Chef Adhira Swami’s eight-course menu at On The Rocks is a playground of texture and temperature
This is a part of the second edition of 'Curate,' a kitchen takeover series at Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park in partnership with LocalXO
Rasam-inspired gazpacho. Puff pastry topped with caramelized onions tossed in sherry and blobs of Uthukuli butter. Or conjure up this visual: liver pâté that is so smooth, you could mistake it for chocolate mousse. Chef Adhira Swami who is all of 25, has been waiting seven courses for us to guess the mystery ingredient in this said pâté which is under the ‘apres dessert’ section alongside a platter of regional cheeses like garlic nettle gouda from Himachal Pradesh. “The pâté,” she insists we focus, “has a kiss of something. What do you think it is?” she cajoles playfully. ‘Mint... wait basil, creme fraîche?’ we lean forward in our seats at Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park.
Kiss from an orange
“Orange peel,” she surprises us. “I’ve spent eight years to get this recipe just right,” shares the young chef, who is coming into her own after growing up with a shared passion for a love of food with dad, actor Arvind Swami; and training at both Le Cordon Bleu, London and Madrid. We’re at a preview tasting of Curate 2.0 — On The Rocks’ kitchen takeover series in partnership with LocalXO, where Adhira is at the helm. And impressively so. Expect flavours with depth and conversation with soul. “My dad’s family is from Thanjavur and my stepmother’s side is Anglo Indian,” she gives us a sense of context for the food she grew up with, before refining her palate over stints in Europe and the Maldives. But the masterpieces on the menu are nostalgia with food, reinvented. Take for instance, the dessert simply titled — Milk and Honey. “When I couldn’t sleep as child, I would be given warm milk with a teaspoon of honey,” she reminisces. This taste memory has now transformed into a sophisticated concoction of vanilla ice cream with pops of sweetness and crunch from bits of honeycomb; and sprinkles of salt to offset the sweetness and a lightness from puffy clouds of burnt honey mousse. So this is what cloud nine tastes like.
Though trained in French techniques, this millennial chef refuses to put herself in a box determined by cuisine. Instead, she delivers what she calls “borderless flavours, that just... make sense.” The Autumn Salad, for instance, with a warm glazed duck and chilled orange segments is a play of taste and temperatures. Paired with a balsamic-pomegranate reduction, the end result is a sweet-acidic harmony. We chorus our approval.
Now for the mains, which shift tempo with more rustic and hearty plates. We recommend the Gnocchi with a saucy slow-cooked beef short rib ragout. Or, if you have the appetite to do it justice, the Grilled Pork Belly with a trio of mushrooms that is every bit as succulent and sensational as we had hoped. Paired with four wines designed to complement flavour scapes (the dessert wine from Bordeaux definitely ups the ante) as you go — this meal is a stairway to heaven, if there ever was one.
On till September 26. For dinner only, 7 pm. Five-course meal INR 3,450++; eight courses INR 4,250 ++; wine pairing INR 950++