National Geographic Photo of the Day

Monday, October 6, 2008

Of Good Kerala restaurants….

I wouldn’t go outside to have any Keralite cuisine, because that’s what I get at home. Usually, it’s Don Pepe, Planet Yumm, Radha Park, the Park, Barbecue Nation etc (when we just feel like going out), or sometimes The Residence (at Park Sheraton), Taj Coromandel, or Le Royale Meridien for special occasions. Of late however we had gone to one restaurant in the hope of finding the ultimate Kerala food. Being from a Malayali family that has its origins in Kerala, I feel I have the right to comment on this Kerala-themed restaurant in Chennai.

I’d gone a few weeks back to “Ente Keralam” (translated as “My Kerala”), a restaurant in Mylapore for lunch. When we arrived we found that the person who took our reservation had conveniently forgotten to take the name down in his register, and we ended up waiting along with the rest. And the “rest” wasn’t too small a number. You’d think that people would have plenty of restaurants in Chennai to go to without this one being on their list. In the interim, there were people leaving who’d drop a line “My Compliments to the chef”, “The food was really good” and various variations.

I thought “Could this then really be the definitive Keralite restaurant?”

I hadn’t long to wait before the doorman whisked us in. The first thing we noticed was the prices – not that we mind high tags – but sometimes it feels strange paying sky-high for things you eat at home regularly.

Anyway, our entrée consisted of traditional beef cutlet, which on arrival was found to contain rather less beef in comparison to the coating. The biriyani (both fish and chicken – separately) that followed didn’t really have that kick in it, and it looked more like the masala really hadn’t taken hold. The Kerala Parotta and the prawn masala that came up next were much better though. There’s one thing that is THE essential Kerala dish – something that we look for at every Keralite restaurant that we frequent. It’s called Kappa (I think the vegetable is Yam) with Meen Curry (Fish curry). Upon enquiry we found they didn’t have it that day. I wonder as to how many “that day”’s would have passed till then with no Kappa and Meen Curry.

Kerala also conjures in one’s mind visions of exotic seafood. It was later revealed that the restaurant that they’d JUST run out of stock when it came to crab and lobster the previous day. Yeah Right!!! Neither did they have Pathiri, a traditional dish among Muslim families who lived in Kerala.

The final blow however was when my aunt had a desire to drink some Mor Kaatchiyadhu (It’s buttermilk with spices and stuff in it – gives it a new twist) after lunch. A small cup with some of it landed in front of my aunt. Later when the bill presented itself, we found out that they’d put a price of a 100 rupees upon that simple cup of Mor. I hardly think the experience we had justified the kind of price tags they put and their claim to be an authentic Kerala restaurant. It’s more a place where you can take the Uninitiated and show off. Oh, all those poor deluded souls complimenting the chef on the quality of the food!

If you want to have some real Keralite stuff, head over to “Kumarakom” (the restaurant, not the place in Kerala). They have six restaurants in Chennai; last I counted, near Parsn Complex and near the Chennai Trade Centre. There they don’t have skyrocketing prices, what they do have is a nice ambience and you do get really good food (and all the dishes are available most of the time). “Ente Keralam” – Truly yours indeed!


Post a Comment