Bits and pieces of food experience have been accumulating, not enough to carve a post out of, but enough to cobble together into a potluck.
The first was my visit to Chennai, where a last minute google search found me a late late lunch at Ponnusamy, just a short deviation off the straight line between two meetings. In the course of my earlier googles about food in Chennai and the biriyani wars, this name had surfaced a few times; some had even appointed it top rank. Curiosity, hunger and the aforementioned shortness of deviation was thus all very propitious, and in due course I was seated at the somewhat seedy interiors of the Adyar Branch of Ponnusamy Hotels (yes, like nearly every eatery in Chennai, this is also a chain). Ponnusamy promises "South Indian and Chettinad" food and is also supposed to be renowned for it's biriyani (so google claimed). Hungry as a dog, I promptly rolled off an order for Chettinad staples rabbit fry, pepper chicken and mutton biriyani.
The reason this story is short is that I was sorely disappointed. Neither the rabbit nor the chicken left much of an impression beyond an excess of pepper, while the biriyani can best be described as dull (how one can produce tough mutton in a slow-cook dish is a mystery only the great samy has been able to crack). This is not a patch on Velu Military or either variant of Rawther.
Then there was the little matter of lunch at East. It's a largish space tucked into the crowded and vaguely insalubrious location a hop away from Cumballa Hill Hospital. The restaurant surely deserves more recognition than it gets; the three of us were, at peak lunch hour, the only diners in the room. The five-course Pre-fixe chef's menu was full of very nice dishes, elegantly presented and quite drool worthy. Roti canai, soya chicken, all very nice Asian stuff. Highly recommended, at least for a second try.
Finally, there's the matter of the scallop. For reasons unknown to man, the scallop is not at all common on the menu in India (which is strange, because scallops are found in oceans everywhere). The Chinese do scallops in every possible form (and account for 80% of world production), the West offers it on every seafood menu; India seems quietly aloof to all this. It was with small but audible gasps of pleasure, therefore, that I recently saw it on the menu at two different places - the very handsome Tote and the hitherto undiscovered Canvas. Both places promised medium-sized scallops (about the size of the old 50p coin) prominently labelled as Canadian. Both weren’t the greatest I’ve ever had, but still worth a try – Canvas more so than Tote (which drowned the somewhat delicate taste in a green sauce). Not far from Canvas, Punjab Grill’s tandoori scallops are still the best around.