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    Keshav Prakasha��s concierge service, The Vault, offering access to world whiskies and fine spirits, brings the experience to Chennai

    WHEN you are served Ocho Blanco Tequila with Asian sea bass at dinner, you dona��t shoot, you savour. In a space that is seeing quite a few whisky ambassadors and repositories of fine wines and spirits, Keshav Prakasha��s The Vault is pushing the envelope with curated menus for taste savants in high places. This besides offering access to artisanal whiskies, rums, cognacs, gins and tequilas. And the good news? A year after they launched in Mumbai, the spirits concierge service is ready to explore the Chennai landscape.

    Destination South
    A former1 ad-filmmaker from a family of spirit merchants in Bangalore, Prakash is presenting a dinner at Sheraton Parka��s On the Rocks tonight. It is reportedly sold out and he is not surprised. a�?I have met a discerning whisky audience here. And I have noticed a shift from brandy to cognac appreciation,a��a�� he says. Our whisky connoisseurs can be so dogged in their pursuit of rare spirits, he admits a�� one collector masterminded a business trip to hunt down a bottle of the hyper-rare Japanese Karuizawa single malt! In Mumbai, The Vault is not a retail outlet but presents 18 brands of artisanal spirit makers and dining experiences through a concierge. a�?a�?Ita��s the kosher way to do it,a��a�� agrees Prakash, 46. The founder of the underground whisky club, The Oak League, he is learning to navigate our laws regulating alcohol.

    Unlocking the vault
    You will find rival distilleries like Kilchoman in Islay and Edradour in Pitlochry showcasing their single malts here, together with cognacs like Delamain Premier Cru Grande Champagne, Sipsmitha��s London Dry Gin and the popular Chase marmalade vodka (Seville orange marmalade and peel steeped in potato vodka). All of them are worth the premium charged for concierge services.
    For frequent travellers who trawl through duty free aisles looking for unusual bottles to get past our customsa�� two bottle allowance, services like The Vault are welcome. With the collection curated by whisky and spirits writers like Charles Mclean, Dave Broom and Tomas Estes, you are bound to find handcrafted and gold medal winning gems. Like El Dorado rum, often available only at speciality stores abroad. So the next time you are in Mumbai, make time for some gift-hunting, via The Vault. Or sign up for their dinners in Chennai.
    Curated menu available at Park Sheraton and soon, Taj Coromandel and Madras Club. Details: vaultfinespirits.com

    Rosella Stephen

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      Curry leaf scones, shrimp rolls and bubbly a�� tea time gets an update at Taj Coromandel

      Do we make the distinction between afternoon tea and high tea? While one is about dainty foods like scones with cream and is a social affair, the other is about more substantial fare like pot pies. What Taj Coromandel has been offering for a month now is a happy mix of the two. So you get your scones a�� curry leaf flavoured and borderline leaden a�� some sandwiches, a tortilla, shrimp rice paper rolls, cakes, biscotti and more. The venue is the lounge, and the spread looks forlorn, what with a lone waiter doing the rounds. Placing an order for a cuppa or a flute of bubbly (Moet Chandon Rose Imperial, if you prefer the Champagne experience) may take a while. With hotel guests checking in or wedding parties floating past, youa��re not going to sip on tea and serenity. That said, you get to choose from a sizeable list of 30 teas and coffees. There are single estate teas from Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiris and single origin coffees from Brazil, Honduras and Panama, besides staples like espresso. Unfortunately, one expects a premium or singular experience at the Taj Coromandel, even at teatime. So while the oat cookies are scrumptious, they ought to work atA� making this the best late afternoon spot in town. 3 pm to 6 pm. Coromandel High Tea at Rs 500 and Champagne High Tea at Rs 900. Details: 66002827

      Rosella Stephen

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        You name it, they serve it. We take you through the rarest of delicacies you can order in the city, with a price tag as exclusive as the dishes themselves

        While New Yorka��s finest restaurants serve Kobe and Wagyu beef, the pride of Sydneya��s top restaurants is their Abalone shellfish and West Australian black truffles. Thankfully, Chennai isna��t far behind, as city restaurants offer many of these rare and exclusive world ingredients, at a hefty sum of course.

        By Preeti GT

        VESTIN5Australian Lamb Chops @ The Westin
        Executive chef Joseph Rathna Raj believes that the right ingredients make winning dishes. Like the Lamb Chops The Westin imported at Rs.3,200/kg and used in their roast steak. With a smoked barbecue pre marinade and served with three peppercorn jus, the dish priced at Rs.1,950 is not everyday fare. Also ideal for a special occasion is their Mushroom Risotto, that costs Rs.675 for a portion of 180gms. The dish uses Italian Porcini mushrooms imported at a staggering Rs.6,600/kg! Therea��s also their Seafood Risotto and Paella, priced at Rs.1,275 with a touch of exotic Spanish Saffron sourced at Rs.1,200/gm. While there, do try their T Bone Steak of US grade meat (Rs.3,200) and finish off with a house special Cheesecake (Rs.475) made with Italian cream cheese. Details: 22553366

        Alaskan Crab @ The Leela Palace
        Succulent and meaty with an intense flavour, the Alaskan Crab Leg served with tobiko is one of the hotela��s best sellers from its Japanese section. Importing at a whopping Rs.12,000/kg, the dish will tastefully set you back by Rs.2,200. Even the tobiko or flying fish roe, is imported from Japan at roughly Rs.5,000/kg. Executive chef Dharmen Makawana insists, a�?Ita��s only fitting that a hotel of The Leelaa��s calibre is able to offer the very best to its guests and thata��s precisely why we import over 100 kilos of fresh vegetable and fruits from Thailand every week!a�? Do try their Sashimi (Rs.900/20gms) that uses Ottoro, a blue finned tuna belly. Signature dumplings of White Truffle paste (Rs.700) also come highly recommended. Details: 33661234

        a�?To set ourselves apart from the rest, we literally bring the world to our guesta��s plate,a�? insists executive chef Ajit Bangera. And he means everything from the Marmara Almonds of Iran to US grade Rib Eye meat and even Kashmiri Morels. An exclusive Japanese
        ingredient, Hondashi, made of dried bonito flakes, costs almost Rs.5,000/kg and is used in the hotela��s signature stir fries and teppanyaki. Since gelatine sheets are a key ingredient in a pastry pantry, chef Bangera procures a German silver grade variety (Rs.10,000) that is virtually tasteless and hence versatile in its addition to mousses and cakes. Also try their Special Almond Kulfi (Rs.300) or Chandragupta Malpua (Rs.350) that celebrate the ultimate taste of the Marmara Almond, sourced at Rs.4,600/kg. Details: 22200000

        Ritzy restaurant The Flying Elephant is home to many an ingredient and chef de cuisine Megha Balasubramanian insists, a�?Our signature dishes using international ingredients are contemporary and rare a�� our way of bringing something exciting to the food scene in Chennai.a�? True to their mantra, you will find Spanish Tapas or Gazpacho soup served with vine ripened tomatoes that come straight from Italy at Rs.1,500/kilo. Fresh Scottish Salmon arrives via an air shipment to create a toothsome Grilled Salmon, served with braised red lentils and tajini (Rs.1,700). To whip up that perfect chilli sambal for chicken satay, special thai red chillies are imported at Rs.700/kg. And for vegetarians, their thick and juicy Pervian Green Asparagus, purchased at Rs.2,500/kg, with morel foam and served with more fresh morels and edamame beans, will not disappoint. Others can try the wood-fire oven Grilled US Black Angus Tenderloin, served with brown butter sauce at Rs.4,000. Details: 71771234

        Rajesh Radhakrishnan, area director a�� food production, says, a�?Chennaiites are extremely well travelled and seek speciality cuisines and dishes. They are willing to pay a premium for authenticity. As a chef, I strive to keep the menu unique using everything from earthy millets to Japanese Wasabi.a�? Truly bonafide is the Italian mixed mushroom Risotto with truffonade (Rs.850) that uses Gucchi mushrooms imported at a monstrous price of Rs.25,000/kg. Equally fabulous is the Chilean Seabass, procured at Rs.6,800/kg, baked and served with a tomato and basil dust and jalapeno chutney (Rs.1,675 for the dish). For the adventurous, Seared Canadian Scallops (Rs.800) served with an arugula salad are perfect with a balsamic glaze. Other imported ingredients include the lotus stem used in salads and stir fries and wasabi that accompanies a Japanese snack platter. Details: 42676000

        Caviar continues to be one of the most exclusive foods in Chennai. At Taj Coromandela��s Italian fine dining restaurant Prego, executive chef Alok Anand pairs it with classic accompaniments of Melba toast, boiled egg segments, parsley and shallots. Try different varieties of caviar like Oscetra or Sevruga, but dona��t miss the ultimate indulgence a�� Beluga caviar priced at Rs.12,500 per portion. The hotel also stocks fresh blueberries from Holland, available in the form of a low sugar Berry ConsommA�, Lemon Mint Sorbet, priced at `800.
        Details: 66002827

        a�?We take our global brand and image very seriously and with enthusiastic foodies in Chennai, we are constantly on the lookout to create nothing but the best for our guests,a�? declares executive chef Yogender Pal. Go around the world tastefully with imported meats, Madagascar vanilla, gold leaf and more. Norway is synonymous with great salmon and thata��s evident if youa��ve tried their Teriyaki Salmon (Rs.1,395) served with a hearty portion of grilled veggies and mashed potatoes. Other good alternatives are the Chargrilled US Lobster (pre order @ Rs.2,200) with a Cointreau butter or the juicy New Zealand lamb chops (Rs.2,150) served with an asparagus puree. Better still, try the Sushi and Sashimi made depending on the availability of Kampachi, a Japanese fish. Even the humble lamb stew, Kundan Kalia (pre order @Rs.1,100), is garnished with a gold leaf. Details: 22255555

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