Dakshin at Crowne Plaza in Chennai has a unique menu of heirloom recipes from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

Our recommendations include the Red Pumpkin Broth and succulent chunks of chicken tossed in Kuchipudi masala
Chicken chunks in Kuchipudi masala
Chicken chunks in Kuchipudi masala

Food and nostalgia are often closely intertwined. So, the idea of a menu at Crowne Plaza's Dakshin curated solely around heirloom recipes — from Chef Prakash Varanasi — certainly had us curious. The 36-year-old, who hails from Vizag, Andhra Pradesh, tells us he has an overflowing bank of these dishes, from his grandmother’s lunchbox staples (mango pickle flavoured rice) to watching his dad who was in the catering business recreate inspired dinner plates (prawns tempered with brinjal and ground spices). So when he tells us, “It took about 10 days to put together this festival menu,” we aren’t surprised.

After all, food trials that hark back to memories from childhood spell out flavours and aromas that are already so distinctly etched. 

<em>Gummadikaya Charu</em> or Red Pumpkin Broth
Gummadikaya Charu or Red Pumpkin Broth

Sip, slurp, burp!
We start off our meal with a bright yellow Gummadikaya Charu or Red Pumpkin Broth. Sweet, sour and spicy — all at once — we find ourselves slurping up the entire bowl, and contemplate requesting a second. A meaty broth of Country Chicken is quick to follow with some heat from the peppercorns in the mix,  and seafood enthusiasts could opt for a crab variant instead. 

Appetisers are wholesome platters of fritters prepped with green gram and a second variety with white chickpeas, lending a delightful crisp texture. Minutes later, the non-veg options arrive and we find ourselves having some trouble deciding which one we like more — Chicken chunks tossed in a Kuchipudi masala or slices of seer fish that hit the spot with a quick squeeze of lemon and the crunch of onion rings on the side. 

<em>Lentil fritters</em>
Lentil fritters
<em>Palathalikalu Payasam</em>
Palathalikalu Payasam

Warm and kozhi
You might fill up quickly if you don’t pace yourself for the main course to come. And this is a feast by itself. Sadly, the Guntur Bilal Biryani isn’t available today. So we shed a few tears into steaming hot white rice. But quickly recover with assorted pots of Country Chicken braised in a brown Ankapur masala (the secret ingredients are dried coconut and poppy seeds), a street-style Vijayawada Mushroom and Onion mix and a delicate-flavoured jackfruit curry with coconut paste. Dessert is pure indulgence with a chilled bowl  of Palathalikalu Payasam topped with finger-shaped rice flour dumplings and saffron milk. We tell chef Prakash, we’re coming back for that Guntur Biryani and his grandmother’s special drink of finger millets and dates, very soon. 

March 18 to 31. Lunch and dinner. Meal for two at INR 2,400 approx.

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