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    Delectable baby back ribs meet smoked burgers at American grill bar, Chili’s first branch in the city, besides a host of other appetisers and steaks.

    OH,  if only more pigs would fly — precooked from Spain, grilled and on to my plate. Till such a utopia (for me at least) comes to be, there is Chili’s. The American casual dining formally opens in Chennai for business on Monday at Express Avenue, and I have three words for you: baby back ribs. Smothered in a barbeque sauce and served with fries and corn on the cob, it’s the key attraction at the 120-cover restaurant, the chain’s 18th in the country. It almost makes up for the outlet being their first in the country that does not serve alcohol. Ashish Saxena, CEO, and Nishant J Dholakia, business head (Chili’s) of Tex Mex Cuisine, the company behind the brand in India’s south and west, with their old married couple banter, are good ambassadors, given their obvious fondness for the cuisine. They also take pride in how the food has attained a level of consistency such that it tastes the same everywhere.
    Burger hunting
    Saxena takes charge of the ordering: we get a triple dipper — three appetisers with dips — chicken wings, a boneless version and calamari served with cool ranch. The wings lean towards the tangy, but the calamari is perfection. Saltier than healthy for you, but tasty. The Sante Fe quesadilla chicken or paneer are cheesy and vaguely addictive, but not in a particularly memorable way (indeed Saxena says he could eat it any day, any time.) Vegetarians wouldn’t necessarily be miserable here, but vegans (practically everything has cheese) and those with lactose or gluten intolerance may as well stay home. Chili’s is a meat-lover’s delight, evidenced by the small juicy burger named Southern Smokehouse that is placed before me. I am intrigued to discover how the Jack cheese used is made exclusively for Chili’s by a company in India and how the nachos come from China.
    Global exchange
    ​Perhaps in a nod to those terrifying listicles that tell you how​ many calories a Cheesecake Factory pasta has, it does offer small, lighter​ choices — soups, salads sans cheese, and a few grilled proteins —​ ​with a calorie count that ranges from 125 to 595. But let’s face it,​ we’re not eating at Chili’s for our health, or even to please a nuanced palate.​ We’re there to eat a bunch of salty, cheesy, crispy stuff that satisfies​ our inner child. And the ribs, of course. They will offer home delivery (through Swiggy, for starters) and cater party platters for groups of 20 and above.

    Meal for two at around Rs 1,000. Ribs at Rs 1,095 plus taxes. Details: 28464167

    — Ranjitha Gunasekaran

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