Friday, June 22, 2018

Novotel, Chamier Road - Dinner at Food Exchange

Novotel's 7th property in the city is here and this is the second hotel to be located in the centre of the city. Hotel Ibis, Anna Salai is the other one. This is a welcome addition to the Alwarpet area which hasn't had any luxury hotel other than Crowne Plaza for a long time. Will be interesting to see how they integrate themselves into the area which has majority of restaurants amidst residences.

Food Exchange is the main restaurant at Novotel with a capacity of 72 diners including Private dining rooms. There's a lounge bar in the ground floor with screening of matches but they are yet to receive the liquor license which is expected very soon. They've just started (few weeks), and Food Exchange has a menu right now which covers most of the major cuisines. They've got varying menus depending on the meal and also a separate midnight menu. We were here on an invite to try out the menu and the Mr. Ramesh Kumar, the F & B manager gave us nice company and conversation.


The place is neat and has the easy feeling of a lounge with comfortable seating. There are tables that can accommodate anywhere from two to 12 guests. There's also a lengthy table in the center for a large group. The actual cooking happens live and is the centerpiece of the restaurant with chefs tossing and churning up fresh Indian breads and grills. Very nice setup indeed that will keep your eyes busy.


We started off the humid evening with the refreshing Lady Marmalade which is Orange juice, ginger ale, lemon and marmalade. The slices of orange inside the drink lent quite a citrusy flavor while the marmalade was faintly noticeable.

Watermelon Breeze - with coconut water n fresh lime!



Thai Beef Skewers, peanut sauce

The peanut sauce
Usually one sees this dish prepared with chicken skewers in the city, so it was nice to have beef for a change. The beef morsels were tender yet had a mild bite which is great. Topped with the slightly sweet, peanut sauce with bits of peanuts was delicious.

Vanjaram Meen Varuval, lemon oil

Again a slight twist on the usual marinade that's used to prepare Vanjaram, this fish fry starter was light on the masala. Could get flavors of the lemon oil and turmeric as well. Good stuff.

Main Course


They have classic pizza choices in the menu and we decided to go all out meat this time. We tried the Mascarpone, Parma Ham, Rocket leaves and the Crisp Bacon, caramelized onions, wilted spinach pizza.

Liked both the variants of pizza. Especially the crust n topping which was wonderfully risen and crunchy as well coated with olive oil. The Parma ham made its taste easily apparent though it seemed to be cut so thin while the crisp bacon needs no description.

Kung Pao Chicken with Steamed Rice on the side

For the main course, we decided to try the chicken for once, since we'd tasted the beef for starters. It was recommended to try the Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice to get the true flavor of this dish. Indeed, the combination was a neat one with the soft soya and spice coated chicken pieces standing up for itself nicely. Would recommend having this with steamed rice for a change if you've never done so.

Pad Thai

The Pad Thai was made with the usual trimmings of peanuts, seafood and prawn. Tasted good but I would have loved to get the zing of some citrus in there. You could ask the Chef to customize it according to your preference while ordering.


For the desserts, it was the Tender Coconut payasam parfait with cookie granules and Hazelnut choco fudge with Berry consumer.

The cold Parfait was a perfect choice for the tender coconut and I couldn't decide if it was partially frozen bits of payasam or tender coconut that I was biting into. Yummy texture. The cookie granules would have been better off spread evenly I thought than bunched together.

The Hazelnut choco fudge was a safe bet and tasted very nice. Texturewise it felt a bit like a thick cakey brownie with thick Berry compote. Quite delicious. The hazelnuts weren't incorporated rather found whole so it was nice to get that crunch occasionally.

Yet another Novotel property with a classy ambiance and nice choices of dishes this time in a central location. The hotel will be receiving their liquor license soon so you can have all these dishes and more with some alcoholic beverages in a few months. The buffet is priced at 1099++ as an inaugural offer right now. They can be reached at +91-7824808009.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wire Room Restobar - Phoenix Marketcity, Chennai

Wire room is one of the newest restobars that have been sprung up in Chennai city very recently. The place is part of Design Hotels by Justa and is a sight to behold on the inside! We were here on an invite to try the food and cocktails.

The Design hotels as the name suggest gives prime importance to the design and significance of the property. The hotel's hallways are an amazing sight to witness based around themes like 'Maya' or Illusion and made by renowned artists.

The new restobar Wire room is no different and has been designed by architect Pronit Nath with kilometers of taut wires running the length of the ceiling creating the illusion of the pattern known as "Madras Checks." There are weights hanging at the end of a set of wires to keep them tight!

Wireroom has a lot of elements that remind the visitor of Chennai and Tamilnadu's culture , right from the architecture which is based around the Madurai Meenakshi Temple's perfectly symmetrical corridors lined with carved pillars! You can see the same effect with wires and mirrors right behind the loaded bar shelf! The lighting is dim but not depressingly so, the interiors are tinged with red and lit up in places for a pleasing effect and the sound system is pretty solid! The sound had some thump without distortion and for the first time we could hear each other speak clearly even though the music was loud!

Karthik (L) and Chef Raheman 

We met Mr. Karthik Palaniappan the F&B manager at Wireroom. Karthik has extensive experience with mixology which is the field of creating a great cocktail with perfect ingredients. In fact, he has won pan-India contests for the best cocktail. He told us about his belief in making a cocktail with the best possible ingredients. He personally makes the syrups used in the cocktails and Wireroom does not Monin syrups which he said give an overload of sweetness!

The Chef Was Raheman Mir Hafizur who was quite particular with the ingredients he used and the kind of items brought on to the menu.

Summary of the food

Wire room has a lot of interesting dishes backed with some good experience from the chef and focus on quality. They've decided to focus on world famous dishes like Tacos, kebabs, Pita pockets and even Japanese food and give it their own twist reminding us of the quintessential Madras. Read on below to know why Wire room wins Chennai's heart.

Summary of the Cocktails

They are serious about the classic cocktails which are made with a lot of care and original ingredients owing to Karthik's guidance. They've managed to incorporate many flavors from Madras creatively and make some truly unique cocktails for Chennai! The best one was undoubtedly the Magizchi which is a tribute to Tamilnadu's most famous actor in recent times. Read on to know more about all these.

On to the Food!

We were served tasting portions of quite a few dishes from the menu. Here's a short write-up about what I felt about the dishes and why it was loved or not!

Quinoa Salad

This was superbly fresh and moist which added to the eatability. I've never eaten much vegetarian food in a bar! Much less quinoa but I was taking plenty of spoonfuls of this topped with the Avocado and lots of greens. First time I am recommending a vegetarian bar-eat!

Gelouti shots

These melt-in-the-gelouti shots were made from very finely minced mutton spiced with their in-house masala. They were quite spicy for me but with the dip it was just right.

Pita Pockets

With soft pita bread pockets which are made fresh everyday in-house, the pockets surround a lovely mutton kebab and plenty of thinly chopped veggies which rounded out the flavors and gave the pita lots of crunch and texture.

Tikka Taster plate

We were served with a platter of 5 kinds of tikka! There was the Hariyali kebab, the malai tikka and more. All the tikka pieces were really fresh and tender as it should be.


Surprisingly we were also served vegetarian momos with a translucent skin placed on a layer of

The salsa served alongside was fresh and just made. There was also soya sauce on the side to dip into. I preferred the salsa with a bit of the soya drizzled.

Soft shell Tacos

Now this was quite a delicious taco because of the soft, freshly made taco shell that made a lot of difference. The fresh cut veggies and meat inside made it quite yummy to bite into as a healthy side-eat.


There was even sushi brought to the table and I had a nice time savoring the nicely made maki rolls. This is one of the few bars in a non five star restaurant that serves Sushi and it showcases the Chef's expertise.

Harissa Prawns

This was nicely made with a tongue tingling harissa based marinade enveloping the large prawns. It was tasty enough for me to suck out the masala from the prawn head something that I usually dont attempt!

Cocktails and a Surprise!


This was the star of the show with a megastar's face carved into its foam! None other than Superstar Rajnikanth! It's a nice mix of Gin with ginger, Karupatti (palm jaggery) and egg white forming the creamy head of this drink! This was the first time I've had egg white on my drink but it had zero flavor from egg while adding to the creaminess nicely. The combination of Karupatti and gin with the classic ginger combo made this a very tasty cocktail indeed!

About the Classic Cocktails

Now, Wireroom seems to be quite serious about not messing with the classic cocktails and making them as true to the spirit as possible. And they have taken some additional steps to make their cocktails stand out in flavor. The syrups used to create them aren't synthetic but made in house to get the best flavor possible. And it did show in the final flavor which was more mellow and much less synthetic n outright syrupy. Justifies the higher pricing for sure to an extent.

That Madras Touch! Touch pannitanga da! (Touched the heart! :D)

Until now we had a great time with the drinks and food but the best part is yet to come. This was the sight of some native, local "side-dish" items or thottuka as we call it!

There was maanga (unripened mango) well marinated with spices, a piece of fried n salted chili and of course, the much loved Thaaen muttai and dried sweet ginger! It was awesome to have a bite of these


Chocolate Chilli Baked Yoghurt, Tiramisu and Chocolate brownie

Well this was nicely done with chilli flakes in the white chocolate disc that topped the baked yoghurt. There was a bit of mango jelly which made for a great pairing with the thick textured yoghurt. I could get the milky profile of the dessert and there was also jamuns to satisfy the sugar cravers.

Chocolate brownie: This was a meaty brownie with a thick buttery center as can be seen and it was really good! Not the usual dry n crunchy sort of brownie. The ice cream helped make things even better but I loved having the brownie just by itself.

The Tiramisu was fresh and well done too dusted with cocoa powder. Definitely an apt dessert to have at a bar since its supposed to contain alcohol too.

Mall Entrance to Wire room.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Mappila" - Kerala Food Festival

It's not easy to replicate the real Kerala cuisine outside the state- reason being the high dependance of this cuisine on fresh ingredients mainly the specific variants of Banana and abundant usage of coconut oil. Also the usage of high quality spices which Kerala has an abundance of lends a difference in flavor. Attended this event for a food tasting on an invite.

Chef Saji Alex explains the cuisine

Banana Chips brought in from Kerala!

At the Mappila Kerala Food Festival being held this week only at Paprika Cafe, Courtyard Marriott, the authenticity of the cuisine is maintained. Chef Saji Alex who's been brought in from Kochi and who has extensive experience with Kerala cuisine. He's won numerous awards for his cooking and even cooked for Western celebrities. While some dishes were presented in a milder avatar, they have actually brought in a lot of foodstuffs from Kerala like the Nadan Banana fritters/chips, jackfruit chips, the numerous pickles and also the fatter "Kerala rice." This is what makes this Kerala fest different since the Chef knew the flavor of Kerala can never replicated without actually bringing bits of pieces of Kerala with him.

The items brought in from Kerala!

Vegetarian Pickles!


Paprika Cafe is a spacious set-up at the ground floor of the hotel. Known for their expansive Sunday brunch and numerous Fests, they usually have something up their sleeve every month. For the Mappila Fest, they've setup traditional looking stalls that replicate the best parts of a Keralan experience; namely the Chai shop, the juice corner which serves up a refreshing Nannari-lemon based sharbat called "Kullukki" which literally means "shaken," the ice gola shops found on the beaches where fruit syrups are mixed with ice and served up.

'Kullukki' being made. A Nannari lemon sharbath.

The Food

Loaded plate! With biriyani, kuruma, Beef, Chicken Varatiyathu n Fish pathiri

It's a buffet setup where they've spread out dishes in groups of 4 or 5 at each table. Started off with the Fish pathiri which is basically shredded fish stuffed in pastry and deep fried. It was just okay since I felt the fish filling was dry. Would be better if juicier. The Kozhi Varattiyathu (means dry) was nicely done, spices were tempered and it quite hot from the chilli as it should be. Cheera Naracha Vada looked quite similar to the Paruppu vada filled with spinach too. I forgot to try this one.

Dishes to check out:

Calicut Style Mutton Biriyani

The dishes that impressed for me were the Kozhi Kuruma which was made with a combination of ground cashews n coconuts. Very mild and thick would go well with plain rice. Then there was the Chemmen Maanga curry (prawn raw mango) which impressed with the superbly fresh juicy prawn swimming in that mild spiced curry with the slight astringency of the raw maanga. This is a classic preparation and I wished there was a bit more flavor of that raw maanga in it. The Calicut mutton biriyani impressed with its authenticity. Prepared in the Kozhikodan style without over spice-usage, small grained rice cooked perfectly and with a different spice combination that includes fennel, it was a welcome change from the usual biriyani found here. And oh, the fish pickle they've brought in from Kerala is excellent! There are many vegetarian pickles to choose from as well.

Chemeen Maanga Curry

I served up some of the plain rice and topped it with the Chemeen Maanga curry with sides of the Beef Mulagittathu (Kerala style chilli beef) and an appalam. Ideally it would be a Pappadam which is the Mallu version of the appalam. Eating the curries with Rice or Puttu is how its traditionally done and this was quite homely and nice. A touch of the excellent fish pickle made things even better.

Beef Mulaguttiyathu (Chilli)

Puttu Station

They were serving up small sized stacks of Puttu which were being steamed up continously. Didnt try them since they are quite filling usually but other bloggers said it was good. Puttu can be eaten with any number of Veg or Non veg sides like the Chicken Kuruma or Vegetarian sides.

Appam with Mutton

Appam Station

There were appams being made fresh and you had the option of adding an egg, mutton or chicken bits to it to zing it up. Most opted for the egg but I tried the mutton and it was nice. Mild spiced titbits of mutton sprinkled on top. Appam was well-made but I expected more from the mutton topping.


I missed out on the exotic looking Coconut elaneer payasam which was served in the coconut shells. Paprika Cafe usually has nice desserts. This time I got to try the fresh black forest cake which looked tempting. Gulab jamuns, a carrot halwa, Mysore pak were the other sweetmeats I was able to lay hands on. Although the items were good, the desserts section could be expanded.

Other Buffet Selections

Besides the Kerala fare there is also a Continental section at the side where more dishes are available for tasting! So the spread is quite huge and there are some nice dishes like the Roast chicken which was excellent with a flavorsome soy based sauce, lasagna and more.

Price Details:

At rs 1399 per head, Mappilla Kerala Fest is priced very nicely being a Five star hotel. The spread is quite vast and the dishes have a fair bit of authenticity to them as mentioned. So worth a visit! On only till May 20th.