Avartana in ITC Grand Chola Chennai celebrates its second anniversary with a revamped 11-course menu
From a melt-in-the-mouth Braised Lamb Cheek to a 2.0 version of their popular Crispy Potatoes, Avaratana's new menu is a celebration of flavours
Known for its set course dinners, Avartana at ITC Grand Chola has just turned two, and to celebrate, offers its patrons, a revamped version of Jiaa (Soulful), their 11-course menu. “We are working on revamping our five, seven and 13 courses as well,” says Senior Executive Chef Ajit Bangera, as we sit down with a cocktail glass of clear, piping hot coriander Rasam, pressed in a French Press with coriander, which the chef quips, is his favourite South Indian ingredient.
What a cracker!
We begin with a tangy Corn And Cherry Tomato dish served with crunchy pomegranate topped with a corn crisp, almost tuile-like in its structure. “We have intentionally stuck to using basic names for the food,” explains chef Bangera, adding, “When we use South Indian names, they immediately call back to a dish that they have eaten before, especially among local patrons. We wanted to keep their curiosity alive and have them figure out the familiar flavours, which are presented, unlike usual South Indian cuisine. We also wanted our expat diners to understand the dish too.”
Next up are the Cracklings – a serving each of gongura leaf, lotus stem and curry-leaf and coriander encased in a crispy outer shell and dusted with molagapodi (gun powder) that come prettily perched on a wire arch supported on a rocky plate. Good enough by itself, but tastier when eaten with the accompanying Mango Mush that sits on a polished pebble. Crispy Chilli Potato 2.0 is next — a nest of potato crisps topped with a delicate sphere of pineapple and mint juice (held together with cocoa butter) and a gold leaf, which we are encouraged to eat in one mouthful. As we bite in, there is a burst of flavour and texture – with sweet pineapple and mint perfectly complementing the spices from the crispy potato.
We cleanse our palate with a Lemon Leaf and Basil Sorbet before moving on to the mains. While vegetarians can sample a delicious Bottle Gourd and Raisin dish with bits of fried ginger and chilli, pescatarians will love the locally sourced flaky Fried Sea Bass, accompanied by drumstick leaves and a fermented, fiery chilli sauce that brought back memories of a really good thogayal. A Pan Seared Quail follows, topped with a quail egg – served sunny side up – which when cut open, automatically forms the sauce for the dish. Its vegetarian equivalent is creamy curd cheese, inside a spinach moneybag shell, which we are told is made from five different kinds of spinach.
“A lot of our dishes are technique-heavy, and we employ a lot of methods, including sous-vide, dehydration, spherification,” offers Bangera, as our melt-in-the-mouth Braised Lamb Cheeks sitting on a bed of tempered semolina arrives. No South Indian meal is complete without rice, and our Chicken Rice makes an appearance finally. Wrapped in a banana leaf, the rice, spiced with coriander chutney with bits of chicken, comes with a serving of fried okra in yoghurt, quite unlike any raita we have tasted before. The last course — before Almond Creameux (almond mousse in a pastry shell) served with a refreshing candied orange ice cream – is Vermicelli Yogurt mixed with preserved lemon, a take on semiya bangala bath.
Meal for one: Rs 3,500 + taxes