Chasing crabs, thugs and kulfi
Whether you are in the mood for mad-sized burgers or Indian Chinese, this round-up of new places in Chennai has you covered
Looking for a new place to satiate those hunger pangs? We’ve got your back. Here’s a round-up of some of the newest haunts in the city that are already working up popular reputations for their menus. From budget dives that offer pizzas for as low as Rs 50 to a new Middle Eastern place that has all of two items on their menu. This is our pick of where to go this weekend.
Must love meat
At the all-new Mashawi, less is more. Introducing the festive Middle Eastern signature dish — the ouzi — offerings at the month-old outlet are about delicious flavours and generous portions. Primarily a take away and delivery joint, it has only two dishes on their menu – the lamb and the chicken ouzi (a complete dish of meat and rice) – where you can choose different portion size and meat cuts.
Of course, the full-lamb sitting on a bed of rice pilaf is the obvious star of their kitchen — the community dish can feed up to 24 people and is centrepiece-worthy at weddings and celebrations — and is possibly a first for Chennai. The added quirk is that every bite is different, depending on the part of the goat you get to dig into. Started by cousins Durugam Parvez Ahmed and Durugam Tanveer Ahmed, Mashawi is a part of the former’s family business, the Dubai-based brand, Chef Al Khaleej. Parvez tell us that orders for the full-lamb have been pouring in from as far as Bengaluru.
Tanveer picks a lamb ouzi for us, where the juicy shoulder cut is dotted with blanched almonds and roasted cashews, and glistens with well-done spices. The flavoursome meat has been slow cooked to perfection, slides off the bone obligingly and is wildly addictive. Parvez lets on, “We hand-pick the meat daily, we use about nine ingredients for the marinade, and it is a dry rub” — but the recipe is a family secret. The fragrant pilaf is interspersed with grains of Bengal gram, boiled eggs and potatoes, and is tame till you add the piquant gravy. This delicious meal is best shared by four, at least.
Rs 299 onwards. Details: 7530080492
— Sabrina Rajan
Burgers ‘n’ shakes
Set al fresco, Cafe 23 is a month-old, 75-seater space offering sumptuous quantities worth your penny. While the glazed chicken wings were tangy and juicy, it was Monstrosity, their big burger that made quite an impression. True to its name, it is a handful and there is no elegant manner in which the toasted buns — packed with a chicken patty stuffed with cheese, salami, and mushrooms and fried egg – can be devoured. To wash it all down, we picked the chilled Ferrero-Rocher shake. “We will soon be adding hotdogs and tacos to our menu,” says the owner, Faizul Ahamed. In fact, he is already planning to open a resto-bar next.
At Shanti Colony. Rs 140 onwards. Details: 30257988
— Vaishali V
Thug, you’re it!
N Gopinath, owner of the Thug Life Cafe, a hole-in-the-wall outlet in the leafy neighbourhood of Abhiramapuram, is a great guy to chat with about trending music — from hip-hop to Tamil YouTube mashups. The cubbyhole café, barely two months old, sits in line with a few sandwich-and-juice kiosks, all of them serving up youngsters and college crowds. The Thug Life’s menu includes wraps, pizzas (at heart-stoppingly low prices starting at `50), sandwiches (try the drunken cheese and black olive pesto options) and flavoured sodas. They’ve got barbeque offerings too, though you’d rather pick them up (or call for deliveries) rather than prop yourself by the café’s twin tables on the pavement. Gopinath has been rather clever, posting a bunch of Instagram-ised food pictures online that are already picking up favourable reviews. The food’s quite good too (all locally sourced ingredients; the cheese is fresh). For a tip, offer Gopinath a quip about gangsta rap and watch him grin ear to ear.
Prices Rs 35 upwards. Details: 30205644
— Jaideep Sen
When you’re selling a product as common as kulfi, how do you ensure that it sticks out? (We didn’t see that pun coming!) S Kathirvelraja had his vision in place when he decided to set up Chennai Kulfi this January, with three of his real estate business partners, J Sathikbasha, T Muthukumar and S Mariappan.
“We thought it best to source all our raw materials from Sriviliputhur, a place famous for its palkova. The milk and fruits found there are very natural in taste and make up a good array of ingredients that are crucial for making good quality kulfi,” says the 38-year-old native from Tirunelveli.
After opening their first branch in Anna Nagar, they’ve expanded to places such as ECR, OMR Food Street, Nelson Manickam Road, Kolathur and Nolambur. “We’re looking to open one more in Vadapalani by the 15th of next month,” he reveals, adding that their kulfis have a shelf life of 90 days. Popular flavours are jackfruit, dry fruit special and mango, which attract around 500 people at each of their outlets every weekend. In the pipeline are branches in Coimbatore, Salem and Trichy.
Priced Rs 40 onwards. Details: 9884439888
— Karan Pillai
Indian-Chinese? Yes, please
While it’s great to try authentic dishes from world cuisines, sometimes all you need is a simple, unpretentious, street food fix. The Chowmein Shop gives you just that. With the familiar concept of Indian-Chinese, this week-old outlet offers delicious favourites that can’t go wrong. Chennai-based owner Arnav Bajoria says, “Authentic Chinese is good, but Indians want their food to be masaledaar (spicy). So we use flavours like coriander and garam masala.”
From their choice of starters, we love the succulent red pepper chicken with its tangy, thick red gravy. Vegetarian favourites include the crispy chilli potato, which does pack a punch. Chowmein options include vegetarian, egg and chicken, and are flavourful enough to be a stand-alone meal, ruling out the need to order separate sides. The delivery-only outlet currently accepts orders only through Swiggy and delivers in and around Gopalapuram, with plans for expansion across the city on the cards.
Priced Rs 120 and upwards. Available on Swiggy.
— Anuja Premika