Aadhirai in Nungambakkam has cool South Indian experiments like a Panagam granita
Break the rules. This might well be the mantra behind this new and reimagined South Indian menu at Aadhirai (formerly Mango Tree) in Nungambakkam. Ever heard of a Panagam Granita? Or how about a Salted Caramel Akkaravadisal for dessert?
There’s a reason why they call chef Koushik S the ‘Mad chef’. Chitra Ramu who runs Aadhirai along with husband Ramu Subbiah tells us that they brought him on board to change things up and broaden the scope of their offerings, which previously was solely Chettinad cuisine. In fact, we are quite taken aback when the 55-year-old, who hails from Karaikudi tells us that one of the most unlikely pairings on the menu — Puliyogare and Mutton Uppu Kari is in fact, from her home kitchen!
“My kids tried it by chance one day because we had both dishes at home and ever since, they have asked for this combination. They love it,” she shares. We, as one might imagine, are sceptical — wouldn’t one overpower the other? But the flavours seem to sing in harmony. Between the mild sourness from the tamarind and the delicious spice profile of the uppu kari — this is hands down our favourite experiment of the night.
We also frequently return to our Karupatti (palm jaggery) Coconut Milkshake which is ever so smooth and serves up unexpectedly refined taste notes. Quite the opposite of the unusual Panagam Granita, which you might need to develop a taste for.
Vadams & wow
If you come to Aadhirai with friends and a full appetite (incidentally Aadhirai is the name of a woman in Sangam literature, who is said to have fed the first morsel of rice to a mythological vessel that overflowed with food) — we recommend you focus your attention on the entrées. We hop across 10 different appetisers in quick succession — including complimentary crispy sundried rice vadams that arrives with a selection of dips — avakkai mayo, raw and roasted garlic in curd, tomato thokku and a fiery mirapakaya pachadi (chilli chutney).
If you’ve seen Hotshots on YouTube, this restaurant serves up a South Indian inspired challenge along the same lines — with three increasing levels of heat on your classic Chicken Lollipops. It’s also a nod to Vadivelu comedy as you might guess from the names! The first is Pulikesi (tomato, garlic and red chillies), the second is Nesamani (spicy with red chilli, green chilli, star anise and Sichuan pepper) and the third and most deadly is Vedi Murugan (made with bhut jolokia). We vow to return and say: ‘challenge accepted!’
Kaal me maybe?
The same mirapakaya concoction is heavily dulled in spice when ghee is added, we discover, upon sampling the Mirapakaya Kodi (chicken). The Madurai Mutton Chukka is succulent and the Kozhi Kaal Nei Roast, we are told is a South Indian take on the Tangdi kebab, heady with masalas and perhaps even better. Our favourite slots are reserved for soft cushions of paneer dressed in deep bottle green karuveipillai (curry leaf) podi and a Kozhi Ghee Roast (from Mangalore) served on sheermal roti (from Lucknow) with dainty microgreens for garnish. We find, over and over again that strategic combinations, no matter how unlikely, seem to offer up a world of flavour.
Dessert which arrives in old fashioned cutting chai glasses is an ensemble of six. Think Pomegranate Payasam, Coconut Souffle, Falooda with a hint of rose, Kubani Ka Meetha (royal apricot mix layered with ice cream), Salted Caramel Akkaravadisal and finally Karupatti Panacotta. Sweet, creamy, airy, light and decadent, we are lost in a haze of sweet reverie that might literally need a ‘pinch’ to wake up from.
On Jambulingam Street, Nungambakkam. Meal for two INR 2,800.
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