CELEBRATED for its diverse yet adept rasikas, the season of Margazhi is a proud bearer of an earnest audience. Having said that, the very rasikas are some of the most astute connoisseurs of delectable food, as they are of Carnatic music. As Chennai’s favourite season is underway, six canteen services speak to us about their sumptuous offerings.
Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
Krishna Bhavan, a part of the well-known Sri Krishna Sweets, is looking at serving their signature picks at the Sabha for the sixth consecutive time. From sweet/savoury poli (made with a base of chana dal) and mor kali for snacks, their lineup also includes rice items like sambar and curd rice for dinner. While for lunch, they serve mini meals (roti, variety rice and side dish), they plan on introducing new items for the evening. Rs 50 onwards. Details: 28140806
Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha
Keeping in mind the emerging health-conscious crowd, rasikas will see the Mountbatten Mani Iyer Catering service go organic this December. From ragi idiyappam and thinai (foxtail millet) pongal to karuppatti (palm jaggery) paniyaram and panakarkandu (palm sugar) milk, Mount Sreenivasan’s range is a balanced mix of nutrition and variety. Apart from the usual fix of dosas and elai saapadu, rare native sweets like suryakala and chandrakala (fried dough pockets of guava and dried-fruit stuffing shaped in the form of the sun and the crescent moon) will be served. “In a time where international cuisine is a clear front-runner, we wanted to bring back our homegrown favourites,” says Sreenivasan, who has been serving the Parthasarathy Sabha for the past six years.
Venus Catering Services
Indian Fine Arts
Known fondly for its decks of flavoured dosas, Venus Catering Services is looking to stick to their unwavering favourites this season. While Venus promises a menu change every day, paneer masala, gobi manchurian and millet are a definite part of their dosa range, we are told. “About four years back, noted musician K J Yesudas came to our canteen just to taste our rava dosa with his entire family. Following his concert, he headed straight to our stall. “Moments like these are why we do this,” reminisces owner V M Sankar, who has been behind the sabha’s eatery for 28 years. Lunch from Rs 150 onwards. Details: 28154360
Mylapore Fine Arts
Having served at the Mylapore Fine Arts for over 15 years, S Baskaran of Meenambiga Caterers has been running the service that he inherited from his grandfather, for almost two decades now. Known for their whacky recipe of the double-decker idli (which comprises of a spicy onion chutney sandwiched between layers of batter), inventing offbeat dishes is anything but new for Baskaran. Mini-balls kozhakattai (spiced tiny rice dumplings), which comes in flavours of lemon and veggies, are their special for this season. “There have been times where we have dumped
a few batches because we weren’t satisfied with the taste. Providing quality food to the rasikas is our only motive,”
he says. Details: 24997755
If there is one thing that Mint Padmanabhan is known for, it is his menu’s eclectic palate. “Having served in the Music Academy for ten years, we take immense pride in not repeating any dish in the menu during the course of Margazhi,” says the 62-year-old, who set up the service in 1975. While their rice menu offers the likes of coriander, mint and curry leaves (karuvepillai) rice, their tiffin platter consists of Guntur idli (idli sprinkled with Andhra spiced gun powder and oil), and mor kali (buttermilk and rice flour) apart from dosas, parottas and pongal.
Sri Raghavendra Catering Services
Chennai Cultural Academy Trust
Serving an assortment of Karnataka’s choicest cuisine is T K Chakrapani of Sri Raghavendra Catering, founded in 1999. Huggi, an Udupi style pongal, which is made with a base of fried moong dal and rice with a dash of crushed condiments and dried coconut, is their special for this year. Contrary to the other sabhas, the 70-year-old caterer believes in maintaining the same menu to please the crowds, with bisi bele bath being their trademark. “It might not be a difficult dish to master. But details as small as boiling the rice along with the dal, as opposed to boiling it separately, makes our version stand out,” he says with a smile. Rice from Rs 50 onwards and dosa from Rs 40 onwards. Details: 24834823
Text: Sruthi Ganapathy Raman