Thursday, March 30, 2017

More on Aadhar. I was correct.

In my last post, I had written about how our nutty intellectuals were barking up the wrong tree when it came to their protests against Aadhar.

Not surprisingly, a voice of reason has emerged. Surprisingly in the same left leaning rag

This, broadly confirms most of what I had written in my post. Do have a read.

I am sorry for this change of font and rather short post. My computer is on the Fritz and has gone to hospital. Hopefully it will be discharged soon and then normal service will resume.

Till then do read this

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Aadhar PAN and our nutty Intelectuals

Before I start a few obligatory statements and clarifications:

  • Mera Bharat Mahan.

  • Aadhar is not a card but a number

  • Pakistan did not kill my father, the war did.

  • I did not score a triple century my bat did

Having got that out of the way and proved that I am a deeply patriotic Indian, I must say that I have been increasingly disturbed by the bedlam caused by our Government insisting that you need to add your Aadhar number when filing your Income Tax Return.

The most voluble opposition to Aadhar is based on the premise that the data captured when making an Aadhar is not secure i.e. the data can be hacked easily and confidentiality is not safeguarded. The paranoids take this further and say that because of this lack of confidentiality “Big Brother” can monitor you and this could be to your detriment.

Of course there are several other arguments to oppose Aadhar. These fall into what I call the “Exceptions must be the Rule Bucket”. Just because a minuscule number of people do not have usable fingerprints [old people have bad quality fingerprints as do labourers] the whole system should be shut down. This type of argument is common in India – the Exception must be the Rule. In fact that is why we have so many bans. A small proportion of the population is affected by a book or a movie means instant banning.

Anyway, again generalizing, the opposition to Aadhar comes from our Intelligentsia, our Great Indian Intellectual, also the Great Indian Liberal, the NGO, and the Jholawalla.  Of course, again generalizing, all these folks do not need an Aadhar. They can get by quite easily without one. It is the poor who really need an Aadhar.

I am proceeding on the footing that the Aadhar data is in fact not secure, that it can be hacked, it can be easily accessed and it can be misused. Agree. I say yes, you are correct. However, I have a couple of questions for you Jholawallas.

My first question is, other things being equal; I have not quite understood how providing your Aadhar with your Income Tax return would by itself increase your risk. In other words when you do provide your Aadhar with your Tax Return, can your Tax Return be seen by the same hacker who hacks your Aadhar information. Could you please answer this? I really want to know.

My second question is that to the best of my knowledge the amount of data captured on the Aadhar system is not only rather irrelevant but is also insignificant. Yes, you have the name, address and details of what subsidies are paid into your bank account. The point I am making is how secure is your tax return? The Tax Return has far more serious information. All your investments, your sources of income and God Knows what else. Is there any security built into the disclosure of this Information? In fact, with the multiple reporting requirements that are in place, the Income Tax Department get information from several sources – your Bank, your Stock Broker, the BSE & NSE for your trades, from the Sub Registrar when you register any document buying and selling property, from Jewelers, from Credit Card Issuers and so many more. Is any of this secure?  

Let us also proceed on the footing that the data behind the Aadhar is tiddlywinks when compared to the data in a Tax Return.

By the same token, is the PAN number secure? The PAN is directly related to your Tax Return. Can you hack the PAN? Is the date secure? I have no idea.

Leave hacking aside for the moment. Let us deal with simple physical disclosure.

Giving someone a Xerox copy of your Aadhar, in my opinion poses no problems and discloses no information. The Jholawallas have a problem with the Aadhar. What about all of us happily handing out copies of our Tax Returns to all and sundry. If you want to open a bank account, or a Demat account or a trading account are some of the instances that come to my mind when you will be forced to hand over your Tax Return, which you will do without a second thought. Is there even a fig leaf of security? The physical copy of your return is bandied about by all kinds of people. Do we protest?

What about applying for a visa? If you apply for a visa to travel to the USA, Great Britain or any Western European country you will happily give a copy of your tax return to your travel agent. The travel agent will pass it on to all his peons who will in turn it over to VSF the Visa Handling Agency and so on and so forth. If you do not have a travel agent, you can remove one layer of inquisitive peons, but, the position is not much better. Is any of this potent information confidential? I seriously doubt it. What does the Consulate do with all this paper, I have no idea. Is it secure?

Could you ask the Jholawallas, so het up about confidentiality, if they have ever refused to give their tax returns to a Consulate when applying for a visa on grounds of lack of confidentiality? I am sure the answer will be no. All our friendly Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals need their visits abroad. They would give their right arm leave aside the tax return. The NGO and the Jholawalla are even more pathetic. They need their precious projects – A Review on the Impact of Well Water on the Basket Weavers of Bastaar or The need for Toilets in Andaman - approved and their grants and funding from the Ford Foundation. They too will happily give in their tax returns.

I am not for the moment suggesting that Aadhar should not be made more secure. What I am saying is that why should we have double standards. We should have highest confidentiality for Aadhar as well as our tax returns. Strict rules should put in place that if anyone misuses or discloses your Tax Return, he should be jailed. Why should all manner of peons have access to your tax returns I cannot understand?

As I was writing this post, I was sent a link to an article on Aadhar published in the Leftist i.e. Intellectual rag which you can read here. I cannot tell you how utterly stupid the argument is in that article. This post is not to critique that article, but to make you aware of the sheer “intelligence” of our Intelligentsia. The articles states that the Aadhar card is not proof of citizenship. Agreed. The article then says that the Aadhar card is one of the documents that the Passport authorities accept when issuing the passport. The article argues that if the Aadhar is not a proof of citizenship how can it be used to issue a passport, which is a proof of citizenship. I was dumbstruck by this argument. To my simple mind, a passport is the primary proof of citizenship. There is no document issued prior to a passport that proves your citizenship. Further, the other documents that are acceptable to the passport authorities viz: Utility Bills, residence rent receipts or letters of residence by the Secretary of the housing Society, PAN cards, etc., none of them are proofs of citizenship. Any foreigner [read Bangladeshi] can get these documents as a matter of course. To say the least I am mystified at the intelligentsia’s stream of thoughts. 

I really despair at how daft the Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals are. There are huge problems in India with information and its confidentiality. It would have benefited us all if their opposition to Aadhar on grounds of confidentiality would have been expanded to things like our data being held by so many diverse repositories. But then, I guess I am expecting too much from our Intelligentsia, Great Indian Intellectuals and Liberals.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

HKK - Hakkasan's better brother.

HKK is Hakkasan’s younger, much smarter and much better brother. I must confess that we are not fans of Hakkasan and much prefer Yauatcha. Some weeks ago we saw a documentary on Chinese food and one of the places that featured was HKK. We were most impressed. HKK has one star in Michelin. So when our dates to London were finalized we made our bookings. The Hakkasan Group also has a modern Japanese Restaurant called Sake No Hana. We have not been there. 

Chef Tong Chee Hwee is the Executive head Chef of the entire Hakkasan empire. HKK is his experimental kitchen from where he and his team “develop new dishes inspired by the diversity of Chinese cuisine. His unparalleled skill and artistry is exemplified in his unique creations that tell the story of both traditional and modern China.” Joining us for dinner was our old and dear friend the Doctor Businesswoman whom you would have read about in earlier Posts. She is our frequent dining companion and is a fellow Bon Vivant.

HKK is located in the City. This area is a little confusing to navigate, the streets are narrow, short and many have no proper signage. Do we not deal with this every day in Mumbai? We got lost. I walked into an office building and asked the two Black Guards at the reception if they knew where Worship Street was. They had no clue. Their accents were indecipherable. I thought they were taken of the trees of Gambia and employed primarily as they looked fierce. Stop being Racist. Still thoroughly lost we stumbled along and reached a map. Figured out where we were and made our way to HKK.

The restaurant is a large square box with a large window offering views of a spotless white kitchen. The kitchen staff were all Oriental, the front of house were almost all Caucasian. Very unusual for a Chinese Restaurant. Disturbingly, for me, despite being such a good restaurant and rather expensive, there were no tablecloths.

We were handed out menus. Basically there were just two options a 5 course or 9 course tasting menu available in vegetarian or non-vegetarian. This could be paired with wine or soft drinks. We chose the 9 course non-vegetarian menu and opted for our own wine and not the pairing.

I do not want to describe each dish we ate. But suffice to say we were absolutely blown away. This was superlative food as you will see from the photographs.

The Amuse Bouche. A Jelly with Caviar and Hazelnut. 

Wild Green Wagyu Beef

This was a outstanding dish. It was grilled Wagyu Beef with Strawberry, Basil and Hazelnut.The textures in this dish was most interesting. 

Chrysanthemum Fish Maw Soup

This was probably the best Chinese Soup I have eaten. Full of Umami flavours. Fish Maws are the Swim Bladder of large fish. This is dried and is a Chinese delicacy. Fish Maw is one of the big four traditional Chinese Delicacies along with Abalone, Sea Cucumber and Shark Fin. The rim of the bowl has a Chrysanthemum Flower and Coconut which was to be added to the soup and stirred. 

Yin Yang Dim Sum

This was one dud dish. This was the Yin Yang Dim Sum. In China, the number 3 is considered good luck. So Yin Yang Dim Sum is a bit of a confusing name. You got 3 dumplings not two. They should have called them Bish Bash Boosh Dim Sum. Anyway, while the fillings were excellent, the skins of the Dim Sum were rather unpleasant. The Black Dumpling was Abalone & Cuttle Fish, The Red dumpling was Lobster and Water Chestnut and the Green was King Crab and Prawn. All Crustacea or shellfish. The sauce was most interesting. It was a shellfish sauce with Goji Berry. Tasted like a Bisque. Very good and very logical.

Signature Cherry Wood Peking Duck

We have had Peeking Duck in several places ranging from Da Dong a genre busting Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing, to Duck in the Summer Pavilion restaurant in Singapore to the excellent Duck served at the China House at Grand Hyatt at Kalina in Mumbai. This duck served at HKK was better than all those. I believe that this was not only because it was a better duck, cooked more skillfully but, more importantly, you were served a small portion of 3 cuts and not the whole duck. If you look at the photo, left to right, you have a piece of Duck Breast with Skin, a piece of just Skin a deep brown colour to be eaten with the smear of Hoisin Sauce and Sugar. The pancake at the bottom contained the classic Duck with strips of Cucumber and Spring Onion. All different textures all totally delicious.

Steamed Wild Sea Bass

This was another superlative dish. The cooking method in the dish was steamed. However, the skin was crisp. As crisp as a potato wafer or `papad'. The vegetable you can see below the fish is Kai Lan. The sauce was a Buerre Blanc partly French and partly Chinese. The liquid from the cooking of the Kai Lan was the base with garlic and butter added. Serving Fish with Burre Blanc is a classic French style. Here the Buerre Blanc was distinctly Oriental as it had the cooking liquid from the Kai Lan. Beautiful, skillful and inventive cooking and a inventive dish.     

Slow Cooked Dingley Dell Pork Belly

Before you ask, Dingley Dell Pork is pork from a specially bred pig. The farm where this is done is called Dingley Dell. So the pork from this hybrid pig is called Dingley Dell Pork. This dish was excellent too. The Pork soft, melt in the mouth and at the same time crisp and charred on the outside. 

Honey Carrot & Blood Orange 

Now it was time for the first of the two desserts. The Baby Carrots were cooked in Honey which combined well and the Blood Orange Sorbet was a refreshing contrast.

Rhubarb Jasmine & Roasted Barley

This was the final dish of the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. You had little blobs of Rhubarb Jelly and a Jasmine Ice Cream. Lovely and refreshing.

The evening was wonderful. The service excellent and the meal very well paced. You did not feel rushed nor did you feel that you were getting full. The profusion of 9 plates of food plus an Amuse Bouche and a Petit Four to end did  not make the evening boring as this is often a problem with so many courses.

If you do want a change from the usual Chinese meal do eat at HKK.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cafe Murano - How does an owner get treated?

We had a good dinner at Murano a few years ago, which, since then had got itself a Star in Michelin. Murano is owned by Angela Hartnett a one-time protégé of Gordon Ramsay who has herself became a mini restaurateur. Her kingdom now has Murano, two Café Murano – at Covent Garden and St James’s – a restaurant in Shoreditch and one in France. Her style is Northern Italian which she says is due to her Italian grandmother’s influence.

We had a reservation at Café Murano at St. James’s at 7.30. Despite being called a Café, do not be fooled, this is far from being a café. The place was absolutely full of older men and women all rather wealthy, having dinner. Walk ins were older punters stepping out of offices from nearby. You could not turn up in jeans and a T Shirt. This was a “suit boot ka restaurant”.  

After a pleasant walk we arrived, had coats taken away, got our names checked on the computer and, gasp, were led to the Bar and given 2 seats. Menus were handed out for drinks and food. This was not good. Standing at a bar and drinking is all very well and it is in fact our preferred area in a bar. But to have dinner perched on a bar stool is not our idea of fun. So I asked the barman if he could give us a table as we were really not happy. I told him we had made a reservation. He got into a huddle with the receptionist, profuse apologies about the “mix up” and soon we were at a table. Ooof. Much better. Immediately blood pressure came down.

Once again menus were handed out and we ordered our dinner. Some Focaccia and brilliant Olive Oil was placed on the table. Oh, how I wish we could get bread of this quality in Mumbai. Starters were delicious, hot, crisp on the outside and moist in the centre, mini Arancini with Truffle. Good Burrata with roast peppers was excellent too.

Being an Italian restaurant, after the starters we ordered plates of Primi which is normally a pasta. HRH The Queen of Kutch had Oxtail Tortelli with Marjoram which was really delicious. The quality of the Pasta itself was excellent. 

I had Gnocchi, Braised Lamb & Baby Onions. This knocked my socks off. The Onions were pickled and the sour onions worked beautifully with the soft pillowy Gnocchi and rich shredded Lamb. You could say cynically that this was nothing but mutton curry with ‘Batata’ and ‘Kanda Kachumber’ and you may not be wrong. After all Gnocchi is made with potato. But I assure you that this was a fabulous dish.

As my Secondi I had Pork belly, Cabbage, Chestnut puree & Castelfiorito Lentils which are basically our Saboot Masoor. This was top class too. HRH the Queen had no Secondi as her dainty stomach cannot handle so much.

The food was terrific. No regrets. The “mix up” with the seating was forgotten. The Sommelier was a young lady who had on a necklace with the word “Parmatma” written in Devnagri. I asked her how she got the necklace. She got it from a Buddhist Monk when she was in Nepal. She did not know how to pronounce it or what it meant and, obviously could not read it. So HRH The Queen of Kutch wrote out Parmatma in English and explained the meaning to her. Sommelier was quite pleased.

While the whole evening ended up being magical what happened during our meal got me thinking.

At some point, Angela Hartnett walked in with 3 lady friends. They stood by the bar, ordered drinks and waited for a table. The table next to ours was being cleared and set up, when another table inside the restaurant got vacant. The 4 were seated there. What struck both HRH The Queen of Kutch and me was, here is the owner, in civvies, walking into her own restaurant and there was not the slightest of fuss. None of the waiters seemed to be in awe or offer her preferential treatment. To my mind not one other table suffered because the service staff was distracted by the owner being there. Looking at it differently, I was rather sad that no one among the guests seemed to bother that she was in. No one walked up to her and shook her hand. I wonder if she would have been so unrecognized if she had turned up in her chefs whites. I realized that she is really not as big a star as the Ramsays and Olivers and Roux of the world.

I don’t think either the fact that the other customers did not suffer because of the presence of the owner nor the fact that the owner was generally unrecognized would have happened in India. I have seen it on umpteen occasions in India when the owner or bossman of the restaurant, obviously eating and drinking free, would be given treatment to the detriment of other paying customers.

Anyway, that is the difference I guess between India and the West. Kowtowing is in our DNA.

No photos by me. Just some images from the Internet.   

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Anything goes - Bollywood songs

Randhir, Rishi & Rajiv Kapoor were all Campionites, the same school I went to. Rajiv was a year senior to me but by the by the IV standard he had failed and ended up in my class. Randhir & Rishi attend our alumni functions. This paragraph has really nothing to do with this post.

As you may know Rishi Kapoor has written his autobiography, I saw an interview where he spoke and promoted his book. The book was available for just Rs 39 on Kindle, which is where HRH The Queen of Kutch does all her reading. HRH The Queen of Kutch would never read such drivel, but she kindly asked if she should buy the book on Kindle for me. I said please do. So, folks, the very first book I have ever read on Kindle has been Khullam Khulla by Rishi Kapoor.

The book itself is passable, badly edited with a fairly large number of repetitious ideas and references. He has, as I am sure have all film stars, led a very magical life. I am certain they worked very hard, but with that lifestyle and adulation, they lead far more magical and charming lives than similarly wealthy individuals. I quite enjoyed the book.

Like the Karan Johar show Koffee With Karan, I simply do not understand who the audience is for the book [and show]. The participants have made their name and fame in Bollywood with the Hindi speaking masses. Yet, the show as well as the book are in English. What is the audience? Is it just the rich Mumbaikars and Delhiwallahs? I am mystified.

Now let me come to the point of this post and try and connect the dots for you.

I am no fan of Bollywood music, but living in Mumbai, you cannot escape it. So while I do not own a single Bollywood song in my vast CD collection, nor do I see any Bollywood films, I can recognize songs. I have always held the view that a Bollywood song is shall I say “fungible.” By this I mean interchangeable. Take a song like “Chura Liya” from the film “Yadon Ki Baarat” If you want to make a documentary on film songs, or do any sort of study with that one song you have so many angles:

The musical skills of Director Nasir Hussain – Chura Liya
The greatest song picturised on Zeenat Aman – Chura Liya
Memorable songs – Chura Liya
Hits of R D Burman – Chura Liya
Great lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri – Chura Liya
Great songs sung by Asha Bhosle – Chura Liya
Great choreography by Suresh Bhat– Chura Liya

There you go. Fungibility. You can use that one song to present so many different perspectives. You could do this infinitely with any Bollywood song. There is no owner of the song. Everyone is an owner and at the same time no one is an owner. From a legal perspective, the question is who owns the copyright to the song. My impression, and I may be wrong here, is that the music companies – HMV, T -Series and so on - own these rights. Assuming I am correct, quite clearly, in law, none of the gentlemen listed could claim any sort of ownership.

Reading Rishi Kapoor’s book, he made an interesting point. According to him, today many music composers are claiming rights in songs to the exclusion of others like the film Director and so on. Obviously several factors are at play, good songs can mean a lot of money accruing over several years, people realize this and a greater awareness of rights by composers have resulted in such demands. Rishi Kapoor disagrees vehemently with this demand by music composers. Kapoor contends that it is not the composer who makes the song a hit; it is the aggregate of the film director’s skills, the choreographer the actors in the song and so on and so forth. The hit song, Kapoor asserts, is synergy of all these factors and not just the composers inputs and contribution. Is not what Kapoor says not synonymous with what I have labored over. Bollywood music is fungible.

A recent order by the Bombay High Court brings this fungibility aspect into sharp relief. The case itself is bizarre and laughable. 21 years ago, in 1996 a Bollywood film “Chhote Sarkar” starring Govinda and Shilpa Shetty was released. The film had a song called “Ek Chumma Tu Mujhko Udhar De De”. A lawyer in the Pakur District of what was then Bihar now in Jharkhand was offended by the song, claimed it was defamatory to Bihar. The case was filed against Govinda, Shilpa Shetty, the Lyricist and others. A warrant came to be issued for the arrest of Govinda as he did not appear in the magistrate Court where the case was filed. The Bombay High Court granted him bail.

The lyrics in the song are

Ek chuma tu mujko udhaar dai de
Badle mein UP Bihar lai le
Roughly translated:

Please Give Me A Kiss On Credit
And in return please take Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Since this post has no photographs you can entertain yourself by watching the song here.

Anyway, back to the point. Without getting into whether the lyrics are defamatory, my question is, should Govinda and Shilpa Shetty have ever been parties to such a case, except for publicity or extortion? They did not sing the song, nor write the lyrics nor compose the music. Is this not fungibility? One song and so many interchangeable angles and because of this poor Govinda and Shilpa Shetty have to face the proverbial music.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chennai - Ugly Food - Eating at Maplai, Cafe Mercana and Junior Kuppanna

We had accumulated some frequent flyer miles on Jet Airways. Under their loyalty programme, if you do not use the accumulated miles, a portion of them gets forfeited. Then you fall into the trap of having too few miles to do anything meaningful. So what better to do than book a flight and use the miles. Chennai it was, for a short 3 night 4 day break.

We do like Chennai, though people look at us with considerable disbelief when we say that. We were staying at the ITC Grand Chola which is a really wonderful hotel. The room we chose had breakfast included as well as what they call “Luxury Hours” which is a two hour window every evening of drinks and snacks at the Residents Lounge. We are not breakfast eaters generally, but this was one breakfast we ate heartily. No lunch. A few kebabs with the drinks during Luxury Hours to dull the hunger pangs and we were ready for dinner.

The breakfasts at ITC are very good. I must say that the quality and taste of the 4 chutneys – Coriander & Coconut, plain Coconut, Railway Chutney [a coconut based orange hued chutney] and the Kempu Chutney [Coconut, Tamarind and Red Chilly] - served at breakfast were superlative as was the Sambaar. Of course the wide selection of Dosa, Idly, Vada, Upma, Pongal, Khara Bhat et al were top quality too. Also on offer were Parathas, Poori Bhaji, and similar North Indian dishes. I find that I cannot handle that level of spice at breakfast. Breakfast for me was some Muesli, a wedge of cheese, eggs, bacon and grilled tomato along with just a spoon of two chutneys and a Medu VadaHRH the Queen mixed and matched.

As far as booze is concerned, Chennai suffers from the greed of the politicians. There is no local beer available except something called British Empire with a 6% alcohol content and Fosters Strong with 12% alcohol, obviously, made at breweries controlled by the politicians. No regular brands, no Kingfisher etc. Although, all manner of imported beers were available at 5X the price – Stella, Hoegaarden, Asahi etc. Spirits were similarly of dubious nature. Something called Old Cask Rum. No Old Monk no Hercules. Once again all manner of imported spirits were available at more than 5X. I drank British Empire which was not bad while HRH the Queen of Kutch drank an Italian Red Wine on offer during Luxury Hours.

Days were well spent lying by the pool catching up on reading.

We were clear we wanted to eat only Chettinad food. When researching on where to eat we were rather surprised at what we found. There are several non-vegetarian restaurants. In fact the level of non vegetarians is probably higher than in our Jainified Mumbai. What was more surprising was how many restaurants were chains with multiple outlets scattered not only all over the city, but often in Tamil Nadu, in neighboring states as well as internationally. Here are some multiple outlet chains. By multiple outlet I mean in excess of 10 outlets.

Saravana Bhavan
Junior Kuppanna
Thalappakatti Dindigul
Grand Sweets
Sri Krishna Sweets

A newer phenomenon I saw was several restaurants serving what they called Arabian food. I guess that is a sort of sophistry to describe an upmarket Biryani & Kabab place. People really eat out in Chennai. And they eat traditional food. I saw relatively few of the American QSR chains.

Now a few words about Indian food. I am often accused of being critical of India. Never in my wildest dreams am I critical. Bharat Mata Ki Jai and all that. However, there is one inescapable fact. Indian food is Ugly Food. It, often, literally looks like sh*t. You all know what sh*t looks like. I will not elaborate. When you have braises, thick gravies and indistinguishable lumps of meat, you have Ugly Food. Mind you Ugly Food tastes very good, no complaints. It is simply ugly to look at. You will get what I mean when you have a look at the photographs.

The first night we ate at Maplai, a new, non-chain restaurant. They claimed that they served ancient recipes as well as food with a modern twist. We were looking forward to the meal. I tried to make a reservation but was told they did not accept reservations and that we would have a 15 minute, wait at maximum. When we reached we got a table at once. Friendly staff, who insisted we make note of their names and mention them when writing reviews on Zomato, presumably very appreciative reviews. This was a disturbing note on which to start our meal.

To start, I ordered one of my favorites. A bowl of hot, peppery, spicy, thoroughly restorative and delicious, Chicken Rassam or Natu Kozhi Egg Drop Soup. This a soup made with Chicken bones. A bowl of this really gets the gastric juices going. This version, modernized by Maplai, as the name indicates had an Egg Drop. Made sense. I was quite excited; however, I was soon let down. The soup was passable and I could not see evidence of Egg Drop. One of Maplai’s specialty dishes is meatballs, bound in banana fiber and deep fried known as Thanjavur Kair Katti Gola. Sounded very good, so it was ordered. They were decent, nothing to shout about. Another specialty was Dosa with Mutton Chukka. The word “Chukka” means “Boti” i.e. boneless piece of protein be it mutton, chicken or even fish with no gravy. So what we got was thick Dosa, much like an Uttapam, topped with Mutton Chukka. Tasted good, albeit a bit misbalanced. Something was missing; a squeeze of Lime did help it. The waiter recommended the Mutton Biryani which was made with Jeera Samba Rice as opposed to the Chicken Biryani made with Basmati. Obviously The Mutton Biryani was what we ordered. Have a look here to figure out what Jeera Samba Rice is. The Biryani one again missed something. Unfortunately this ended up being a sub-par meal. We were underwhelmed. It seems the focus is not necessarily food but more marketing. Pity, and alas we came away the losers.

Chicken Rassam or Natu Kozhi Egg Drop Soup

Meatballs - Thanjavur Kair Katti Gola

Dosa with Mutton Chukka

Biryani - Mutton with Jeera Samba Rice

Curry to accompany the Biryani 

The next night we were all set to dine at Junior Kupanna, a place recommended by or friend Chef Taranjit of the Peshawri, who is a Tamil speaking “hatta katta” Sardar. Keeps those Dravidians confused. But, you know the cliché, best laid plans and all that. Just as were leaving, fortified by imbibing our favorite intoxicants at Luxury Hours that the Coffee Shop Manager accosted us. She absolutely forbade us from going out for dinner and insisted we eat Chettinad food in house at the Café Mercana. She sat us down, gave us a few more drinks and ordered our dinner. It turns out this was the meal of the trip.

To start we were served Meen Pachamasala. This was a small Pomfret prepared in the same technique as the famous Parsi Patra Ni Macchi. The whole fish is coated in a Green Masala, wrapped in a Banana leaf and steamed. Excellent. The fish itself very good and the whole dish most satisfactory. 

Meen Pachamasala - Wrapped and unwrapped. Fairly Ugly.

Then came the dish of the whole three days. Kozhi Chettinad. Chicken cooked Chettinad style. Spicy with a healthy dose of roughly crushed Peppercorns. As much as it was delicious, it was Ugly. We ate with our fingers and the aromas of the masala lingered on our fingers till the next morning.

Kozhi Chettinad. This is true Ugly Food

The third dish that she served us was Kaipidi Chops or Mutton Chops in a Green Coriander Curry. Once again, very good, though the Kozhi Chettinad was without doubt superlative. This was accompanied by Malabar Parotha and Iddiappam. After all that spice we had to get ourselves some dessert. There was no way we could have faced the Tamil classic – Payasam. So we walked a few steps to the new Chocolate Lounge/Boutique Fabella in the ITC Grand Chola and had a pastry each. They looked far better than they tasted.

Kaipidi Chops or Mutton Chops in a Green Coriander Curry. More Ugly Food

The last meal was at Junior Kupanna, which we had been prevented from going the previous night. We were accompanied by one of HRH the Queen of Kutch’s subjects, a local. This made a big difference. We were seated in a large square, thoroughly unadorned dining room. It was air conditioned, brightly lit with florescent lights, full of hungry Tamilians and their families. Square 4 seater tables, no tablecloths, utilitarian chairs and a banana leaf to serve as your tablemat and plate. Our friend was most unhappy with the leaves and asked for them to be changed. She said they were torn and thus unacceptable. We would never have known. We told her we were hungry, ate everything and requested her to order.

I had just one request – I wanted a good Naatu Kozhi Soup. My wish was fulfilled. Hot and tasty. I drank it from the bowl and was ready to handle the meal.

Naatu Kozhi Soup

Bowls of Onion Kachumber and a Coconut Curry were brought for each of us. Also one hard cooked egg with a smidgen of curry – to eat with the Biryani - we were informed. First up came 3 Kalakki – one for each of us - which is a cross between a fried egg and an omelet. The egg was mixed and I believe deep fried but yet there was a soft centre. I did not quite understand the point, but this was skillfully cooked and a local favorite probably to be eaten with the spicy food as a bland accompaniment.


A specialty of the restaurant is a preparation called Pallipalayam which they emphasise is “oil free” with your protein of choice. Ours was Mutton. This was a wonderful dish, and, oil free as promised. Well-cooked Mutton with minimal gravy. A Fish Chukka was ordered which was nice too. These two dishes had small portions as you will see in the photos. An unusual dish was Country Chicken – as opposed to Broiler- that was cooked very well with lower spicing. This is known as Pichu Pota Kozhi. I did not get the deeper chickeny taste of the Country Chicken, but all the same a good dish. To finish the meal a Mutton Biryani with the famous Jeera Samba Rice was ordered as well as Chicken Kotthu Parotta. This is a hotch potch of Chicken, Egg and Paratha and torn into bite sized bits and fried – a sort of deconstructed Baida Roti. This is to be had with the small bowl of Coconut Gravy. The Kotthu Parotta is very popular in Sri Lanka too.

Fish Chukka

Mutton Pallipalayam 

Pichu Pota Kozhi

Mutton Biryani with Jeera Samba Rice

Chicken Kotthu Parotta

My 'plate'.

The food was delicious and bloody spicy. I could not stop eating the stuff despite having a mouth on fire, watering eyes and running nose. I needed some cooling down. A “one by two” of Payasam was ordered – relief, cold and sweet, very sweet. This was real Chettinad food. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Honestly, the food we ate was all robustly spiced with lots and lots of Kadipatta or Curry Leaf. All of it was served hot. These are such simple things, but alas, finding this in Mumbai is difficult.

I do wholeheartedly recommend that you go to Chennai to have some real food – be it the vegetarian Tiffin or the non-vegetarian Chettinad stuff. This kind of food is impossible to get in Mumbai. Go to the source, go to Chennai.