Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taste of Goodness - Cholayil Sanjeevanam


The ubiquitous Banana Leaf often sets the tone for the good times, albeit momentary, to follow. Your inspection normally includes checking for blemishes, holes and the occasional dead ant. And sometimes you plain don’t like the shade of green and request for a change to a more palatable green. But when was the last time you got a rainforest shade ‘elai’ with drops of dew of such amazing freshness that you almost head the gushing backwaters of Kerala? Never? Chances are you haven’t stumbled upon where I headed for lunch the other day. Cholayil Sanjeevanam.

Somebody once said, all things good in life are either too oily or married to someone else. While this is not a post to discuss the latter, the former isn’t definitely true. The eloquently laid out banana leaf sets the tone for the freshness to follow. For Indian food lovers, with food necessarily cooked the traditional way, Sanjeevanam is a place you would like to visit. And if you thought it was the healthy consumption that mattered, wait till they show you the order in which you ought to consume them.

We settled for the house specialty - Rajakeeyam.

So the feast starts with one small slice of a ripe Banana flavored with chopped coconut. It disappears no sooner than it appears. What follows next is an array of tequila pint sized glasses with 5 varieties of juices – Dates and Honey, Coconut, Beet Root, Mint and Rice Barn. Wait tell they arrange it in the manner in which you ought to consume them. The appetizer is followed with the first course of Puttu, Salad, and Radish in light watery gravy. This is followed up with – if I remember correctly – no less than 12 dishes of vegetables spanning Banana Stems, Carrots, Snake Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Beetroot, Turnip, Cabbage, Spinach, Okra and Radish among others. You may recollect everything your Mom’s forced you to eat while you were a kid, but refused to, and a lot more. Of course, regulation Rice – White and Brown – served with a rather hearty dash of Ghee along with a host of lentils and curd. You may go on with their bottomless servings to your heart’s content. You will have to excuse me here for not being able to recollect the majority of the EntrĂ©e’s here but what I do remember is the manner in which they serve you honey on your scooped palm. Lick up all the goodness and don’t hesitate to ask for more. I was a bit hesitant about the Fruity Pan but it was rather good. Oh btw, no potatoes for the entire course!

As you chomp away, you might notice how light you continue to feel in spite of the rather large helpings as against the conventional South Indian thali’s that fill you up from the moment you bite into that 23grams oil laden pappad. That's because they do away with oil. Completely. Yes! Its all steamed and you thought the world would end if OPEC ceased functioning. While I didn't quite play TT with my friend and colleague Saravanan with whom I dined and normally play post lunch (and get thrashed, but hey I'm learning) but I very well was in a position to do a fast jog. And I wouldn't like to attribute the mild hint of slumber that provoked me at 3.40 that day to my lunch.

Service is regulation and though they do not do ‘repeat’ as often I guess they could do. For some reason they served us water after we finished our meal. In hindsight, I reckon the dishes were well hydrated and we did not need the amount of water we normally consume while we eat. I’d say a 4/5.

More at:

Eat well,


PS - If you think the above options are a bit too healthy, you could always walk into KFC next door or Cream Centre down the road.

Thanks Sudha for reviewing my post and pointing out some of the finer aspects of Rajakeeyam that I missed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Idly & Dosai

These days, the conversations surrounding ‘Idly & Dosai’ goes like this.

Me: “Hey, I went to Idly & Dosai”

Friend: “Oh, where did you eat”

Me: “I went 'to'  Idly & Dosai”

Friend: “Oh! You mean that’s the name of the place?”

Me: “Yes”

Friend: Yada yada (tell me more)

I chanced upon this joint a while back after the evening show of SDM. “Ah, another wanna be restaurant”. I assumed they were one of those guys charging INR 45 for a plate of idly’s. Post this I heard some great reviews about the place and chanced upon it while catching up with Pinky.  

How wrong I was.

Idly & Dosai is a great combination of semi-fine dining with the finger licking experience one wants to associate himself while relishing Rava Dosai and a tumbler of Sambar.

The designers have done a great job with this place. The Satyam multiplex never ceases to surprise and this place has done a nice job of holding on to the tradition.  The place is brightly lit and instantly cooks up a bright mood. The concierge’s do a good job of a warm welcome and seating you, help fully adding, “Sir, these are revolving chairs”. Once they usher you in, they leave you for a minute to catch your breath and soak in the place. The place is done up in a classic Black & White and all the specs compliment one another. The cutlery is contemporary stainless steel. Don’t miss the pictures of the idly’s in the wall depicting the different versions of the moon. Very neat.

They quickly fill up our glasses and stand by for the order. Wait a minute, where are the menu cards?

“Oh, here they are sir”. He flips out a paper book mark from his pocket and hands them over. Now, this is real neat. Their menu does not scream a plethora of options. The multiplex does, so I think they let saved the customers the angst of choosing what to go for.

The menu is a neat selection of Idly, Dosai, Pongal, Vadai and Aapam. That pretty much sums up the universe of South Indian Tiffin. And just behind the menu is the ‘selection side’ where you’re orders are ticked against. Now, I don’t know if this was some brilliant idea of their auditor (Kitchen Order Tickets are an important source of internal control in restaurants, remember?) or was a hand of a seasoned hotelier. Either ways, it was a neat mechanism of both the guests and the management keeping track of the flow of orders. And they tuck it neatly on the small menu holder in the table. 

So, we pretty much covered the entire menu. The kitchen is like a central open pit that epitomizes class as well as functionality. While you go ahead with your conversations you can hear the splash on the tava and you mentally tick off seconds before your orders arrive. For pongal of course, it’s the batch production system. They have it up and running for you in like 20 seconds. Dosai’s are regulation good. For the Appam with coconut milk they did what all big restaurants do. That is, over whelm you with cutlery. You have one plate with the appam, one glass jar with the milk and then another jar of sugar cubes and a tray with the spoons.

They also seemed to employ the ‘push marketing’ tactic very nicely. We had a dude hovering around with a bowl of Medu Vadas. His body language said it was complementary. But of course, you know what it was. Anyway, it could have been a tad crispier. The staff got a bit too friendly. One of them quipped “Okay.. you guys decide and then call me” Hello?!

Anyways, this is another fantastic grub+movie option and you need to worry no more if you want to tuck into a dosa before wanting to eat out of the movie studios. Good food, great ambience and good value for money. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Once Upon A Time, Hotel Green Park

Words are cheap. You don’t take them at face value these days. Especially when the word is ‘Multi Cusine’.

The restaurant has a small entrance with a  beautifully carved ‘Once Upon A Time’ next to it. You feel a Pixar’s gonna start telling you stories once your inside. A nice feeling to start a buffet you’ve been looking forward to.  And this is where the goodness ends.

Firstly, we were seated towards the entrance from where one gets no feel of the restaurant. There was this arch blocking your view to the rest of the eatery. Your only unhindered view was of the billing counter. You feel totally disconnected from the rest of the restaurant. Damn, you could have almost dined from your verandah at home. The designers could have clearly done a better work of making all parts of the eatery feel included. Chalo, maaf kiya. Let’s hit the food.

We started with Crab soup. Sea food’s not one of my favorites. If not well made, can freak you out for a lifetime. This one was good. The flavor was crisp. Don’t recollect tasting crab in it though. Never mind. Enjoyed the croissants with it.

I was with a vegetarian friend and would have loved to taste a bit of it. The entire section was a farce. The South Indian veg spread was lesser than what a Fifty bucks Saravana Bhavan meal gets you. No kidding. Every veg fare was the most ordinary and I’m into describing them. As I said, imagine a Saravana Bhaval full meals and run it down by say 60% in terms of taste, spread and presentation. That’s what you’ll get.

The good:  Hunan Squids. They saved the day. They were crisp, a lil sweet, and could have been a little less oily. The roasted chicken in pepper sauce was very good. You could clearly feel the meat was taken off grill and then curried. The Nawabi Egg dish and Biriyani were good.

The bad: Fried chicken. They were below par. Excessively fried, salty and over all very shoddily made. Just two variety of salads.  

The ugly: The Chicken Salad and Fish Salad were over and repeated requests to fill them up were ignored. And the supervisor you made the request to promptly dissaperas ot to be seen again. Some management pedigree. These floor staff dudes swoosh the plates from your desk without asking you.

The deserts were the most ordinary. There was just 1 milk sweet variety and they had the rest of the section filled with arbit English desserts – all baked ones that taste and look the same – different kinds of soufflĂ©. There was one payasam that was good though.

On the whole, the spread had just about 4 main course dishes that were good. A very disappointing experience with a friend who was visiting Chennai where I had to short sell the city on the food front. Priced at Rs.440  per person, it was may be worth a 100 bucks.

Service? Zilch. After a few guests left the lights were dimmed and the staff just disappeared. Have no stomach to recollect anything else. Guess they are too used to serving crowds from the adjoining movie studios (you’re free to correlate the context)


1. I’m looking for a good ‘Multi Cuisine’ eatery. Should I head here?  

If your definition of multi cuisine is 4 South Indian dishes, a few assorted North Indian, 1 Chinese, 1 Awadhi, a confused and assorted remainder of Indian dishes and some really ordinary desserts, please visit this place.

2. But I stay in Vadapalani, what are my other options? 

Take the 100 feet road and drive to ‘Radha Park Inn’. A better bet any day.

3. Ok, I don’t mind anything in the CBD. Where do I go?

At 440 bucks, ask no more questions. Head straight to the Residency. Period.

4. Good place for clients/date/evening out? 

Please don’t short sell Chennai and your self. Look up burrp! for a plethoria of good options. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


An average grub spot is not motivation enough to review. But it’s been a while I’ve updated my binge blog. Guilt pangs strike. And I write.

We’re reviewing Giorgio today.

No specific reason for walking into this place. Except that it’s a known devil. And was a previous jaunt for the friends I was catching up with. So we knew what to expect, order and pay.

For the killer location they are in they’ve made rather drab use of it. You are greeted by a hut that is supposed to resonate a beachy touristy feel. It doesn’t. There is so much they could have done to pep this place have. Have a roll counter, have shawarma’s, have a kebab counter. But they had none.

They looked like they were on a budget when they did the interiors. An orange coat on the wall and average lighting is what you will get. But like they say, ‘Location, Location and Location’. They had that and could’nt bother about the rest.

Now some food talk. What do you get? They are sizzler specialists basically. World food is what the menu states. They have flags of most GCC and Latin American countries and they look exotic enough. Every dish has a country prequel to it. Libyan Lamb Chops, Sudanese Sea Fish, Timor Tiger Prawns. Ok, not quite, but that how they are named. And of course they have the ingredients mentioned. But I noticed that they do not serve Shawarma under Lebanese fare. Not happening. And Fish and Chips are 3 fillets? Excuse me!

Anyways, myself, Sid and Vatsa are seasoned eaters. We were having none of this globe talk. We were not expecting the real taste of the cuisine anyway and had zeroed in on some thing chickeny. And in the fare they had we were pretty sure they would taste all the same.

So we asked them: Which one of your dishes has the maximum serving? ; Attendant: Er.. umm.. He mumbled a couple of dishes with his eyes down and it was clear he did’nt know/care what he was talking. He was basically repeating from our suggestions I thought. Anyway, we settled for 2 Jamaican Jerk Chickens and a Veg platter.

Now, how do you define jerk chicken?  Its basically what the cook decides is a ‘jerk’. So we got some thing that was between boiled and light fried and tossed in some random herb. Bet not one of Bolt’s favorites. They served boiled vegetables and some casuina rice. It was just Haldi Rice I tell you. That too without the flavour. I enjoyed the fried cabbage though. Not worth the 300 bucks.  

The Veg platter was good. I forget what rice it was, but the crispies and the veg Manchurian were regulation and good.

Would I recommend? At this price, not really. If prices correct by about 30% its probably worth it. But then again most places in Chennai that serve sizzlers rob you. Opal Inn is one. I remember the early 90’s, they used to serve mega portion sizzlers that were really a delight. Its average now. And sizes have shrunk by half. Tangirene is a good option though. We’ll review that another day.

Giorgio, T-29, 7th Avenue, Besant Nagar, Chennai, Phone  42040202


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Terracotta look alike flooring, catamaran wood work (every inch of the place), swaying palm trees and a majestic ocean front view (its like 300 Meters away) and white sail boats. So Mediterranean. Except that we’re in Chennai. 

L4. Thats what they call the place. 

Firstly, this is a good piece of real estate. Wonder if they got some good rentals on the terrace lease. What ever. Great concept. Expect that you really can’t sit out indoors at anytime before, say, 6 in the evening, by when the view of the ocean front is drab. But they’ve got a covered seating area on the right with very comfortable seating and depending on the angle of the sun you should consider sitting there. There’s an indoor air conditioned seating area as well. You are greeted by multiple black and white portraits and while they look good I fail to make the connection with a restaurant.  

We were having a quick meeting and I couldn’t focus on the food. They were clearly very reasonably priced and had quite an exotic spread. Service was quick. I’ll really have to get back and sample their main spreads to get into reviewing the food.    

Where? 4th floor – Citi Centre

If you are treating a visitor out of Chennai, you must consider taking them to this place. Chennai, as you will concur does not have a great sky line, but the ocean front stubs every thing out and irrespective of what you eat you will recollect a snapshot of the majestic ocean front for quite a while. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Barista - 4/5

Nothing great about this place except that its on Chennai High Street and is next door to office.

When do I go there?

-         When there’s no work

-         When there’s a lot of work

-         When I’m itching to spend some money

-         When I don’t have money

-         When I’m out walking to get some exercise

Why do I go there?

-         Chocolate Excess 

-         Hot Brownies

-         A combination of the above with Vanilla and Chocolate Sauce

Every time I have one of these I feel like Edward Hyde.

Belle Ciao - 2.5/5

Had last been to Bella Ciao when it first opened and I recollect ...good cheesy (no pun intended) fattening Italian Food coupled with voluminous portions et all. Reminiscent of old times I comfortably suggested this to my friend .. and alas.. what a let down. 


1. They’ve taken the fish fingers off the menu. (Not a good begining for two Bengali's, one of them who has'nt had good fish in a while). I remember their earlier mammoth portions of Fish Fingers served with french fries that would pass as a meal by it self. As an option, we were suggested the Prawn Batter fry – this had to be the most ludicrous pieces of prawns I’ve tasted in a restaurant (esp at this price!). This came with something they passed on as Squids – it seemed like fried rubber though. We were told this is how it ought to taste. 

2. Next, we went in for the time tested Lasagna. Again, courtesy old memories (they served portions enough for 2.5 ppl) we ordered just one. It was three quarters their previous portions! But must say, it was very well made and we thoroughly enjoyed that. 

3. Oh I forgot, we started with some mocktails that ought to be the most average ever. 

4. And lastly, there was this dude trying to pass off as a DJ. He tried hard to play music all evening. Rubbish connotations using synthesizers were played at comfortably high decibels and this dude was grooving as though he was plucking the notes out of air and obliging us. 

All in all, except for a bit of lasagna, there was nothing Italian about the food/place, if you leave out Miss. Ciro Cattaneo, the Italian Entrepreneur who runs the place.