Simar, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Chennai

Simar appears to have some teething trouble, but Siddhartha Singh certainly considers them worth a visit.

[singlepic id=1725 w=80 h=92 float=left]Living for last two years in Delhi, we always wanted to escape the dal makhani-palak paneer-butter chicken-naan routine while eating out, as for every different restaurant, there were three of this kind. Coming to Chennai, I have started experiencing withdrawal symptoms! Kabul (Opposite Park Sheraton) and Copper Chimney (RK Salai) are Chennai’s favourites but there’s certainly place for something more authentic.

Hence we were delighted to find Simar on Khader Nawaz Khan Road that boasts of its entire team being from Amritsar.  It is a new place with a modern setting rather than faux-dhaba ambience that many such places opt for. Laid out in one large hall, once full, it might get a bit noisy with a very public place feel to one’s experience. Today there was just one young couple besides us who were too engrossed among themselves for any such considerations.

We ordered a paneer malai tikka to begin with. It was served with yoghurt and mint chutneys. The paneer was soft without being the melt-in-the-mouth kind. I was told that they either procure locally or make their own on some days. My wife chose to have a tomato shorba which received a passing grade from her (not too bad, I would say!).

For our main courses, we ordered dal makhani, palak paneer and a prawn malai curry along with an assortment of breads. The flavours of the dal makhani were a little subdued due to the lack of salt. The waiter told me that since they top the dal with salted butter before serving, they are conservative with the salt in the dal. I had moved the butter aside while helping myself so I bought his point but still thought it was risky business. I liked the simplicity of the palak paneer where the spices hadn’t overwhelmed the spinach.  I suspected the prawn malai curry to be a white cashew/cream gravy but it had the tanginess of tomatoes in a thick sauce with a coarse texture. I was pleased that they hadn’t skimped on the prawns.

It was the desserts that had Punjab written all over them. Badam kheer and firnee were the best I have had in a long time and they would stand out even in a local Delhi restaurant. The Kheer had all the virtues of milk thickened to almost a rabdi like consistency. The Firnee had set well and the top had the color of caramelized milk – ‘A’ plus plus! Doodhi halwa was rich as well but I would have preferred a bit more of doodhi in it.

With a bill of Rs. 2300 for three, Simar is expensive. At this price, plumbing not working in washrooms, cleanliness not to the levels that would befit a show kitchen are unforgivable. I just hope these are teething troubles as Chennai certainly needs a Simar.

Ed: Photo from Yumz, Gurgaon