Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wong Kei

If you happen to venture into London's China town, (which is the ONE bit of brilliant colour you will spot in the city at this time of the year) you might spot a small, unobtrusive restaurant called Wonk Kei. Not the best of decors, mind you, but we're not there for the decor. No, we're not even there for the 10-pound Tees which proudly claim 'Wong Kei' framed by the words 'upstairs' and 'downstairs'. Nope. You, my friend, are there for the food, which, is as Indian Chinese as you will get in a restaurant out of India.
As you open the doors, you skip the tantalizing images of roast duck hanging by the window, and just head on straight to the back of the resaurant and up the stairs (hence the upstairs and downstairs tee). Find yourself a comfortable corner. Don't bother waiting to be seated. Just help yourself to a nice, empty table. Preferably, choose one by the window- it's got a great view of the streets below. Good. Comfortable? Now just order to your heart's content. Pretty much everything on the menu, I'm told, is good.

Us being in sober company, stuck to the basics- Fried chicken noodles, egg rice, mushrooms in black sauce and chicken in Bean sauce. This was more than enough for four people and the best part- the bill came to under 16 pounds!
I have been told that one of the specialities in this restaurant is the fried duck and the beef in bean sauce. there are also a lot of pork dishes one can try, but there was only so much one can fit into a lunch...
P.S: for all the desis who like their food hot'n' spicy, the chilly oil kept as a condiment at the table should serve you well.

Value for Money:****

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Arabian Hut. Charcoal Grill.

Two names for but a single shop. I said ‘shop’, did I? Because that's just what it is. The Arabian Hut at City Center, the new mall on Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, Chennai, is only a take-away eatery. Of course being a food mall, you have little tables to sit down and appreciate your Arabian booty.

The Arabian Hut like all Arabian joints is lush with the smell of juicy shawarma. But being new to most Chennaites, you'll spot loads of people around the tiny place who just haven't a clue what's to be ordered. And the staff at the Hut aren't any helpful either. You'll see the disdain on their faces. Don't try reading their smug mugs though. Get right on with ordering the Shawarma Plate and an Arabian Salad to go along with it. The latter is vegetarian, mind you.

The food will be ready in a jiffy. Now balance your tray and scout for an empty table. Are you comfortably seated? Ok. Bite into the shawarma. Good? Ummm. What will you go back for? You must visit this joint if ever you are at the City Center. There's another place at Anna Nagar, opposite Domino’s that serves equally good Shawarma Rolls. Addictive. Absolutely addictive. You could even eat it for breakfast, if you're so inclined and if they decide to open that early in the morning.

Ambience: **
Value for Money: *****
Food: *****

Monday, January 1, 2007


At the outset, I must admit that my review of the restaurant may be slightly coloured. No, those looking for a racial slur will find none... I am merely making the reader aware that I was looking at the restaurant with ros`e coloured glasses. (hic) I mean... (sic).
The buffet spread was quite lavish, and was quite enough to satisfy both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian palate. Soups, though were quite standard. Tomato shorba for the veggie and chicken shorba for the non-veggies. Mercifully, the clear chicken soup was not massacred with the addition of unnecessary spices.

Salads were never my scene, and apparently the chef shares my sentiment. There was the usual stuff, that can be found at every shaadi and do.
Starters get more interesting, however. Kebabs - and there was no derth of them, were good. The reshmi and chicken tikka kebabs were truly melt-in-your mouth. The bite-sized naans served at your table prove the perfect accompaniment.
Main course, if you're looking for chicken alone, you'll be dissapointed. There's a fish (we had a bengali fish preparation that was simply Yummm), a mutton and a chicken. So I'd suggest taking some of the veggie fare as well. Which is not an altogether bad thing. The handi subzi and the dal were pretty decent.
Now come the desserts. Please spare space for 'em. In fact you can make a whole meal of them. There's crisp Jalebis, kheer and rabdi. Also piping hot Gulab Jamuns and Gajar ka Halwa. The combination of Jalebi- Rabdi or Jamun- Rabdi is a spiritual experience.
Mela- for the Desi in you.

Ambience:** (would have got more stars if there wasn't a huge mother of a back-lit billboard staring at you in the face inside the restaurant)
Value For Money: ***
Food: **1/2*

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kaasi Vinayaka Mess, Triplicane

This place is ancient, so I’ve heard, but by no means a relic in this age of fancy theme restaurants. But then this is not your everyday restaurant. It’s a mess. Ah! Before you get me wrong, I didn’t mean ‘mess’ as in “Gosh! What a mess!”. I meant 'mess' as in limited menu canteen.

You get wholesome Tamil food here for as little as Rs.22. That’s Rs. 25 if you want a cup of curd thrown in. Oh! Before I forget, you only get vegetarian food here – rice and the accompaniments. And they don’t ask you if you’d prefer boiled rice or raw rice. It’s just rice – the ‘limited’ variety and the ‘full’ variety, which amounts to a little more… a thousand grains or so more.

Bachelors in Triplicane, Chennai swear by this mess. They are open for lunch around 11:00 am through 3:00 pm and then again for dinner from 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm. Eleven if you stretch it. But by then the curd would have run out.

Come here, and you first need to stand in queue for your ‘meals token’. There’s the yellow and white (pronounced 'pfhite') token. Once they call your token, you have exactly ten minutes to wolf down your meal. Begin with delicious ‘podi’ and wholesome ghee to accompany your first portion of rice. This is simply divine, believe you me! But you won’t get more of it. Then comes your sambar followed by rasam and buttermilk laced with fresh spices.

You get a side of ‘koottu’ which is a gooey, bland vegetable stew and a ‘porial’ which invariably is a mix of steamed carrots, peas, cabbage and scrapped coconut lightly sautéed in oil. The papad and perfectly tangy pickle complete the picture. (The pickle goes best with rice and curd, remember.)

Too tame you think? Not a chance! It’s a whole new experience that begins with standing in queue and listening to bachelor talk followed by a ten-minute wait until your token is called. The service is fast and efficient. Everything works to clockwork and when you come out burping, you’ll be pleased you came here. Maybe you’d even write an ‘ode to a burp’ if you're so inclined.

Ambience: **
Value for Money: *****
Food: ****

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Yorkers

If you're one of those souls who loves to try various cuisines, all within the confines of vegetarianism, New Yorkers is the perfect starting point.

Mexicana and Italiana (barring pizzas, which and tres Indiana) are pretty decent here, with a liberal smattering of Cheese in all its forms available here. The trademark dishes, which everyone orders here, and is a given if you visit here are the onion rings and the nachos with cheese starters. Apart from these (which are quite enough to fill a medium-sized stomach), if you're still in the mood, you can try the baby potatoes in a delicious herb sauce and italian seasoning or the chocolate fondue for the really indulgent. Serving time is really short, but you'll have to put up with snotty brats in half pants for the duration of your meal. (make you feel OLD)

Ambience: **
Value for Money:***

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Don Giovanni

Well, first off, if you're like me- someone who speaks like there's a fog horn stuck in my throat all the time, this place is not for you. The moment your voice rises above dulcet whispers here, the waiters pass by in turns giving you dirty looks. The flip side however is that the atomosphere is hence condusive to romance and candlelight. Add to that the excellent collection of wine that the place boasts, and we have the ideal setting for lovebirds.
Oddly though, the only guests we could actually spot were straight-laced gujju families enjoying their repast- the birds of the loving variety were conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps what kept them away were the forbidding prices to the dishes. The moment one opens the menu, there's a note about how the joint was strictly Italina, would not compromise on quality, made everything feresh and did NOT Indianise the dishes. Ah. OK. Having made it thus far, and refusing to be intimidated by the Maitre De or the Italian menu, we order the food.
I must say, the food throughly lived upto its build up. Fresh Igredients- check; Authentic Italian- check; Opera Music- check!
I would strongly suggest the pizzas and the bruchettas. Didn't have an opportunity to sample the pasta, but judging from the groans of delight from the adjacent table, I would guess it's just as good.

All in all, If fine wine and candlelight is what your out for, Don Giovanni is your thing, honey!

Ambience: ****
Value for Money: *
Food: ***

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Clean Plater

Some singers sing of ladies' eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English VerseIs lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or lessPreoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Yes, food,Just any old kind of food.
Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pate or patty or pasty.
But there's nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest greetings
I utter To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they're food,
All food,
And I think very fondly of food.
Through I'm broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
I brood On food.
Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
“Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphsI am not wooed;
I'd rather painters painted food.
Just food,
Just any old kind of food.
Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you'd win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it's something to eat.
If it's food,
It's food;
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
On food.

-Ogden Nash