Tag Archives: Chennai

Benjarong, Chennai, India

15 Jan

Chennai, Jan 2012

it seems to me that the universe is being particularly kind when it comes to satisfying my foodie cravings. if not, how else do you explain the fact that just a few days after raving about how much i love thai food to one friend, another friend suggests that we visit this awesome place called Benjarong for ‘thai dinner night’? i love thee, my personal foodie guardian angel! 🙂

if you have not visited Benjarong before, you might do the same thing i did and miss seeing it. located along TTK road next to French Loaf Bakery, the restaurant is tucked away from the main road. when you reach, there is valet parking, so you don’t have to fuss about having to park the vehicle in the limited space.

unlike some fine-dining restaurants i have been to, Benjarong doesn’t awe you with size. ‘quaint’ is the word that comes to my mind when i see the not-so-tall wooden doors adorned with a welcoming thai statue, that open up into a beautifully decorated space. soft yellow lights accentuate the rich brown of the furniture, the wall paintings and a small reclining buddha that catches my fancy. the tables do seem to be placed a little close to each other, but once we were seated, there was no sense of overcrowding.

right after we were given the menus, a waiter brought us a plate set with some basil leaves and little cups filled with assorted ingredients – shredded sweet coconut, peanuts, cut red chillies, small cubes of yellow lime, bits of onion, and a nut-like substance i don’t know the name of. in the center was a bowl with thick, ebony-coloured sweet sauce. i followed my friend’s example, and made a one-bite salad, using a basil leaf piled with a bit of each ingredient (minus the red chilly) and a drop of sauce, and popped the whole thing in my mouth – and boy, was it amazing! 🙂 sweet, tangy, pungent – all together in miniscule proportions underlined by the fresh, earthy taste of basil! it was a wonderful start, and whetted our appetites for the meal to follow.

by this time, i had high hopes for the food. we began with tofu satay – sticks of rectangular tofu coated with spices and then grilled, and served with thick, spicy peanut sauce. it was sheer pleasure in every bite, evidenced the fact that we practically wiped the sauce bowl clean with bits of tofu! 🙂 then came the main courses – green curry (served with rice) and phad thai phak (flat noodles tossed with veges and spices). the green curry was wonderfully replete with coconut milk and signature thai spices that left a tingle on my taste buds. the phad thai phak was moderately spicy with the tossed veges adding a nice crunch to the dish. the portions are generous, so sharing is welcome! we were also served lemongrass tea, which is a mild drink with a very subtle hint of the spice – this was the first time i was trying it, and found it to be a nice addition to the meal.

Benjarong is perfect for a special dinner with friends or family. the food is excellent, the ambience is beautiful, and the waiters are extremely courteous and attentive without being intrusive. my only grouse about the evening was that we were too full to try out the desserts – but hey, there will always be a next time! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Benjarong (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Benjarong)

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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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