Chennai, June 23 (IANS) It’s time for vazhaipoo (banana flower) fritters. Vazhaipoo cutlets and vadas have become passe, said a top chef at the newly-opened Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road.
He also said a chef and anybody who cooks can reduce the carbon footprint.
“Vazhaipoo fritters is one of the answers to your question as to how Food Exchange is different from other multi-cuisine restaurants in the city,” Executive Chef Kalaiselvam told IANS.
The spicy vazhaipoo fritters (one can also call them vazhaipoo fingers) is very crisp and one does not feel the flower’s sourness at all.
“My mother used to make it at home in Karur (in Tamil Nadu). I decided to have it in our menu. Similarly, we have chicken pacha vengayam and home style fish curry and others as our unique offerings to our guests,” Kalaiselvan added.
Glancing around at the 76-cover multi-cuisine Food Exchange restaurant, Kalaiselvan said that he was strongly oriented to sourcing and using locally available ingredients.
“Less than five per cent of our menu’s needs are imported to meet the requirements of our foreign guests,” he added.
“We researched the menu cards of other star hotels in our category while engineering our menu. However, we do have a good number of universal comfort foods for our overseas guests,” he added.
By this time the chicken pacha vengaya varuval (small black coloured chicken balls) and shistawook, tahini dip (minced chicken meat stuck in small sticks) arrived at the table and both were mild and good.
However, the pepper smoked chilly chicken would sharply tingle the tongue.
For soup, those who like garlic can go for the burned garlic soup (veg/chicken) which is full of gentle garlic flavour.
The vegetarians can go for tamatar aur badam ka shorba, (tomato soup with sliced almonds), teasing the tastebuds making you want to ask for more.
Gradually the talk turned towards 35-year old Kalaiselvan’s career that included owning a restaurant in a Dubai mall.
“I was with a star hotel in Dubai. Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug I joined hands with two of my friends. Though the sales were good, we were not able to see any money during the first two months,” he recalled.
Soon he realised the mistake of buying from the vendor who used to supply his previous employer-a star hotel.
“Then, I started going directly to the market and saved 40 per cent in our costs,” he said.
It was time for the main course and waiter S. Soorya Narayanan brought the red Thai curry with big prawns and jasmine rice. The curry with jasmine rice was good.
Next to arrive was the kozhi chinna vengaya curry which went off well with steamed basmati rice. The chicken pieces were soft and the curry was not very spicy.
The meen poondu kuzhambu (fish in sambar like gravy) tasted great with the garlic pearls.
Both — the chicken curry and the kuzhambu — would be an apt match for the steamed ponni rice.
Kalaiselvan said running the restaurant was a useful experience as an owner-cum-chef, he was conscious of avoiding waste.
From the pizza and pasta sections the asparagus, spinach, ricotta, garlic pizza and the sun-dried tomato, bonocini, basil risotto were polished off the plates in quick time by a young schoolgirl at the restaurant.
The girl’s mother said the risotto with garlic bread was very flavourful.
Both the vegetarian dishes — bharwan aloo with korma sauce and the jamun kofta palak — went well with tandoori roti.
There is a long list of items for the sweet lovers to choose from starting with tender coconut payasam, oreo cheesecake to gulab jamun, rasmalai and gajar halwa.
What: New restaurant Food Exchange
Where: Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road, Chennai
When: Lunch — 12 noon to 3 p.m.; Dinner — 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost for two: About Rs.2,000 plus taxes
(Venkatachari Jagannathan’s visit was at the invitation of Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road. He can be contacted at [email protected])