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Monday, Apr 14, 2003

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Gourmet fare

The aroma is homely and the taste refreshing. The Toddy Shop food fest at the Red E Food Court presents the best of Kerala cuisine.


IT WAS home fare all right and the Kovakkai kothamalli and the Chithrasalabam prawns tingled the tastebuds for all the right reasons. The occasion was the Toddy Shop food fest at the Red E Food Court (phone: 28223622) on the Harrington Road. The fest name gives itself away, doesn't it? It is Mallu food.

For once, there is a decent choice of vegetable dishes. The menus of most Malayali restaurants in the city seem to have forgotten the fabulous variety of veg dishes in Kerala cuisine. The team of chefs under the executive chef, K. Velayudhan of the Spice Village of the Casino group brings a few of these delicacies to us.

We had a gorgeous start with the Chitrasalabam or the butterfly prawns (Rs.150). It was perfection personified, nothing less. The chutney that accompanied the prawns deserves special mention. The shallot, green chilli, curry leaves and tomato combination finished off with a dash of coconut oil brought out the beauty of the prawns. A more suitable accompaniment is hard to find.

The Kappa meen curry (Rs.75) that followed brought us back to earth with a thud. The tapioca mash and the Meen pattichatu (Rs.85), hot favourites at the toddy shops that dot the State, didn't scale the heights prawns had touched. The chefs explained later that they were trying to do the best with the locally available ingredients. But at these prices that is hard to swallow.


The Kuttanadan tharavu roast (Rs.130) faced the same problem. The local ducks are a well-exercised lot. Even while wrestling with the stringy meat, one could not but appreciate the masala. It seemed a pity to waste it on the sinewy duck.

The Kovaikkai kothamalli (Rs.75), a Casino specialty, was good. It was crunchy and done just right. The bitter gourd sautéed, Pavakkai olathiyathu (Rs.90) was pleasant. The staples, Puttu (Rs.20) and Appams (Rs.20 for two) were up to the mark.

Among the desserts the Ela ada (Rs.50) was disappointing. A bit of salt in the dough would have made a world of difference. The payasam, Ada pradaman (Rs.50) is a much better choice. But even with that there was room for improvement.

Despite it all, the Toddy Shop fest offers Chennai-ites a peep into Malayali kitchen from an angle that is refreshing, a whole new viewpoint. The festival is on till April 20 and so why not take a look?

MARIEN MATHEW

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