From Coimbatore to Chennai - Kovai Alankar Vilas provides the best of both cities
Back in 1965, when Coimbatore-based entrepreneur Kaliappa Gounder opened Alankar Grande in Kovai, it enjoyed the distinction of being the only boutique hotel in that city. Though the hotel was sold off in 2000, Gounder’s family continues to be in the hospitality business, thanks to his granddaughter, Lakshmi Priya (49), who opened Coimbatore’s first organic restaurant, 10 Biryani Mandi, two years ago.
Now, Lakshmi has expanded to Chennai, having launched Kovai Alankar Vilas in Anna Nagar, featuring a very similar menu, plus a few new dishes. Compared to the Coimbatore restaurant, the decor of Kovai Alankar Vilas is less rustic, with the quirky illustrations and traditional board games found in the former given a miss. Ten more branches in Chennai are in the pipeline, we hear.
This straightforward fine-dine restaurant has a menu suited mostly for non-vegetarians and a kitchen that uses organic meat and cold-pressed oils. Not surprisingly, Lakshmi is in the thick of things here as well, manning the kitchen round the clock, with support from her daughter, Harshini D and franchise partners, Ramachandran Sabarirajan and Manikandan G. As we sip on their most popular drink, the elaneer sherbet that has generous pieces of tender coconut meat making it a complete summer drink, Priya shares that most of the vegetables used here too are sourced from her farm in Pollachi, besides in and around the city. “Some vegetables that I do not cultivate — like carrots, onion and garlic — are also sourced from Ooty sometimes,” she says.
Besides biryani, the restaurant serves popular fare like parottas, paniyarams, appams, and starters like Pallipalayam chicken and coriander pepper paneer. Two of the signatures she recommends are the coriander pepper prawn and karuvepellai (curry leaves) pepper prawn, both abundantly laced with hand-ground pepper masala and curry leaves, and yet not as fiery as we had feared. The egg paniyarams that we tasted next were soft in texture and are best had with the range of chutneys on offer. A local favourite, the kari dosai seems to be a repeat order at many tables. For something with a punch, we suggest the pichu potta kozhi, that too arrives topped with freshly-ground pepper. And if that does not do the trick, their fiery vanjaram fry is sure to. As for the aromatic biryani made with seeraga samba rice and tender mutton cooked in cold-pressed coconut oil, it is worth the money right down to the last grain. Have it with the delicious yeral thokku, my personal favourite.
Average cost for two Rs. 200 onwards. Details: 26225757