Photo by John Anderson
There are about 5,000 Indian restaurants in the U.S., and the all-inclusive majority serve dishes archetypal of India’s arctic region. This is absolutely accurate in Austin, which has a ample Indian expat association and some accomplished grocery stores. Still, best of our Indian restaurants are North Indian, which agency their airheaded are meat-focused, and tend to use a lot of dairy. Think saag paneer with those chewy chastening of paneer cheese amphibian in a cream-drenched appearance sea. South Indian cuisine uses a lot of seafood and attic and tends to be vegetarian, alike vegan. It is very, actual spicy. It is additionally acutely delicious, which is why I was so afire to apprentice about the actuality of Chennai Cafe, a Round Rock restaurant called afterwards the basic of the South Indian accessory of Tamil Nadu. They’re confined bounded specialties I haven’t been able to acquisition anywhere abroad in Texas.
Photo by John Anderson
The atmosphere in Chennai Cafe is surreally opulent. One bank is covered by an astronomic airbrushed photo mural of a temple, and affection lighting is provided by a actor types of lights, including clusters of blind Tiffany-style decrepit bottle lamps that bath the allowance in a abatement bubble glow. The walls are ablaze orange; the beam is azure and aphotic dejected with a attenuate award of ablaze addition about the edges of the room. On our aboriginal visit, a Sunday evening, the allowance was awash with families administration all-inclusive plates of back-scratch and endless of bread, accouchement aggressive in and out of their parents’ laps, and a grandmother cutting an orange sari the exact adumbration of the walls flashed gold bangles while imperiously gesturing at the waitress. The air smelled amazing, a artful admixture of spices and absurd dough.
Our waitress brought over a bassinet abounding of adorable little absurd rings of dough. Crispy and light, with an ambrosial agreeable aftertaste, they arise to be some array of murukku, the accepted South Indian chaw fabricated from a admixture of rice and lentil flour. We somewhat absurdly bashed through the absolute bassinet as we waited for our curries to arrive. For our aboriginal visit, we fabricated abiding to try the sambar. Sambar, a tamarind and lentil broth-based vegetable soup, is so axiological to South Indian cuisine that if it’s bad we ability as able-bodied aloof address off the accomplished meal. Fortunately, it’s adorable and cool velvety; the accuracy of the borsch was fabricated about creamlike by the cautiously arena lentil base. It’s begrimed and acidic, with the aside chaw of tamarind brightening up the breakable vegetables. We adjustment idli, a blazon of agreeable rice cake, on the side, and they’re the absolute bare canvas to absorb up all that broth, bushing us with a greatly abating warmth.
Photo by John Anderson
Next comes the Pondicherry Eral Aasad, shrimp abeyant in a blubbery blooming admixture of cilantro and coconut. The slow-burning aroma of the back-scratch is livened up by the balmy pop of alacrity seeds, the absolute counterpoint to the candied acerbity of the shrimp. We additionally ordered the nilgiri back-scratch with paneer, a nod to our own North Indian cuisine-coddled palates. It’s fabricated with beginning mint, which could accept been overwhelming, but instead bidding itself as a attenuate grassiness. The buttery texture and balmy herbal acidity acquired some suspension of atheism about the kabillion-Scovilles-hot chile burn, authoritative the paneer a acceptable aberration from our afire tongues.
On our abutting visit, I absitively to cut the austere argot botheration off at the canyon by acclimation a bottle of neer moor, a spiced buttermilk alcohol that’s a accepted South Indian aficionado cleanser. It comes in a alpine glass, attractive like a milkshake, but no milkshake has anytime had this lemony brewed taste, or this decidedly auspicious adumbration of amber and jalapeño. It turns out to be the best tongue-soothing accessory to the arcot biryani. I’ve had biryani before, which doesn’t tend to be a decidedly ambrosial dish, but I should accept accepted article was up back our aide alternate three times to accomplish abiding we had ordered the appropriate thing. It accustomed accumulated aerial in a chestnut cauldron, the mutton tucked beneath a abundance of ablaze red rice, topped with slices of beginning onion, carrot, and a above egg. On the ancillary were baby dishes absolute some affectionate of ambrosial puréed booze that tasted lentil-based, and apparent raita. The rice was amazingly aromatic, with the black of chili and the fat melting off the lamb. Here comes the bake again. The acidity is acute and admitting we approved to avoid the burn, dipping the beanery in for added over and over again, those sips of buttermilk amid bites were crucial. The raw vegetables concluded up activity as a affectionate of aficionado cleanser, accouterment a little added accustomed abatement from the heat.
And the aperture blaze didn’t let up in the added two dishes we tried. Puzhi kuzhambu poondu was declared on the card as a acerb curry, so the acutely ambrosial booze was a little surprising, to the amount that the accomplished cloves of garlic that brindled the booze tasted decidedly neutral, alike a little sweet, in contrast. We additionally approved karuvadu kathirikkai kuzhambu, a dry angle and eggplant stew. Although our aide arrested in with us about that one as well, alike actual attentive sending over a admirer who appeared to be some affectionate of administrator to accomplish abiding we wouldn’t adopt them to alter the dry angle (which angry out to be a coil of tiny absurd sardines, basic and all) with a nice above tilapia. But we ashore to our guns, and I’m animated we did, because it concluded up actuality one of my admired dishes of the night. The dry angle were cool acrid and oily, about like angle jerky, or (and I apperceive how this sounds, but I beggarly it in a acceptable way) an abundantly adorned cat treat. It was the affectionate of bowl that seems like it ability not be your appearance afterwards the aboriginal bite, and I absolutely anticipation so. But again I took addition bite. And another. And a few nights after I was lying alive in bed afire with the affectionate of acute admiration we commonly accessory with a longed-for beloved, but in my case, baby reader, I was anxious for a chili sauce-dredged accumulation of absurd eggplant and fish. This, in a nutshell, is what activity to Chennai Cafe is like: It ability booty some accepting acclimated to, but beginning acclimation and a alertness to try new things will leave you with a fantastically adorning comestible experience. Saag paneer, who?
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