As we sat down to begin our review, we noticed an earthen bottle of water on our table; just a sip of it sent wave of coolness through our body. “It is kept in a copper container overnight and transferred into these bottles so it stays cool without refrigeration,” we were told. Through the rest of our meal, we were transported to every minute part of God’s own country from where dishes were featured.
On a bright green plantain leaf, beef ularthiyathu and squid fry were placed… actually, it’s best we don’t go into the details of what we ate, for we may end up listing 30-odd names! One after the other, like ants following each other, the most delicious small plates were brought out. ‘Small portions, small price’ is the restaurant’s policy so it wasn’t too heavy to digest and we got to try more varieties.
Two types of fish fry that were to die for, prawn kizhi (cooked in banana leaf), three root vegetables steamed and served with chutneys, vattayappam and three types of fish curry later, we were told there was more to eat. Somewhere in between this it occurred to us just how delicious the vegetarian condiments — coconut chutney, bird’s eye chilli chutney with small onions, a banana (nendram) and pineapple sweet tangy dish and ullitheeyal — were, falsifying the notion that Kerala eateries only serve non-vegetarian food.
We were also told to taste the pazhanchoru (day-old rice made into a porridge) with beans stir-fried. It is probably the humblest dish on the menu but stood out because of its simplicity and delicately balanced flavours. Deciding to take a break from eating, we walked over to the live counter where an elderly person was taking out hot idlies from atop an earthen pot. In a little village near Palakkad called Ramassery is a family which has been making idlies for the past 450 years. When the restaurateurs told them of their idea to bring Kerala cuisine to Chennai, one of the members accompanied them all the way here.
To understand the story behind every such dish on the menu, one would probably have to revisit a couple of times. After taking the final bite of the signature kandhari chilli ice cream, we reluctantly left but not before making a mental note to ourselves saying that we’d be back soon.
kappa chakka kandhari
Address: 10, Haddows Road, Nungambakkam
Must-have: Avoli fry, chenda kappa with fish curry, coconut pudding
Timing: 11 am to 11 pm
Star rating (on 5): *****