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Hot from Chettinad

If you are keen on savouring delicious food that does not burn a hole in your pocket, then Kushe is the place to be

— Pic. by R. Ragu

Fine food sans frills: at Kushe on Mc Nichols Road

SPECIALISATION IS for the birds these days. No aspiring chef worth his salt, or peppercorns, or ladles of ghee, dares indulge in just in one type of cuisine today: Unless, of course, he wants to spend his gracious old age scrubbing dishes. Because, even if you do make a great chicken Chettinad, you'll still have to serve families where the grandparents want kal dosais, the parents want noodles and kozhambu, and kids A, B and C want macaroni, pizza and fried fish, respectively. And, of course, the customer today is king — even if he does act like a spoilt brat.

This is precisely why a host of restaurants — like the recently opened `Kushe,' a joint that calls itself a "Chettinad Restaurant: Indian, Chinese, Tandoori" — have chosen the multi-cuisine path. It's Chennai's way of dealing with globalisation: Diversify, but cook everything the `Chettinad' way.

Spicy fare

So Kushe uses the principles of Chettinad cooking in all their dishes — whether it's a typical mutton manchatty kozhambu, cooked in a clay pot, or Singapore chilly crab — by using oil liberally and generously peppering their cooking with spices such as cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, nutmeg, fresh chillies and peppercorns.

Like most of Chennai's authentically Chettinad restaurants, Kushe is unremarkable in the areas of ambience and dιcor. The entrance sports a fish tank with `Kushe' spelt out clumsily with pebbles, the interiors are dim and waiters bearing stacked trays stagger past crowded tables, elbow-deep in rice and gravies. But the hordes trumpeting about the place at mealtimes are clearly there for food, not frills — and the food is undoubtedly delicious.

The meal begins with sizzling chicken chunks, which the waiters say are "oil-fried kebabs" (they're obviously not into fancy names here either). The kebabs, however, are beautifully done: succulent, slathered in a spicy masala and served with a splash of tangy lime. They're followed by a plate of chicken tikka, reddened and served with wicked green chillies.

Then, the meal really begins.

Waiters first pile your leaf with a mound of steaming white rice and then start adding a collection of spicy curries. There's prawn masala, redolent with curry leaves, and fiery mutton chukka. They're followed by `nattu kozhi kozhambu,' an unapologetically greasy chicken curry. Their menu also features both old Chettinad favourites such as `turkey roast and kaadai roast' and dishes from the world of new Chettinad cuisine, "Tandoori meen suttathu" and "chicken manjurian."

This isn't stylish food, and making a habit of it might just have your gym-instructor sobbing beside the treadmill. But once in a while it doesn't hurt to indulge yourself and Kushe is certainly easy on the wallet. A substantial meal for two costs about Rs. 150.

Kushe is on Mc Nichols Road in Chetpet. Call 55174040 for more details.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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