Home Chennai Soul food, desi style

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    A charming new café promises veg snacks that tickle your palate, and are best paired  with desi chai

    From Chennai’s cupcake queen Shitija Nahata comes the newly launched 40-seater Indian-style café Chai Nasta, on St Mary’s Road.  Decked in yellow with quirky graffiti and easy décor for good measure, the old advertising and movie posters will take you back to  the good old days of your childhood. While I was already relishing the prospect of being in a café filled with character, Nahata greeted me with her warm smile and we got talking about her latest venture.

    Shitija Nahata

    Shitija Nahata

    Designed as a true Indian vegetarian hub, the café caters an all-day menu, each of which best pairs with kadak chai, brewed homestyle with masala, elaichi or ginger. Nahata elaborates, “It is all about simple comfort food that we have grown up with, made fresh each day using locally sourced ingredients.” Personifying soul food are dishes such as aloo paranthas served with homemade green mango pickle and Marathi pohe served with an absolutely finger-licking yum garlic chutney, topped with delectable fried, stuffed green chilli. But it is the  chole naan that hits the spot — authentic Punjabi chole that is topped with fried scallions, ginger and green chillies. The eggless naan is exemplary — fresh atta rolled wafer-thin and finished off with a dollop of butter. Also perfect is Mumbai-style vada pav — delicious with its wholesome potato vada and served alongside crisp pudina chutney and more of the pungent garlic chutney.

    High on creativity are dishes like gongura aloo roll in a Malabar parotta with typical flavours of Andhra spices. And their masala baked beans with toast; Mumbai’s take on the classic Western version that packs a punch yet makes for a light bite. While there, don’t miss out on moist paneer paranthas, crispy sabudhana cutlets and also the thick slices of Bachpan Ka Pizza. For those craving chatpata chaat, the sev puri and ragada pattice will not disappoint. For a dose of more nostalgia, simply order their bun maska, namkeen lassi or the phiti hui hot coffee. “Rustic Indian street food can be enjoyed all day every day and Chai Nasta gives the long overdue respect that it deserves by serving it in an enjoyable environment. Decadent home-style food served with an array of interesting homemade condiments  — and as my grandmum advises, washed down with chai ­­— is the true spirit of Chai Nasta,” says Nahata, with a smile.

    Avg meal for two Rs 500 Details: 31234511
    —Preeti GT


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