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    The new vegetarian restaurant in town, Sambhar, offers homely fare with interesting variants .

    Tucked between a Slam fitness studio and a Toni & Guy salon, down Harleys Road, is another Paulsons Beauty & Fashion Private Limited’s initiative, Sambhar,  the latest vegetarian dining option in the city. We head to the brightly-lit, high-ceilinged, 120-seater restaurant and find the week-old place has a vibrant, contemporary feel that chef Srinivasan D, vice president (food and beverage), tells us is deliberate. “We wanted to offer a modern space for our patrons—from the menu to the colourful crockery, the stark white furnishing, visible kitchen and impeccable service.”  Vegetarian ways
    With five different variants of the sambhar on their menu, the name of the brand is well picked, but offers more than just South Indian staples. Their multi-cuisine spread includes a live chaat counter, besides Chinese, North Indian and some Italian options. Srinivasan, who was formerly with the SPI group (think ID restaurant) for a decade, says, “There is always a demand for a vegetarian restaurant, especially with so many converting to vegetarianism for health reasons. We also have many communities that believe in vegetarianism.” The chef adds that most of the South Indian recipes here are from his mother and grandmother’s kitchen.

    Tiffin talk
    We start off with the chaats and are impressed with the in-house bread used for the vada paav. The roasted green chilli and the garlicky hot chutney between the slices tick all the right boxes for us. While the pani puri is quite tame, the dahi channa chaat is tangy and sweet. Then comes the raison d’etre, the sambhars. With crunchy, spongy medu vadas and dense masala vadas to dip and taste, we find that each variant has a unique flavour.  Chef Srinivasan shares how each is paired with a certain dish. The archuvitta sambhar is fragrant and flavourful with freshly ground spices, and makes for a perfect accompaniment for dosas and other tiffin items. Whereas kadambha, with mixed vegetables, is milder and perfect with rice meals, the onion sambhar will go well with pongal.Coffee rites
    Besides the usual suspects (coconut, tomato and onion), the chef surprises us with the chutney of the day, an experimental cucumber. “Our peanut chutney is a big hit, too,” he says. We finish with a saffron-infused kesari, even as Srinivasan informs that “all our ingredients are natural and freshly prepared. We use no synthetic or frozen add-ons. In fact, even our dosa/idli batter is allowed to ferment naturally.” Of course, we agree to a filter coffee before leaving, and it turns out to be delightfully strong, served in a generous steel tumbler and dabarah. With restaurants like Jonah’s Bistro and its ilk  under the Paulsons umbrella, we are not surprised that soon Sambhar will also be taken across the country and abroad.
    At Kilpauk. South Indian meals at Rs 170. Details: 26453177

    —Sabrina Rajan

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