Mandalay Hall’s Aah restaurant hopes to preserve Kerala’s culinary legacy
This eatery is all about using native ingredients and revamping heirloom recipes.
Jew Street is an odd blimp on Fort Kochi’s landscape. Curio shops selling pan-Indian wares line the sides of this cobbled road. Tourists from around the world visiting the 450-year-old Paradesi Synagogue mill around in groups.
While some of them peep into the home of Sarah Cohen, the oldest living Jewish resident in the city, others argue about the best angle for a ‘touch-the-tip-of-the-Dutch clock tower’ photograph! Barely anyone notices an opulent boutique hotel behind the gently distressed walls of Mandalay Hall. Which, in some ways, is comforting.
As one walks into this five-room property—that seamlessly blends art, design, architecture, and naadan gastronomy—fragments of loud curbside conversations in Kashmiri, Hindi, and Urdu ebb away.
Rooted in place
The brainchild of award-winning architect Tony Joseph, this age-old space possesses a signature eatery denoted by the first alphabet of the Malayalam script. “My dad wanted to start a dining space that used only native ingredients. The idea is simple, apply modern cooking techniques and elevate homecooked dishes to the upper echelons of fine dining,” explains Pallavi Kainady, the director of design and strategy.
Sporting specials like a coconut sour cream-topped scrumptious beef fry-flaky parotta taco, it’s apparent that the aforementioned notion is reflected in everything on their trial menu. In fact, as they’re currently experimenting, the cards only showcase fruit mocktails and short eats. But, how did they engineer this small menu?
Since Pallavi has no prior restaurant experience to draw from—except for organising pop-up dinners while studying in the US—she embarked on a state-wide culinary sojourn: to savour and document quintessentially Malayali fare.
Doing things right
“As is apparent from our Instagram feed (@aah_restaurant), we quickly learned that trying to pen down
recipes from home cooks is impossible. Almost everyone adds ingredients intuitively. Yet, we did learn a lot,” explains the 25-year-old.
She delves into the details of their delicious adventures, with stops in over eight major cities from Kannur to Alappuzha, as I slurp down on their delightful hand-picked green mango slush (rimmed with salt and chilli powder). The beverage works wonders when consumed alongside a platter of piping-hot, crispy kappa fries and piquant chamanthi. If you’re looking for something heavier, opt for their duck roast sliders—an excellent sweet-spicy take on vattayappams. Still not satiated? End your meal on a high note with their take on chakka ada. The steamed rice wrap packed with gooey jackfruit filling is indeed delightful.
Truth be told, Kochi has quite a few establishments hoping to capture the essence of contemporary Kerala cuisine. However, unlike Aah, very few have succeeded in doing so.
Currently, Aah is open from 1 pm to 6.30 pm.