Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mylai Sri Karpagambal Mess, Chennai

Walk into this place and you will immediately be accosted by a pantheon of well adorned gods and goddesses staring sternly at you. Every single space on the wall sports life sized pictures of the almighty. Now I know that this mess is right behind the temple and all but I found the decor a little disconcerting. 

Quickly I decided to pay my allegiance to the gastronomical gods and placed a rather large breakfast order.

Look at all those pictures! 
 The Special Vadai (Rs.18) was wonderful. Piping hot served with a no-nonsense sambar and chutney and oh so tasty. I especially loved the crunchy exterior. We ended up having 5 of these!

Special Vadai
As great as the vadai was, my favourite dish had to be the pongal (Rs.35). It literally melted in my mouth. This pongal-sambar combo is my current favourite breakfast item in Madras. 

I am not a huge fan of idlis (Rs.9), but the ones here were pretty good. 

We also tried the Poori Masala (Rs.20) which I would recommend you avoid. The Poori was oily and its texture was like papad. The aloo-masala was nothing special. There are way better things to be had here. 

Poori Masala

To indulge our sweet tooth we ordered the Cashew Cake (Rs.25) and the Badam Halwa (Rs.50). Both were OK, neither worth ordering again. 

Cashew Cake

Badam Halwa

The filter coffee was strong, rich and served in a steel tumbler/davra: good South Indian coffee.

Karpagambal Mess is not pretentious or fancy. The ambiance is a little intimidating but not as dingy as some people would lead you to believe (I've eaten at much, much dingier places). But everything from the agrharam style decor to the plantain-leaf plates screams Madras. If you want to taste the flavour of the city, have a bite here.

Pricing: Rs. 35-75 per person
Location: 20, East mada street, Mylapore , Chennai
(Click here for the Google Maps directions)

Thanks to Jayanth and Shweta for accompanying me on a weekend morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fruit Shop on Greams Road, Chennai

For the umpteenth time, I am trying to eat healthy (they do say 37th time is a charm, right?). As part of this venture, I'm going to take you to Fruit Shop on Greams Road. Contrary to it's name, the shop is not (just) on Greams Road. If you have spent any amount of time in the city you must have noticed the bright yellow boards dotting various locations across the city. This review is largely based on my experiences at the Beasant Nagar branch.

The shop itself is a bit bizarre: slightly run down and filled with black & white portraits of little known American celebrities. The purpose of this decor has always eluded me. But I can only tackle one befuddling problem at a time and I quickly concerned myself with their overcrowded menu. There is a mind boggling variety of fruity concoctions to choose from.

In the milkshake section, a personal favourite is the Custard Apple Shake. Rich, creamy and and bound to satisfy your sugar fix. The Sheik Shake is based on dates. While I ordered this with much trepidation, it turned out to be pretty decent. It's definitely not my favourite drink but is worth a try.

I also quite like the Old Boy, a strawberry and mango concoction. The primary taste is mango's with just a sliver of strawberry thrown in. The shake is super heavy and will fill you up considerably.

In the juice section try the Mom's Recipe. This is light, refreshing and surprisingly tasty tomato juice. I never thought I'd say this but it ranks among my favourites here.

Mom's Recipe

The Indian Cocktail is an explosion of six fruits. The overarching taste is of papaya's but you can also discern sweet lime, orange and just a wee bit of pineapple and strawberry. The mystery sixth ingredient we are yet to fathom.

If you are in the mood for a healthy snack or a very light dinner, then I recommend their fresh fruit salad. 

Fresh Fruit Salad

Try their sinuous strawberries and cream if you are feeling decadent. I assure you, you won't be disappointed.

Strawberries and Cream
(Thanks to FooDee for the pic)
I spotted the next table digging into this yummy, but unhealthy, looking falooda. In deference to my expanding waistline I stopped myself from ordering this one, but you should try it and let me know whether its any good. 

Fruit Shop is one of those places that everyone loves. I think their biggest strength is that they use healthy, fresh, high quality ingredients. Thats why I keep coming back.

Pricing: Rs. 35-100 per person. Click to view the menu.
Location: They have branches in Beasant Nagar, Anna Nagar, Kilpauk, Greams Road, Spencer Plaza and even Dubai (opposite Lamcy Plaza).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jelly Belly, Chennai: Stay Away

I've been meaning to pay this place a visit due to its proximity, the fact that it serves desserts (duh!) and because I can actually shake my belly like a bowlful of jelly. Bad jokes aside, Jelly Belly has been on my 'list' and last night I finally got around to it.

We walked in and were immediately taken in by the desserts on display. We soon discovered that they have no menu. Your only source of information is the chef/waiter. I found that highly disconcerting. How much effort does it take to take a piece of paper, write down what you are serving and the prices and paste it in a prominent part of the restaurant. 

After grilling the waiter for a good ten minutes, we placed our orders. The strawberry souffle, choco-brownie souffle and cheesecake all tasted similar. The texture was synthetic & mousse-like and the dessert started with an after-taste. Of the three, the choco-brownie souffle was definitely the best but that's not saying much. 

Strawberry Souffle

Choco-Brownie Souffle

The cheesecake tasted like milk. Really. To be fair, the crust was pretty good but the cake itself was wrong. If I had to pick out the worst dessert of the night (and trust me, that was a tough contest) I would choose this. Deeptha recommends their strawberry cheesecake but I doubt if I shall be trying that any time soon. 


We also ordered the apple pie. This was the best dessert of the night and the only one we managed to finish. The pie was dry, the apple pieces too chunky and hard but overall it was OK. I wouldn't recommend it but if you do find yourself forced to eat here, the apple pie might be your best bet. 

Apple Pie

Just as we were about to leave, we discovered that they also serve salads and sandwiches. Since they don't possess a menu we only discovered this courtesy some stellar questioning by Bhaps. Bhaps and I decided to stay back and give this place one more chance. We ordered the chilli-cheese toast. This consisted of toasted bread with a three inch layer of cheese in it and some spring onions. Needless to say, it was terrible. At Rs.120, it was a complete rip off. 

Chilli Cheese Toast

To be fair to Jelly Belly, their interiors are cute. I especially liked their cute napkin holders. If only they had put as much effort into their food and a menu. 

If it isn't clear already, my advise would be to STAY AWAY from this place. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth there are much better places to do it at (stop by Sri Krishna Sweets which is right next door). Only a severe lack of judgment, or the presence of Brad Pitt, will see me at this place again. 

Pricing: Rs. 100 per person
Location: E-37, 2nd avenue, Beasant Nagar, Chennai (Click here to find it on Google Maps)
Landmark: Below Eden, Beasant Nagar
Phone: 24460777

L to R: Sharanya, Koths, Bhaps

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

El Tablao, Bangalore

The blog turned two over the weekend (Woohoo!!) and I wanted to go somewhere fun to celebrate the occasion. After much thought and deliberation we decided to pay a visit to the new tapas bar in town. There aren't too many of these in the country (No, Zara's doesn't count) and I must admit I was a tad excited. The restaurant is spacious and decorated with tonnes of paintings ranging from the gorgeous to the outright weird.  

An exquisite piece of tile art that we particularly liked

However, we can admire art for only so long and mortifying noises from our tummies reminded us of the main reason we were there. In the meat section, we ordered the Alitas de Pollo a la Brasa con Chilli (No. 20 on the menu) which was a big hit. Chicken wings tossed in a lemon and chilli sauce: this had the right amount of tangy-sweetness to it. The accompanying garlic mayo was super and complemented the wings perfectly. 

Alitas de Pollo a la Brasa con Chilli

The Borcheta de Pollo um Pimicentos y Cebolla (No. 21) was distinctly Indian: the spices, the texture, even the look (upon first glance we were convinced it was paneer skewers). Don't get me wrong, it tasted good but just left us wishing we had ordered something more exotic than chicken tikka. 

Borcheta de Pollo um Pimicentos y Cebolla

On the veggie side, we ordered the Tosta de Pan con Berenjenas (No. 37): Bread topped with a spice aubergine sauce, olives and generous servings of cheese. The distinct taste of spicy aubergine was quite unlike anything I've had before and I definitely recommend this dish. 

Tosta de Pan con Berenjenas

We also ordered the Paella de Verduras (No. 35): a small veggie paella. This Valencian rice dish was filled with veggies and spices with strong overtones of saffron. It reminded me a little of khichdi and evoked a similar warm and wholesome feeling. The much vaunted soccarat (toasted rice at the bottom of the pan) was missing though. If you want to have paella for your main course, then you need to order 40 mins in advance. 

Paella de Verduras

Since we were too hungry to wait that long, we decided to give the Mexican menu a shot and ordered the Fajitas, Quesadillas and the Nacho Grande. The former two were pretty similar (yes, the veggies in the fajitas were straight out of the oven and the quesadillas had a loooot of cheese but other than that,the wraps and the stuffing, was pretty similar). I recommend the qusadillas over the fajitas. The accompanying sour cream was yummy.



The Nachos were very good but it definitely doesn't fill the tummy. And relatively speaking, it was overpriced.

Nacho Grande

Stuffed, but unwilling to leave without dessert we decided to split one: the baked apple with cinnamon and sangria compote and served with ice cream. To say that we devoured it  would be an understatement. Yes, it was that good and yes, we are that piggy.

20 seconds later

Somewhere along the way, we also ordered some great sangria: fruity, light and the perfect complement to all that Spanish/Mexican fare.

Service was quick and non-intrusive. The loo was clean and even had hand lotion to boot (always a plus in my books).

El Tablao is a great find. If you want to have a relaxed meal with your friends and catch up over some interesting fare, then head here. Whether El Tablao will survive the rat race that is the Bangalore dining scene remains to be seen but here's to hoping it does.

Pricing: Rs. 300-400 per person. You can view the menu here
Location: Lotus, 612/1, 80 Feet Road, 4th Block, Koramangala , Bangalore (Click here to get the Google Map location)
Landmark: Near Sony World Signal
Phone: 41410124, 9902336811

Before I sign off, I have a couple of shout outs
1) DV is documenting her Amdavad food adventures at . Show her some love
2) PoshVine is a new dining facility that offers you substantial discounts at restaurants in B'lore. If you want to sign up, use the referral code PVBLGR07. You get some free moolah.
3) As always, 'Pimp my blog!'

Thanks to Ats, Rao, Woogul and Vat for coming along (and for increasing the prettiness quotient on the blog ;) ). Special thanks to Woogul for recommending the place.