among other offerings. We do look forward to more when they launch.
Meal for two at around Rs.500. VeganeR is also open for breakfast. Details: 43195195
— Ryan Peppin