Raintree’s new menu serves a degustation feast of Chettinad trails with a liberal dose of podi

Don't miss the brilliant sweet and sour Raw Mango with green fig curry!
Interiors at Raintree, Taj Connemara
Interiors at Raintree, Taj Connemara

Palm Jaggery Mysore Pak paired with Orange Yoghurt, or a sweet and sour side dish of Raw Mango with Green Figs served alongside crisp dosas? It’s a toss-up between those two for our favourite spot. The all-new Chettinad menu at the Raintree in Taj Connemara presents nuanced flavours from the interiors of South India that leave one curious, delighted, exploring and travelling — miles beyond the plate before you. 

<em>Ragi masala kuzhi paniyaram</em>
Ragi masala kuzhi paniyaram

Stories and podi 
We find ourselves at a different pitstop with every course. “We don’t do thalis,” head chef Kishore Kumar clarifies, explaining “this way, you get to explore a lot more on the menu”.
The stories behind the two months of research that went into this menu literally jump off the plate. As we crunch on Lotus Stem Chips (crisp and flavourful, tossed in yoghurt, chilli and curry leaves), we are regaled with tales of discovery from this team of four chefs who spent  many an evening in Karaikudi — cooking beside housewives in their homes (tip: boil your veggies in coconut milk for more flavour).

One minute, we’re at a motel leaning into the story behind how the ever-popular kalaki (egg preparation) came to be... According to chef Kishore, cooks needed to whip up something fast and easy, and decided to boost the flavour profile of this streetside favourite by using leftover chicken curry.

 The next minute, we’re at a wedding in Tirunelveli, discovering Ramba Elai eral masala (prawns with chilli in a pandan leaf!) “People associate the pandan leaf with Oriental cuisine, but it is used in a big way in places like Tuticorin and Tirunelveli, for meat and seafood preparations,” he shares with us. 

And we take it all in, over mini idlis tossed in a flavour-packed 16-spice podi and Pulled Lamb rolled into a platter of mini dosas. The latter, we are told, is a five-star rendition but has been recreated exactly as it was seen on the streets of Madurai. No sambar!

<em>Mini dosas with a pulled lamb filling</em>
Mini dosas with a pulled lamb filling
<em>Lotus stem chips</em>
Lotus stem chips

Keeping up with the kozhumbu
By the time our main course arrives — our table is a sea of Banana blossoms with greens and lentils, Bitter gourd with raw tomato and coriander, Lamb meatballs in a spicy coconut curry and tangy Ayira Meen (brought in all the way from Madurai) kozhumbu. And we are already full to brim, finding ourselves pecking at each, unable to do this feast justice.

You’ve got to admit though, eating your way through the vast South in a single sitting — is an ambitious undertaking. Fortunately, one can trade a ticket for a plateful of Madurai Mutton Biryani any day of the week! 

A la carte meal for two is INR 3,250++. A chef’s tasting menu is priced at INR 2,250 (veg) and INR 2,750 (non-veg) per person.

sonali@newindianexpress.com | @brightasunshine

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