Thai will be done: Chef Tanya livens up the new Lotus menu
Chef Tanya’s culinary wizardry opens up the taste buds, and creates a languid, satiated air about each meal.
A complete and fulfilling Thai meal ought to leave you with the languorous feeling of lounging by the beach, lazing in hammocks, with cocktails in coconut shells at hand. Well, that’s what Chef Tananya Hanain’s expertise is all about.
The masterchef from Thailand brings her sunshiny cheeriness to her dishes, which form the new menu at Lotus, The Park, Chennai.
A fair dash of quirkiness in each dish adds to the dining pleasure, as Chef Tanya (as she prefers to be called) works her skills in deftly balancing flavours between her choices of veggies, meat and seafood, often paired with fresh fruit.
Consider her signature Gang phet ped yang, of roast duck with spiced red curry, lychee and cherry tomatoes.
Following the sea
On a rare Chennai afternoon, with a hint of drizzle in the air, our meal began with the Lark bua phad and Tod mon pla for starters. The first, of fried lotus root — a staple appetiser; and the second, of tender fish cakes that open up the taste buds with an arousing mix of cashew nut and a sweet-chilli sauce.
Chef Tanya’s salads bring in delicate, elegantly arrayed elements, playing up the theatricality of the proceedings. On the plate, thus, the Yum kajeab normai farang goong sod seems to be re-creating a scene of maritime misadventure from a Turner painting, even as the prawns, on a bed of okra, asparagus and minced chicken taste fresh as morning dew.
Her Yum pla fu, of crispy fish laid over a mound of green mango salad, makes for a fun deconstruction of traditional Thai cooking techniques, such as of drying and pounding fish (with a mortar and pestle). Each spoonful, taken in with the tart mango slivers and the crackling, brittle fish on top, calls for prolonged exclamatory gasps and squeals of delight.
Lauding the Chef’s wizardry, at this point, led us to refresh our patchy command over the Thai language, over repeated genial bows with folded hands. Tip: you say “khob khun krab” for thank you if you’re male, and “khob khun kah” if you’re female. “Mak mak” means very much, “kor hâi chôhk dee” is good luck, while “gai” is chicken and “yum” means salad. More reason to go yum-yum, but you knew that already.
Lotus eaters forever
For our mains, the chef amped up the dramatic appeal.
So the Goong nam makram came in like a ship in the Odysseus, crafted like a sculpted work of fried Bay of Bengal prawns, in a little puddle of homemade tamarind sauce. The prawns, for a mention, are as oil-free as suntanned skin on a beach chair, and snappy as the breaking of surf over the tallest waves.
The Gai hor samunprai, of chicken rolls, was a lot more subdued, evidencing the chef’s deft hand. To wrap things up was the (the mouthful) Pla tod samunprai kub nam jim sam rod, a deep-fried (yet remarkably oil-less) whole white snapper with herbs and spicy Thai sauce. For seafood lovers, there’s little more that needs to be said.
Chef Tanya’s desserts, reassuringly, are all about coconut — the Bua loy, of M&M-sized rice balls dunked in coconut milk, is made to play tic-tac-toe with.
While the Tako, a pudding of mung bean flour, with a sprinkling of sweet corn kernels and taro, bundled in handy leaf parcels, ends our meal on a dainty note.
At Lotus, The Park. Meal for two approx. `2,500 onwards. Details: 42676000