Indiska Magic in Chennai is taking India’s very own cottage cheese places, and how!
Bharat Bhandari wants paneer to be put on the pedestal it deserves. “After all, it’s the only cheese from India,” reasons the owner of Indiska Magic. To put this in context, for those who aren’t manic cheese fanatics, the 38-year-old elaborates, “I mean whole towns are named after the cheese they are best known for!” Or vice versa (cheese named after the towns) but either way, you get the point. Gouda in the Netherlands and Camembert in France both fall under this category.
Infused with herbs
Now that a case has been made for paneer — it makes perfect sense that we kick off our tasting of the café’s new menu with a paneer platter. And diving into soft squares infused with chilli cilantro, pepper and curry leaves (made especially for South Indian sensibilities) — there is no exaggeration when we say — this paneer really is... magic. “We are tieing up with places that people frequent regularly like Pazhumudhir Cholai and Nuts N Spices (co-owned by Bharat) where these tasting platters will be available through the day for people to try before they buy,” he offers. This should be available in the next 10 days.
Currently, Indiska’s factory in Tada which produces 1,500 kgs of paneer a day has rolled out seven varieties, including consultant and executive chef Harish Rao tells us “a ginger garlic variant which is a flavourful option to dunk in a curry”.
Our personal favourite however, is the classic Malai variant that we take delight in as finely chopped bits in our main course of Hyderabadi Paneer Biryani and a brilliant Kunafa Crispy Paneer appetiser. The latter is a Middle Eastern wafer thin noodle-like pastry made with semolina dough (their pani puri cylinders are made of semolina as well) that is a popular sell with five-star chefs, we are told, because of all the versatile ways it can be moulded.
Sizzle ‘n’ surprise
We break for a palate cleanse with an Aam Panna slush, and then lo’ — a mystery dish arrives. A sphere covered with an assortment of rich dahi and red and green chutneys — we initially imagine our spoon to land on something crisp, but instead it is soft, airy and white on the inside. “What is it?” chef Harish asks us, as we examine it closely. It turns out to be a rasagulla! Minus the sugar syrup. Definitely a perspective shift for us.
Don’t miss: The Malai soya chaap, a healthy and surprisingly delicious alternative to meat or dairy, for those looking for a vegan option. The texture on this is so close to mutton, you might not realise you are eating soya for a second!
What’s your flavour: The brand has released three seasoning mixes that you can sprinkle on to paneer or any snack choice for that matter. Look out for flavours like Schezwan, Chaat and Manchurian with a fourth one on the way. INR 150.
Also, reimagined is a Pav Bhaji ‘sizzler’ that is served on a steak platter — you definitely want to order a portion of this on your next visit. We wrap up with some quick bites of their new desserts which include sweet and chewy Turkish delights like a deep burgundy Rose petal pistachio and a Cranberry hazelnut. The Chocolate Baklava isn’t new on the list, but it calls out our name — and we’re glad we listened, because it was epic.
Meal for two INR 400.