Friday, August 5, 2011

Chennai Diary IV

From what I have seen of Chennai so far, I conclude, it is not a city for the foodie.
Hyderabad!!! Where are you?

Day 7, Sunday, was spent going to my aunt's at Guindy. Though a good 16 km from my guest house, the visit with a taste of lovingly prepared home-food made it worth while.

Monday to Friday had me explore different eateries around my work place and the guest house. I am now no longer surprised to find no paan stains on the road or paan shops around. You need a paan only when you have had a good/heavy meal.

Tried food at Shogun, Ponnusamy, Sarvanan…all known and recognized by any Chennaite. The rest are small outlets.Yet, these three seemingly big names disappointed too.
What’s amazing is, the ambiance seems to have no importance. It is as though what’s important is just eating the food…everything else is not necessary.

I went to Ponnusamy beside my guest house hoping to get some light snack at dinner time as I am not too keen on heavy dinners.They have idli, dosa and wada for tiffins. They also have mutton dosa, egg dosa, paneer dosa…why can’t I have one simple masala dosa with its potato stuffing? The ambiance is like the Swati tiffins we have near Secunderabad station. So, why is it famous, I wonder. Neither the quality of food nor the ambiance is anything to rave about. They present the bill at the end of the meal along with a miniature banana.

Shogun was a well recommended Chinese outlet.Though not an ardent Chinese food fan, I was game to trying anything now. It comparatively has a better ambiance than what I have seen in any other restaurant in Chennai. Ambiance-wise, compares to a Chutneys at Hyderabad…though less crowded. And the price that we ended up paying for this slightly better ambiance!  830 rupees for two for an ordinary meal (from the Chinese and Indian menus), one soup, two starters, three rotis, one curry, and one soft drink each. The food was ok. Maybe a 3 on 5, surely not more.

The world-famous Sarvanan let me down in a big way. I went to Parry’s and as it would be very late by the time I went back, I decided to have food at the famous restaurant. I asked the steward for a masala dosa. I had to ask him to guide me with the menu because every single item on the tiffin menu was prefixed with Ghee…ghee idli ghee wada, ghee, dosa etc. All I wanted was a simple masala dosa. He pointed to one which said Ghee Paper Masala Dosa for Rs. 128/- I okayed it and found that it meant a dosa about a feet and a half in length and with accompaniments of coconut chutney, karipatha chutney, tomato chutney and sambar. I had planned for two simple items but seeing the size of the dosa, I knew I’d need to rule out ordering any other item. What first hit the nostrils was the aroma (stink?) of ghee. As I kept eating and reaching the lower half of that cylinder-shaped contraption, I found more and more of it stick to my fingers. When I lifted the dosa to check, I found the entire bottom of the dosa, and the plantain leaf it was served in, smothered with ghee. I started using the tissues to dab at every bite of dosa to get rid of the excess ghee. I called the steward as I had noticed a small girl beside my table being served a much smaller masala dosa. I asked him why I was not served that. His answer, “Because that will not be enough for an adult!” My next question to him was why all this ghee. He smiled, (sadistically?), saying, “It is all pure ghee.” Gosh! I wonder how, we who lead such a sedentary life style, will be able to digest all that stuff. Again, ambiance is like that of the AC section of the much crowded Sanman tiffin center at Tarnaka. As though all that ghee in the tummy was not nauseating and tumultuous enough, right beside my table plonks a lady and her mother with their hair adorned with strong-smelling jasmine flowers!

NONE of the restaurants here serve my favorite upma…not one! It is always dosa, idli wada. Choice is between these three. No golgappa walas to be seen anywhere either.
Everyone is so practical here…like they just need to get the work done. The finer things of life don’t seem to matter much. Back in Hyderabad, we live life the Nawabi style!

Off to an early start to Pondy tomorrow. Look forward to enjoying the fine French culture.