Ente Keralam comes from the stables of the Oriental Group who have given us restaurants like Benjarong (past its best days in Chennai, though the new Bangalore outlet has been well received), Hot Breads (mediocre quality but you get something other than white sliced bread at reasonable prices), Zara (an embarrassment in the name of tapas) and brought to Chennai brands like Copper Chimney (poor quality) and Kailash Parbat (not tried yet). So, in a nutshell, I am not a big fan of this group.[singlepic id=1026 w=320 h=240 float=right]But Ente Keralam is a different matter all together. The first time I went there was with my 5-year old son, and last week with a friend from Singapore, my wife and kids. Their customer satisfaction rating based on the feedback of my fellow diners is very high, and for a good reason.
First let us get the location and the ambiance out of the way. The restaurant is located in an upscale, leafy neighbourhood of Chennai which boasts of Jayalalitha and other rich and powerful people as its residents. The restaurant combines the look and feel of a traditional Kerala house with a fine dining set-up. Small wooden models of Chinese fishing nets on each table is really cute!
If you opt for the Rajakeeyam (which is more of a buffet on a plate than a sampler menu, non-veg for Rs. 685 and veg for Rs. 585), you get mint infused coconut water as a welcome drink. I don’t think the Chef believes in ‘well begun is half done’ as the starters are the least exciting part of the fare – fried squid, fried prawns and fried fish each on their own may be good, but all of them together comprising the second course are poor representatives of the rich and varied cuisine of Kerala. For the main course, you get mutton stew, egg and duck roast, tangy-spicy fish curry, and kadala curry. On our second visit, the duck roast was replaced by chicken roast, which was a let-down, and I hope it was a one off thing. The best parts were the appams and the parothas. Even in pricier restaurants like Bangalore’s Karavalli, appam quality is often compromised when the restaurant is full as there is no way to expedite the process of making appams. At Ente Keralam you will find 3-4 ladies at the appam station ensuring that they are always fluffy in the center and crisp on the sides. The parothas are always soft and fresh, and I have never found them to turn leathery as happens often at various places. Idiappams and puttu are also a part of the meal. The second last course is biryani, and I found that to be okay both times – maybe I was too stuffed by then to truly appreciate their quality! My son’s meen molee was simple and tasty and would have done a Malayali home proud. Dessert comprised of ada pradhaman, a payasam, and coconut ice cream – while the ice-cream was fine, the other desserts were lip-smacking good. One can order additional helpings of everything other than starters and desserts.
We had a great time and I definitely recommend a visit to Ente Keralam.
– Siddhartha Singh
Ed: Thank you Anita for the great picture. If any one of you want to try making appams at home, check out Anita’s post on her blog A Mad Tea Party.