Bisibelabath Lollipops anyone? Marmalong bridges global fusion gap on Besant Avenue, Adyar
The dish called bisi bele bath, a fixture on most South Indian breakfast tables, is a spicy, pasty rice meal that must be eaten piping hot, with steam rising from the leaf that it’s served on.
Intriguing as they sound, the Bisibelabath Lollipops arrive sedately on a platter, with smears of pepper mayo and spicy jalapeño sauce, served with a flourish.
You’re offered toothpicks in place of actual lollipop sticks, while the pops themselves sit like molten globules, crumb-fried and daintily placed in little ponds of dip.
At any regular meal of bisi bele bath, you’d ordinarily expect patrons to discard all rules, and any manner of fancy cutlery, to dig into the mounds with full gusto, and little more than their fingers.
The Bisibelabath Lollipops, however, demand a certain quality of etiquette, and appreciation. A great pairing for wine (served from the in-house bar on the first floor, HIX) the lollipops speak for the innovative efforts of Chef Gowthaman BHM, who brings with him a pedigree from the Oberoi Group, and hands-on training with Michelin Star Sous Chef Greg.
At Marmalong, the chef presents a menu of ‘global fusion cuisine’, with a handful of dishes that you might safely categorise as never-seen-before culinary creations — just like the lollipops, which feature the Bengaluru-style rice preparation, coated with polenta, and a stuffing of Italian arancini and melted cheese.
A touch of Bengaluru
There are many more global fusion aces up the chef’s sleeve, as he rolls out prized short-eats like the Galouti Podi Sandwich — a fusion of idlis with the soft, meaty texture of a galouti kebab, sandwiched between layers of gunpowder (podi) and chutney.
Then there were the Beef Chukka Tacos — a full meal in itself — which might well have you making Bengaluru-style calls for copious helpings of crisp, freshly brewed beer.
We also tried the Gratinate Broccoli — warmly doused in smokey malai (cream) with feta cheese, and the Aloo Nazakat of potato barrels stuffed with cottage cheese and dry fruits, topped with yoghurt mint foam. Both starters scored highly on our flavour checklist.
The chef explains that while there are uncountable different attempts at fusion around the country, he’s intent on playing up South Indian flavours — which inevitably means, a straight-up hit of spice, to go with everything else.
In the Chennai context, that still counts as a giant leap — if only for that enticing lip-smack at the end of a repast.
Briding the gap
A 1,600 sq ft restaurant, with a 63-head capacity, Marmalong is a venture of Sneha Britto and Akash Murali, and retains a family-friendly purview, even making room for some captivating wall art of historic blueprints of the old Marmalong Bridge, which once stood across the Adyar River.
For a special project, on a far wall, artist Joyston Christopher Vaz has created a nifty ‘shadow art’ installation, that’s lit up with concealed lighting every evening; a mural of ‘antiqued’ mirrors depicts water under the bridge, explains the artist.
Back to our meal, and our Risotto Minestrone turned out closer to the authentic deal, rather than a variation.
Plated with mixed veggies and tomatoes with a touch of cream parmesan and herbs, the broth was rightly piquant, resulting in a lingering sweet aftertaste down the throat.
We were also served the Seared Tasmanian Salmon, served with ratatouille, French beans and caper butter sauce.
For dessert, we helped ourselves to slices of Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake, with the desi sweetmeat neatly tucked into the fluffy cake.
Though tongue-tied over global fusion for a moment, we couldn’t help blurt out, ‘Nalla irka appetite!’
Meal for two approx `1,500.
— Jaideep Sen