Thursday, August 28, 2008

Subway, Spencer Plaza, Anna Salai, Chennai

Subway, the sandwich (shaped in the form of a submarine) chain from the US, has been doing decent business in India. Today they operate out of Chennai, multiple outlets, serving major localities in the city. I am not so sure if these are franchisees. But knowing the US model, where Subway is the most franchised chain, there is no reason why these shouldnt be too.

The reason, i bring that up, is because, this commentary is very much about the Subway experience in India as compared to its chain in the US. I have been to about 5 different locations in Chennai. But a few highlights about this specific store has also been expressed, specially about the 'elli'.

First, things first. Their 6"seems so much smaller, that it appears to be based on a whole new scale. The other is the fad that is supposedly 'american' or 'phoren', blasting english music (and many times playing songs with questionable or vulgar lyrics). I had to point this out to a manager of a store, asking if he was paying attention to the lyrics, and didnt meet much success in getting him to understand.

The food is good, the sandwich here does justice to the name and quality they are famous for. The stores in India seemed to understand the mind here and so have two lanes one for veg and non-veg options. This does create problem when you want to 3 non-veg and 2 veg sandwiches !! Wonder why the non-veg guy cannot just take the veg order ? But then thats how it works. The sandwich artist do a decent job of carving and stuffing the sandwich. The sandwich and other food options are also priced nicely. You can get a 5.386" Veggie Delite for about Rs 78/-. Hmm, on second thought i take that back, that is a lil pricey, but hey, you are buying 'american' food.

The other surprising thing about fast food chains, is how dumb the people behind the counters become. I used to think it was a phenomenon that existed in the US, but i saw this in London, Bangkok, Malaysia and now here in Chennai too. So it is universal, they are all robots that do only what they are told to, and what their machine in front will allow them to.

This store at Spencer Plaza had interesting visitor or resident during my last visit. An Elli, rat, mouse or whatever name you would like to refer it by. The little chap ran from the inside. Luckily there is no kitchen where anything is really cooked, so his impact may have been small. In any case, he ran undistrubed to the dining area. And here is how the dumb phenomenon works best. I had just finished my order, and was not particularly repulsed, because i hardly saw it, except for the vanishing tail behind a chair. But i did change my mind about eating in.

Anyway, another customer had seen the 'elli', and brought it to the attention of the 'sandwich artist'. The artist, of course, knows only how to stuff sandwiches, and so stared back. The gentleman asked 'are you going to do something about it, or just stare?. Obviously this man didnt have a Phd, otherwise he would have known that this was not just an ordinary stare. To this challenge, our local friendly sandwich artist, moved an inch to the right. The manager/cashier, by then, knew he had to do something different, so he came out in front to see if he could interview the 'elli' in person. Of course, our good friend and mascot of Lord Ganesha, knew better, and was no where to be seen. This whole thing soon turned out to be just another myth, obviously. The store was back in business, the Gentleman walked away cancelling his order, the diners a few left, a few stayed, the money was back to being counted, and the artist was back at carving bread and stuffing lettuce.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Liu's Waldorf, Adyar, Chennai

This is one of the oldest and still running chinese restaurant in Chennai. Well, it looks and feels like it. Located very close to IIT Madras, on the main Sardar Patel Road, in Adyar, this restaurant has been around of ages. I remember going to the place as a kid. It used to be run by a Chinese family. I still remember the husband and wife who seated us and were serving us. I still think it possibly owned by them, no reason to think otherwise. Unless, of course, when you wonder about the condition of the restaurant now.

I visited the Waldorf again recently. The entrance is now a very crowded place, with two or more other eating places nearby, and the road on which it is located, is now a major artery within Chennai. But surprisingly, it had parking space for about 3-4 cars, and about 2 dozen bikes. The restaurant had a worn out look. We chose this place, out of desperation because we didnt want to travel very far and were hungry. We made a good choice. Waldorf was always known for its quality chinese food. This time too, they didnt let us down.

We were about eight people, quickly settled down in a corner, and were ready with our order. The veg fried rice, egg fried rice (i voted down chicken fried rice, i somehow am not a fan of that), waldorf special chicken, waldorf special veg. I also noticed the fooyoung, i hadnt seen one a menu for a long time. I ordered this egg dish, which probably closely related to an egg omellete. Even the waiter, answered to my query about it saying "its an omellete". We then waited. Waited for what was about 5, or maybe 8 minutes, to see the waiter carrying medium sized bowls of piping hot food. We soon added a few more dishes thinking we have ordered less, considering there were a few 'Bhim' in our mix.

The food was good, but they could have taken more care in preparing chicken dishes. The experience all together was a little mixed though. The restaurant should take more care in its cleaniliness etc. The waiter were dressed in clothes which were probably cleaned once a week or less. The glasses for drinking water were cleaned, but they were not dried and had water drops inside and outside. The people were friendly and helpful, specially the parking attendant outside. I only wish they had take more care. But, i guess, considering they dont charge a lot of money for decent food, they are probably just about managing on the numbers side.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Malgudi, Savera Hotel, Royapettah, Chennai

Malgudi is one of the restaurants within Savera Hotel. I dont recall, when i first visited this place, or when they actually carved out or created this restaurant inside. But, i have been here many times and pretty impressed with their food selection. Malgudi is a smaller and lesser expensive version of Dakshin (located within the Park Sheraton). Malgudi offers a collection of vegetarian and non-veg food delicacies from south india. If you open the menu, you can choose from food from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The best bet is the thali, again you can chose from veg/non-veg. This gives you a quick tour of the food from these places. But if you want to pick and choose and soothe a specific hunger or taste, then feel free to flip through the menu and take a leap. The non-veg dishes compare decently to the restaurants that specialize in one cuisine. Most of the time, i have chosen the thali, many times the non-veg, and few times the veg. Their dosa and appam that comes with this thali is recommended. And you can eat as much as you want. The only problem with the thali format is that, you are served dishes in a particular order. You must specifically request them to bring dishes out of order.

They give you some free starters, vadams with different chutneys. But then you will really have to be on a strict diet, to pass up on the soft mangalore bondas. They also have a selection of delicacies that are more the home cooked variety than usually available in restaurants. Trust me, i could give you a list, but a visit is much better experience.

Their service could improve. They try, but at times, a lot of people are around, but not necessarily paying enough attention. This is true of most hotels and restaurants in Chennai and India.

To add to the experience they also have a 'killi jotsyam' and/or 'kai jotsyam'. So, if you miss these interesting diversions and fortune tellers of yesteryear, you can experience it here at Malgudi. Now it would have been complete, if they also had the 'boom boom maadu'.