Raintree in Sweltering Chennai

I am ashamed to say that I am not a big fan of Indian food. But a recent visit of a colleague from Singapore, who is absolutely bonkers about Indian food, forced me into being a good host and having only Indian food at every, single meal we took him out to. It was a pleasant change from the usual for me. My most favorite meal was in Chennai at a restaurant called Raintree at the Taj Connemara. The restaurant serves Chettinad food. Chettinad cuisine is from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu (a state in India). The cuisine is famous for the use of various Indian spices and is usually known to be quite hot and pungent.

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The restaurant looks inviting. There is a beautiful water body feature bang in the middle of the indoor seating that makes the surroundings pleasant to both the eyes and the ears with the mellifluous trickling sounds.

We were served papads / poppadoms first, which we chose to have with some chilled Kingfisher beer – a perfect combination in the heat of Chennai. Then our server wheeled along the most impressive array of Indian chutneys and preserved pickles. We were blown away! I could not for the life of me, pick which ones I would want to sample and I just left it to our servers to provide a plateful of chutneys and pickles. Onion chutney, tomato chutney, coconut chutney, peanut chutney, mango pickle and the pièce de résistance – muskmelon chutney…I was in chutney heaven!

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Our server was mighty impressed with the satiated oohs and aahs from our table and offered us some delicious appetizers on the house – muruku (a crispy, deep fried snack usually made of ground rice and daal) and a mini adai (like uttapam, made of ground rice and lentils. We mopped up the chutneys with these and sat back happy as we ordered our main course.

My dining companions ordered a lot of non-vegetarian food but i was so engrossed in my vegetarian main course that I paid scant attention to what they were tucking into. My main course was a coin paratha (flattened Indian bread made of flour, looks all curly-whirly and is my preferred form of roti) with a curry made of pearl onions and button mushrooms. The gravy was outstanding – tangy, spicy and pungent. I had some gun powder / podi (dried, ground lentils and spices) and a baby mango pickle with this. I was in seventh heaven when our server got us a Jasmine Martini, again on the house! Oh happy, happy day 🙂

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(Jasmine Cocktail, adai and muruku, coin parota and mushrooms & pearl onion curry, baby mango pickle, white chocolate truffle and chocolate coated basil leaf)

As I licked my fingers in delight, making sure I got to really savor every last bit of the delicious food, our server got us some homemade chocolates for desert (yes, these were on the house too!) – a white chocolate truffle with an India inspired filling and a basil / tulsi leaf coated in dark chocolate. Basil is very commonly used in India to flavor food and often the leaves are eaten raw as a delicious digestive. It was the most perfect close to a most perfectly orchestrated dinner. As we walked back to our car, my belly was distended and my heart sang a happy ditty. Kudos to the chefs at the Raintree and a heartfelt thanks to our servers who made our delicious meal an indelible memory.

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