Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dakshin: Go South!

On my way to the USA, I spent the evening at the Grand Maratha hotel in Mumbai. I had time to indulge since my Lufthansa flight was scheduled to depart only at 3AM in the morning. The Grand Maratha is a part of ITC Welcomgroup hotels, also marketed by the Sheraton group in their Luxury Collection. While the hotel is an excellent one with opulent interiors that evoke the royal Indian past, I love it most for it's famous restaurants.

Dakshin Grand Maratha MumbaiITC Welcomgroup was among the earliest to brand the gourmet restaurants located in their hotels. Many now know their restaurants, the world famous Bukhara, Peshawri, Dum Pukht, and Dakshin, better than the hotels themselves. I have written about the excellent fare at Bukhara and Dum Pukht in earlier posts; this time I will give you a taste of Dakshin.

South Indian food is usually associated with the idli, dosa, vada range of snack-food sold all over India, and a popular misconception is that all of South India eats vegetarian food.

Dakshin, which means South, provides a sampling of of the highly evolved cuisines of the four southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Among the large number of choices, you can take your pick of dishes from the Saraswat, Moplah, Mudaliyar and Chettiyar cuisines.

Dakshin Grand Maratha MumbaiSend the taste buds ticking by attacking the kozhi melagu curry (chicken cooked in a pepper gravy) from Tamil Nadu. You could try the kurliche dabdabe (crab meat) of the Saraswats or the thakkali vattichathu (tomatoes in a `kurma'-like gravy) from Moplah kitchen.

There is also the meen varuval (pan-fried pomfret) and podalangai kootu (snake gourd and lentil) from Mudaliyar cooking and the famous kola urandai kozhambu (meat dumplings in gravy) and vathal kozhambu (pungent curry of onions, garlic paste and sun-dried gooseberries) from Chettiyar cuisine.

Karnataka gives you the masa stew (lamb in gravy) and kadale gassi (black chick peas and potatoes) and Kerala offers meen moilee (fish in coconut milk), kai stew (vegetables in creamy coconut milk) and vendakkai mullakaihathu (ladyfinger in a gravy).

Breads include appam, idiappam, puri, kal dosai and there is a variety of rice items to accompany your entree of choice.

There are only four desserts: elaneer payasam, badam halwa, paruppu pradhanam and cus cus payasam (poppy seeds payasam with sugar).

I began with Meen Varuval, pomfret fillet marinated in a spicy mixture and pan-fried. The many chutneys and pappads made the dining experience interesting. I had also ordered a Elaneer (coconut water) aperitif instead of wine. The pomfret was ok, but not great. Next came Kozhi Melagu, tender pieces of chicken cooked in fiery ground peppercorn masala. This was very good; the chicken was very well marinated and succulent. The appam with which I ate the curry was soft yet crisp on one side. Loved it! The gravy was rich with the distinct taste of different spices including the south-indian curry leaves, crisply fried onions, and peppercorns. Finally, the dessert. Elaneer payasam: condensed milk with tender coconut pulp. Very interesting and a great ending!

With that dinner, I could afford to sleep through my flight to Frankfurt without further thought of food. Oh well, I do remember tasting lemon mousse on-board with a glass of port, but that doesn't count, does it? :-)

BTW, Lufthansa is one of the few airlines that have their latest business class cabins in the flights to and from India. A rarity, since most other airlines reserve their latest and the best only for their flights to and from the US.

4 comments:

Fotoblog said...

shantanu
where as these kebabs available in delhi ? or this is a lucknow special ?

Shantanu said...

@fotoblog: Check out my kabab posts, Of Nawab and Kababs, and Kababs In and Around Delhi in the sidebar links.

Nandita said...

Our dining experience in Dakshin has been superb, both the times we ate there - being Iyers we could recognise the authenticity of atleast some of the stuff we ate - But our good experience with ITC group came to a grinding halt thanks to the utterly poor service at Peshawari on a weekday we went in with proper reservations - this is Mumbai/
Loved your write up on the menu and tastings...my first time here and I'm surely bookmarking your blog.
Cheers
Nandita

Shantanu said...

@nandita: Welcome and thanks for sharing your experiences at The Maratha. Somehow, Peshawari is the only one I have not yet visited at this hotel (even though I have done so at other ITC hotels in the past).