The popular Bangalore-based Tex-Mex restaurant Habanero just opened in Phoenix Market City and fans should be pleased. ‘“You should open in Chennai!’ is a comment we’ve heard for years in Bangalore. Travellers, business people, and other restaurant guests with ties to the city have encouraged us to come here,” Elizabeth Bowden-David, of the husband-wife duo behind the brand, explains. Billed as authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, Habanero offers a warm atmosphere and friendly menu that introduces newbies to the cuisine.
We wander in on a Tuesday afternoon and meet Gopal, restaurant manager and Sajad, their chef. Between the two of them, they ensure we partake of what feels like half the food in the kitchen, but hopefully isn’t. The salsa (three kinds – spicy, mild and seasonal fruit-based) comes first, accompanied by nachos. As we dip in, the duo tell us of the Chennai-specific additions to the menu, namely in the form of chicken and vegetable options to some of the dishes. Gopal recommends we start out with a mini-platter of their popular Muchos Nachos (nothing mini about it, Rs.325). The scrumptious pile of cheese, chicken, salsa, guacamole, sour cream goes down well with the Virgin Mary (Rs.165) and Tamarind Margarita (Rs.170, non-alcoholic) we order. The Virgin Mary in particular is delicious, packing a distinctive punch (that leaves my companion spluttering towards the end of the drink — in a good way).
Gopal brings on an array of starters: Jalapeno poppers (Rs.275, oddly dough-y), a delightful pork green chilli stew (Rs.225) that melds a raw fire with subtle creaminess and a vegetarian habanero fiesta salad with quesadilla (Rs.250) that my companion enjoys (I am not a fan of salads with mayo). For mains, squelched, my companion has the beef burger (Rs.325) that is juicy and hits the spot. I try the chicken fajitas (Rs.425): Assembly is idiot-proof and satisfaction is guaranteed. For dessert, Gopal and Sajad intimidate us with a sample of four of their best: We love the milk-soaked tres leche cake but I would give the caramel cheesecake a pass (Rs.225). Habanero has introduced an eggless dessert in the form of a snickers-chimichanga (Rs.225) that we are served with ice cream. I find it terrifying as a concept, but my companion has no such qualms and enjoys it. The restaurant is looking into offering home deliveries (yay!) and will soon have live salsa and guacamole counters, Gopal says. Details: 42791314
— Ranjitha Gunasekaran