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    There was a time when the Chennai foodscape was all about three ladies and three gentlemen—Sangeetha, Vasantha, Ratna, Saravana, Ponnusamy and Velu Military. Then things changed a wee bit.

    The Northies got their odd dhaba. Mallus were blessed with Kalpaka, Andhraites thanked heavens for Amaravati. Gujjus struck gold with Gujarati Mandal. And the rest had to make do with the Data Udupi type hotels, the Kaiyendi Bhavans, the neighbourhood cafes and the overpriced food joints in over-hyped locales.

    Jump to 2014, where things look a lot different. The depth of culinary delights on offer now can be judged by the breadth of variety in restaurant naming. Leading the pack is the self-deprecating I Fake. Located in Egattur village on OMR, the restaurant’s speciality is mock meats. If you’re a vegetarian who wants to vicariously gorge on non-vegetarian without going ‘Shiva Shiva’, this could be your Mount Kailash. If you’re in the mood for bacon and ratatouille for breakfast, hop over to RA Puram and walk into the French bistro L’Amandier (meaning almond tree). Chances are you’ll end up saying, ‘c’est delicieux’.
    Off RK Salai, there’s even a prison-themed restaurant called Kaidi Kitchen where jailbirds will be served Indian and Chinese food in a cell-like ambience by prison wardens who promise you a treat with an arresting taste.

    Talking of multi-cuisine joints, there are plenty to choose from in the city. Among the new kids on the block is DiMoRa whose signature dish is wood-fire pizzas. DiMoRa is a portmanteau of three seasoned foodies: Dinesh, Murugaananthan and Ram. Dimora, by the way, means ‘abode’ in Italian.

    Avenue 195, near Khader Nawaz Khan Road, also offers continental fare that straddles Indian, Italian, Chinese and everything in between. Apparently the 195 is a nod to the 195 countries that make up the United Nations.

    For those who want a whiff of the Irish, there’s the Somerset Maughamesque The Moon And Sixpence at Hablis. Mediterranean buffs can look forward to Lavash (Armenian flat bread) in Nungambakkam; world street food lovers can flock to Spoonbill (the bird with the spoon-shaped beak) on TTK Road; brownie and cupcake worshipers have the cleverly-named Mind over Batter in Besant Nagar; Punjabis have Pind (village) in Velachery, and Bongs have Petuk (foodie) in Thoraipakkam. All in all, everyone has a nice excuse to go ‘sappda vaanga’ (come, let’s eat)!

    Which Chennai restaurant caught your fancy?
    Parcel it to anantha@albertdali.com.

    -Anantha Narayan

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