Iftar special: Habibi in Chennai delivers Arabian-style Mandi plates and succulent kebabs
Just as we enter the holy month of Ramadaan — we discover a new Middle Eastern cloud kitchen has opened shop. Which is perfectly timed for days of fasting followed by evenings of elaborate iftar spreads: count on shawarma rolls by the dozen, prawns coated in zaatar and an assortment of juicy kebabs straight off the skewer.
It is pertinent to mention that the two chefs behind this venture — Vijayakumar Manikandan and Navin Prasad (of M&N consultancy firm) — have both spent time working in the Middle East. “We worked together in Qatar and then separately in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait,” relates chef Manikandan. He adds, “So, it was really important to both of us to do justice to authentic flavours and not be another Arabian-tandoor joint.” This meant a careful sourcing of spices ranging from sumac, zaatar, smoked paprika and even orange blossom water for the sweet treats.
And after a taste of what is on offer, we say: mission accomplished. The Mutton Kabsa which is the dish that has us singing its praises, is buttery and melts in your mouth. A close second is the aromatic Chicken Mandi (a Middle Eastern rendition of biryani) — which is delivered with generous portions. We also opt for their Mezze platter (the hummus is an immediate winner) and a meaty selection of Shukran grills (we enjoy the succulent Shish Taouk and Saffron Dijaj drumsticks). Vegetarians can opt for a separate platter which includes Harissa Paneer (that takes us straight to heaven), olive potatoes (ours were a touch undercooked) and pickled cucumbers for some zing and pop.
Desserts, we are told, should be available in a fortnight. Look out for Kanafeh, a traditional dessert made with shredded filo pastry and Umali, an Arabic bread pudding.
Meal for two INR 1,200.
Fast and feast
Choose from a range of parcels: vegetarian, chicken, seafood, meat box and a family box. Expect staples like shawarmas, Shukran grills, hummus, tabouleh, Zaatar paneer and Chicken Kabsa. Each box comes with Laban (buttermilk), dates and watermelon juice. INR 195 to INR 2,999.