Sunday, March 11, 2007

Basera, ECR Road, Chennai

This was long due, well atleast was more due, since i knew it was owned by my classmate from school. I had noticed this many times, but we were always in a hurry to get somewhere, Mahabs, Mayajal, Pondi, etc. And since it is located on left side of the road, when driving away from the city, it is not easy to stop by, when you are returning from your destination, to pick this out as a place to eat.
But that was before. Now that i have been there, tasted the food and service, i think i am ready for more. Even i as was turning into the restaurant entrance, i wasnt sure if this belonged to my friend or not. But the small writing on the entrance of the name of the company gave it away.

First things first, nice parking. Any decent restaurant must provide some amount of parking for its patrons. While this is difficult to expect inside the city, it is a must outside. Well there is plenty of parking and neatly laid out too. As we turned the corner inside the parking lot, the children squealed in delight on seeing the small playground. To my disappointment they were now planning to immly run into the playground. It was as life saver, considering that food always takes time to be delivered to your table.

They have multiple options in seating. You can be seated in the open, under a tree on wooden tree trunks for a table and stool, or you can opt the traditional indoor air-conditioned seating, or for the more adventurous, you can climb up to the room on stilts. We opted for the third, as we didnt want to loose out on the pleasant and breezy outdoor, but also didnt want to be dodging the sun, as it played hide and seek between the thick clump of trees and shrubs. Thats the other part, the number of trees, shrubs, plants and other stuff they have taken time and attention to grow and groom.

The main attraction was the food itself. It was good to great. We started with Chicken sheek kabab and Chicken Tikka kabab, both were well done and marinated. Its not one of my great favs but i do pop a piece of it every now and then. And this was good too. Basera, too had different cuisines to offer typical of most places in Chennai, it had the regular north-indian punjabi, chinese, continental and a small offering of south-indian too. We stuck with punjabi, since i was in the mood for bread (naan and roti). So quickly we ordered Butter Naan, Pudina Paratha and Aloo paratha, along with Daal Makhani and Dahi. An order of chicken biriyani completed the lunch order.

The butter naan was on the of flakiest and softest ever. The pudina paratha was soft and crisp too, meaning, it had a nice crisp exterior and a soft chewy inner layer. The aloo paratha was a little disappointing, but then i have never really eaten a good aloo paratha for a long long time. The chicken biriyani was tame, nothing to rave or complain about. But the Daal Makhani, is something to write about, was nice, creamy and flavourful. I have seen so many perversions of this dish that should be pretty easy to cook, that its not unusual to get disappointed. But this was just perfect Daal Makhani ever, there are a few other places i have eaten that dish out such good one.

Before i close out, i must also write about the dahi (yoghurt). Altho' it was not a perfect solid version, which would have been more pleasing to the eye, its the taste that matters at the end. Yoghurt taste can vary based on the culture or base used to develop the yoghurt. Well that is science, what mattered was, the dahi here again didnt disappoint me. Another basic item that restaurant ignore or are casual about, but an important part of the indian meal, that a small screw-up here, can ruin the entire appetite.

When everything but the chicken biriyani had been completely cleaned out. We ordered for Gulab Jamun, one order with ice cream. The Jamun appeared made from scratch, and so seemed a lil unshapely, but that also caused it to taste great, unlike coming from a box or factory like setting. And add ice cream to the syrup to get the one of the best dessert ever.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

BR Matsya, TNagar, Chennai

Something new, something not talked about much in the press or web so far. I think the restaurant has been around for sometime, as in atleast a few months, or maybe even about a year. I read about it somewhere, i dont completely recall, but i never did locate it before. The road it is located on, Thanickachalam Rd, is one of the less traveled, atleast for me, cause it leads to the busy intersection at Pondy Bazar.

It was by happenstance that i located it. And yesterday, saturday, when my better half, chooses to vegetate (i mean eat vegetarian only), i chose this over the many other options. And no disappointment there, it was a clear winner. The ambiance, the service and the food, all rolled in together to create a pleasurable experience.

They had wide variety of choices. The most tempting as is usual when it is available, was the dinner buffet. "its only 199 sir", said the host, as he tried to lure us towards this option. If it werent for a heavy lunch, it would have been a no brainer. But the spirits decided otherwise, as were to taste the choice of offerings on the menu, 'a la carte'.

As i said, a quick read of the menu, showed there is so much more to vegetarianism, than just thayir sadam and idly/dosa. Each menu item read better than the other, and there were even some pictures to help you, in case you had a doubt about the label used. Mexican, Pasta, some italian, fries and such, punjabi, chat, and the regular udipi variety.

Well, i was here for the udipi fare today. And so, it was Manglore Bonda, Kara Uppu Puli Dosa for me. The rest of the family went with some staid fare, wife and mom-in-law deciding to eat lite, and my kids, food is just a method to pacify their parents, so that we can go to bed easy. It doesnt really matter, they really like nothing specific, and most everything mashed or mixed together looks and tastes almost the same. But yesterday, my son chose the Fried Panneer, to which he has taken to liking recently.

Manglore bonda arrived first, along with the Fried Panneer. Must tell you know that we had a pleasing chappy who was waiting on us. Indian service in India is much better when compared to the same indian service dished out in desi restaurants in the US, one must wonder if it is something to do with visa and bonded labour. The Manglore Bonda was a tad bit small, small tiny balls, but had the same great taste all the same. The chutneys offered was nothing much to write about.
But the Panneer, was just out of the world. We have tasted this dish in about 2 or 3 forms, thanks to my son's insistence at the dinner table. This was by far, the best we had tasted ever. It wasnt dry, a bit of gravy. The panneer was the best, nice and firm, but still chewy, and nicely fried, but not oily. The gravy managed to coat itself well around each block of panneer. Both these items were quickly vanishing from the table.

Just before we reached a point where we may have had to wait around twiddling thumbs, came the idly for my wife and the Kara Uppu Puli dosai. Idly, a bit i tasted was great as usual, which anyway is a dish difficult to screw up. But the Kara Uppu Puli dosai, was out of the world. It had all the three ingredients as advertised in its name. But the sambhar that came along with it, seemed to dent accolades that would have been solely poured out on the dosai. The sambhar was so tasty that i had to ask for extra serving.

Now, what remained was the rest of the menu. Well, it will have to wait for another trip. And since we have now added this to the list of officially certified and must-visit places, it could be as early as next saturday. 'Cause there's a lot to offer on the menu.

The visit is not complete without a few words on the ambiance. As you enter, on the left is a children play area. Enough to entice parent to make repeat visits. But what will catch your eye, is the intricate glass painting of the Matsya Avataram. A beautiful representation in itself, the artist had also paid a lot of attention to detail. Walk inside the restaurant, its clean, spacey, and nicely chilled. You are again treated to more artwork, this time, it is intricate carvings on wood. It forms the outer frame around a Balaji and Padmavati tanjore style painting. Since we were already seated, couldnt spend time admiring this work. But from where we sat, it looked imposing.