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Rich Chettinad fare

REWIND TO the late 1980s. That was when the Chettinadu cuisine started getting its due attention. Earlier to the rest of the world, why even rest of India, Southern cuisine was just a `madrasi' haze with idli, dosa, sambar and vadai.

The non-vegetarian part of the Thamizh saapadu was still a secret within the walls of individual homes. Once the Chettinadu beauty came out the `aachi' domain, there has been no looking back.

Hotel Shelter at Mylapore has again come up with another ace of a festival, `Chettinadu Virundhu', at the 16th Century restaurant. The fest that started on May 24, is on till June 9.

Waiters clad in dhotis and angavastram, and `kili jyotsyam' add an ethnic touch to the ambience. All these are extraneous matters and fade away once you start on Attukaal soup (Rs.50). Usually trotter soup is a matter of trust and faith in the good ethics of the establishment as one hardly gets to even see a piece. Here there was no dearth of concrete evidence.

The Karaikudi yera varuval masala (Rs.180) was a good starter to the dinner. But the second starter, vazhakai tawa fry (Rs.35), was too explosive to relish. We had to down glasses of water and fruit juices to put out the fire.

Thankfully, the rest of the dishes didn't take the fiery trail.

Kothamalli sadam (Rs.40) with poondu kozhambu (Rs.45) is a highly recommended combination. If I have to choose a winner of the evening it will be the garlic curry.

While on curries, meen kozhambu (Rs.100) too could have reached the top had it not been for the fish. It had been `iced' quite a while back. The parotta and korma deal is a good bargain. The vegetarian Korma and the crisp parottas are definitely above average.

Now coming to the biriyani, the different types of biriyani that the Indian menu has, have never failed to amaze me! It is possible to take a culinary trip all the way up from the Yakhni pulav of Kashmir to the Mopilah biriyani of the Malabar.

The Chettinadu aadu biriyani (Rs.90) is yet another one among the list. It resembles the Punjabi version a little.

The biriyani portion was generous, though the meat was underdone.

As for desserts, it was pal paniyaram (Rs.35) and dal payasam (Rs.40), a fitting finale to an enjoyable meal.

MARIEN MATHEW

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