Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dakshin Coastal - ITC Grand Maratha

You may have read my post on Dakshin, the South Indian food restaurant at the ITC Grand Maratha. Dakshin, despite having the most competent and knowledgeable Chef Manu Nair at the helm, was floundering. West View, a peculiar, neither Grill nor French nor Italian restaurant, was a disaster. I guess the folks at the ITC had to act, I guess they are accountable, unlike our Government. So act they did. Dakshin has recently moved to where the West View was located (a smaller space than before) and West View has thankfully been shuttered. Dakshin has also renamed itself Dakshin Coastal and from the looks of it aims to take a slice of the lucrative Trishna, Gajalee, and Apoorva market.

To use Indian English, `we had a dear friend down from London’. HRH the Queen of Kutch had during a visit to the Pan Asian at the ITC a few weeks ago, promised Chef Manu Nair that we would dine at the new Dakshin Coastal shortly. So when our friend called to set up a dinner date, we suggested Dakshin Coastal. I must say full marks to her, she agreed to make the trip from South Bombay to Andheri to enjoy the food on offer, and, presumably, our company. To start, as always, we wet our whistles at the Bombay High, under the eagle eye of Ashwin and his staff, before moving to on to Dakshin Coastal.

The furniture and decor of the West View has been retained and Dakshin Coastal has been simply grafted into the premises. The restaurant does not look particularly Indian or even South Indian, but is rather neutral with an absence of a clichéd theme. I have no problem with that. It looked clean, modern and spacious. We left the food to Chef Manu Nair and decided to enjoy the ride. It was a great ride. The menu appears to be unchanged, though they did have some sort of special on offer. Since we had left our food to Chef Manu Nair, we did not even glance at the menus.

To start we had the Kuzhi Paniyaram. This is a Tamilian `tiffin variety’. Idli batter is used and poured in a special Paniyaram cooker. The result is a lightly fried ball that is eaten with chutney. Quite nice.

Kuzhi Paniyaram

Next up we had something called Meen Pollichathu. This is from Kerala. This was really delicious. Fillets of Pomfret were coated in a red/brown tamarind flavoured masala.The fish was then wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked on a pan. A  South Indian version of Patra Ni Machhi, the Parsi dish where Pomfret is coated with green chutney and similarly wrapped in Banana leaf and cooked. This was delicious, as I have already said, on two counts. One was the excellent masala and the second was the brilliant cooking of the fish. Pomfret is an extremely delicate fish and cooks in a flash. Almost always, Indian cooks overcook the fish and totally dry it out, and almost always, we Indians love our fish murdered. This was really well cooked, just to the point where the protein in the fish had set. Top marks.

Meen Pollichathu

Meen Pollichathu - opened

Then we had Sukke Maas, a Kanadiga dish which is Chicken cooked in a red masala. Not something that I would jump up and down for, but pleasant all the same. To offset the chicken we had a Daal with green Mung beans, called Pacchai Payaru Thogayle, which was cooked in a South Indian Style. I quite liked this. It reminded me of the Moog Ghashi a similar curry made with sprouted Mung and a coconut base. We were also served a vegetable curry with baby Brinjal and Drumstick called Bandane Koddel. All at the table were most impressed by this dish and I will tell you why. The Drumstick pieces were thick and full of marrow. The brinjal was tender and delicious. Sourcing such good quality vegetables means that someone cares, someone wants to try and give you a higher quality of vegetables for the enormous sum of money you are paying for the dish. This was impressive. Of course, the names I have given you have several different spellings so don’t hold me to their accuracy.

Sukke Maas

Bandane Koddel

 Pacchai Payaru Thogayle

To end we had an Indian style, Pistachio ice cream. Perfectly good.

Pistachio Ice Cream

When leaving, Chef Manu Nair came across and told us that he was leaving the ITC to start a new venture. We wish him well. I am sure with his skill, wherever he works the food will be good. He introduced us to his new colleagues who were going to take over from him. Sad, but life has to go on. Our Londonstani friend concluded that the food at Dakshin beats the Konkan Cafe at the Taj Vivanta, Mumbai (previously known at President), by a long mile. We agree.  

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