Archive | October, 2011

ID (Sathyam Cinemas), Chennai, India

30 Oct

Chennai, Aug 2011

the first thing i noticed when i entered ID was a photograph on the wall that showed the changing phases of the moon – from full moon to new moon. something was different though, and it took me a couple of seconds to realise that it was made of rava idlis!

i think you would have guessed by now that ID – although it serves idli, vada and other south indian tiffin items – is not your typical udupi restaurant.

located with the sathyam cinema complex, ID is a top-priority foodie landmark for those who live in chennai. luckily, you are free to visit the restaurant whether or not you are going to watch a movie at sathyam – and from what i recall, i have made more trips to the cinema complex to eat! 🙂

ID is not a very big restaurant, but whoever did the interiors made sure that space has been cleverly utilised. the teppanyaki-style kitchen with granite counter tops in the centre with white bar-stools around offers a direct view of the vadas as they fry merrily, or of the dosa- and appam being deftly shaped into perfect circles, a few minutes before they find their way to your plate. of course, there are tables and chairs all around, but would you really want to miss a piece of the action?

once you are seated, you are given the menu, a small rectangular card with curved edges that looks like a bookmark – i actually wanted to take home one of them ‘cos they looked so cute! there is one cuisine – regular south Indian tiffin items such as idlis, vadas, appam and dosas with complementing sides. each of these is sold by piece, and you can keep ordering as and when you want. once you have placed your initial order, the table is set with square metal plates, and cups of accompanying chutney, sambar or other sides. as soon as the food is prepared, it is brought to your plate, piping hot.

tuck in – and before you know it, you have had your fill with a sample of almost item on the menu. i mean, how could you say ‘no’ to the tempting appam with ullithiyal (a spicy gravy made with shallots) or the golden dosa with white coconut chutney, or the crisp vadas that call to be dunked into sambar? and isn’t it natural to want to round off the meal with a cup of filter coffee? if you have a sweet tooth, you could also order a cup of chakra pongal (rice sweetened with jaggery)! 🙂 no, you really can’t say no!

if you are coming to ID, come with an appetite. and if you are really up for it, a movie ticket. 🙂

*Photos courtesy of ID (www.facebook.com/IDSATHYAMCINEMAS)

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Azzuri Bay, Chennai, India

2 Oct

Chennai, July 2011

authenticity is a hard thing to recreate – especially when it comes to food. to lay claim to making any cuisine – italian, thai, western, italian, etc – is one thing. but to make it so well that it makes you stop after the first mouthful, and then regard the food with more reverence – ah, now that takes talent! but i am getting ahead of myself. let me start at the beginning

my first visit to Azzuri Bay was with two new friends. in a very interesting coincidence, it was sheer chemistry at first sight – with the friends and the restaurant! 🙂 the restaurant is located atop Crimson Chakra (which i have yet to visit). as you walk though the compound entrance, a serene Buddha sitting in a fountain greets you. take the lift and head to the second floor and you find yourself in a medium-size space that’s been tastefully done up in classic dark wood and off-white tones, with the overhead wooden ceiling beams and wood flooring lending it a vintage touch. go one more level up and you find yourself in a beautiful open terrace, which is flanked by a Buddha statue and a mural at the entrance, and another space enclosed by glass windows on the other. with squarish paper lamps, wine glasses and white napkins, the rustic tables are set beautifully – making you feel at once feel that you are in a place that is classy yet comfortable.

deciding to go with a mix of asian and italian, we ordered some satay and fried wantons for starters, and green curry and lasagna for the mains (all veg). when the satay arrived with peanut sauce, i hesitated before dipping into it. over my past few months in India, i have fallen prey to imitation versions that look similar, but fail to match in taste. i was in for a surprise! the peanut sauce was the closest i have tasted to the original versions i have relished in Singapore. granted, it was not as thick, but that was of no consequence. furthermore, they had served little blocks of rice with the satay – another true-blue Southeast Asian culinary tradition. the ground chilli paste which was served with the fried starters was another surprise – rich chilli blended with hints of lemongrass, garlic and other spices that made me go weak at my knees 🙂 i later found out that the owner (a very friendly dude named Hari Narayan) had spent some part of his life in Southeast Asia.

needless to say, our expectations were heightened by this time, and we were well rewarded with our main courses. the Thai green curry was near perfect with the right amount of coconut milk, veges and spices. the lasagna featured al dente pasta sheets with mixed vegetables and cheese coming together in a mouth-watering amalgam. (another time, i tried their bruschetta – and i had an equally good time eating it! :)) what i liked best about the food was the tendency to stick to what the originals are like – no unnecessary fusion of Indian spices here. the portions are fairly good – and make it worth the while to share. by the end of the dinner, we were one happy lot 🙂 i heard that they have introduced wood-fired pizzas recently, and i haven’t yet tried their desserts – all the most reason for another visit, or two!

overall Azzuri Bay ticked a lot of boxes for me. the classic decor and zen touches make it my first choice of venue for important dinners or events; the food is excellent; and the service even better. the price range does trail on the higher side, it is in standing with the levels charged with similar restaurants in the city. personally, i would say it is worth it. you can spend an evening over a cosy dinner for two, or a more jolly gathering with more – either way, you can be sure you will have a fantastic time! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Azzuri Bay (www.facebook.com/AzzuriBay)

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