Restobar alert: Purple Chameleon in Chennai serves global flavours with a local twist

Look out for novel cocktails like the delicious betel-leaf infused gin 
Interiors at Purple Chameleon
Interiors at Purple Chameleon

purple chameleonNeon splashes meet tropical vibes at Chennai’s newest restobar, The Purple Chameleon. Located on the second floor of Phoenix MarketCity, this spacious 4,000 sq ft space is shrouded in greenery with lights in birdcages suspended from the ceiling. Meanwhile, a giant bird is delivered to our table. Upon closer examination, we discover this is a ‘bird-shaped’ glass — which in line with the running theme of the menu ‘global with a local twist’ — is holding a betel leaf-infused gin cocktail. We take a sip. And get a bold hit of that betel leaf (paan enthusiasts will find this one enjoyable) and ask for the drink’s name. Then proceed to get a hint of Nat Geo type trivia: “It’s called the Gentle Rhino as birds often perch on top of rhinos in the wild,” says owner Shreyas  Asthana (27). 

We’re tickled pink. Or should we say purple, given the colour of the couches we are seated on. 

<em>Chapli chaat</em>
Chapli chaat

Shreyas and older sibling Snigdha (30) are not new to the food business. You might remember The KNK Project in Nungambakkam (now closed) and their other venture Patissez (also in Phoenix). But this is their first outing with a restobar. And we’re told, this outfit has been in the pipeline since last October, with Delhi-based mixologist Nitin Tiwari putting together the beverage list, consultant chef Navin Prasad helming the food and Hiral Sumra, an artist from Surat who specialises in trippy UV light glow art to custom paint the DJ booth.

<em>Karaage chicken</em>
Karaage chicken
<em>Vietnamese rolls</em>
Vietnamese rolls

Rice, paper, scissors
Browsing through our elaborate food choices for lunch on this particular afternoon is equally impressive. We spot fun subsections like ‘Leagues by the Sea’ for a seafood section which boasts everything from Honey Chilli Prawns to Karepak Era Varuval and ‘Grasshoppers’ which covers veggie appetisers like Refried Bean Croquettes and Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls. We sample the latter which is stuffed to the brim with a rainbow assortment of sprouts, shoots and veggies and pairs with a sweet chilli sauce. Healthy, fresh, but perhaps a little too raw (almost like chewing the cud) for our taste buds. We find respite in a platter of Japanese-style Karaage Chicken squares. Succulent and served alongside an inky black Worchestershire scallion dip, we also delight in the crunchy onion rings on the side that are interestingly enough coated in a mix of sesame and kalonji seeds. Thus, upping the ante on texture and a healthy kick, all in the space of a single bite.

<em>Gentle Rhino</em>
Gentle Rhino

Aam candy
Our table is quickly filling up with more cocktails and plates now, as the waiters pick up momentum. The Gaur is a raspberry coloured drink with a base of sesame whiskey and a hint of theatre, courtesy a bubble on top that quickly dissipates into a soft berry vapour. Even better is the A for Aam which marries a homemade raw mango murrabba (normally eaten as a pickle with roti) with vodka, gently laced with ginger. Unfortunately, the Asian mains which arrive next, a Green Thai Curry followed by a Beef Rendang are a bit of a disappointment. The Jasmine Rice on both plates resembles more of a clumpy pongal and while the beef chunks are tender, the curry is more Indian than Indonesian. Fortunately, dessert comes to the rescue. It’s a heady Rum Soaked Gulab Jamun contrasted by a creamy bed of Saffron Rabdi. Dessert highs don’t get much better than this one.

Open from 11 am to 11 pm. Meal for two, including beverages at INR 2,800.

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