Mumbai Food: Savour flavours from Tamil Nadu in Versova
A new Andheri restaurant makes a sincere attempt to serve home-style flavours from across Tamil Nadu on your plate
Even before its menu gets a chance to tell us 'feel at home', a wall with a dozen frames holding sepia-toned photographs does the trick when we walk into The Tanjore Tiffin Room in Andheri. In one with a couple, the wife is draped in a Kanchipuram saree, her hair-bun hidden under a gajra. In another, an elderly gentleman sits wearing a crisp, white shirt and lungi. Giving a glimpse into the provincial life of Tamil Nadu, these frames have been sourced from the albums of families and friends of the owners, who also run WTF! the neighbouring watering hole.
Madurai style roast chicken wings
The newly launched restaurant resembles a cosy villa, one you'd find nestled in the Nilgiris. Enveloped in the warm glow of dimly lit chandeliers and candles, the indoor seating area features tables with bobblehead Thanjavur dolls. It opens into the courtyard-style al fresco section dressed with benches and branches fitted with life-size monkey sculptures. Keen to make the most of the winter spell, we pick the comfy, cushioned chairs in the outdoors.
South Indian-style Mutton Biryani
Chakna, anna style
The menu offers a smorgasbord of flavours from the state — from chicken 65 (said to have originated in Chennai) to the Anglo-Indian favourite buff pepper fry from the colonial era. We test the waters with rowdy rasam ('360) — a south Indian take on bloody Mary that's slightly off-balance with its tamarind and vodka proportions but scores on potency. Instead, we find comfort in the sweet-citrusy notes of garden galatta ('360), a G&T infused with an orange passionfruit syrup.
Kolumbu-appam and chicken Chettinad-Malabar parotta. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
From the vegetarian starters, we relish the crisp, crumb-fried jackfruit cutlet ('225) stuffed with a mildly spiced, silken mash flecked with bits of coconut. The nethili fry ('375) comprises a bowl of fried-till-golden anchovies, served as chakna in dive bars down south. Accompanied with a yum, sweet-spicy tomato chutney, the spicy, bite-sized fish, to be had whole with bones, is redolent with flavours of the sea. But, it's strictly for those who've tried bony fish. Meanwhile, the Madurai-style roast chicken wings ('325) pack a punch with their peppery flavours soaked in by the fall-off-the-bone meat.
Interiors give a roomy ambience while bobblehead Thanjavur dolls add to the authenticity of the theme
A cousin of the sambhar that's offered as a side dish with rice in Tamilian homes is the kolumbu, a curry prepared using a broth of tamarind, urad and toor dal, which can include vegetables. This menu also offers its versions with mackerel, shark and mutton, but we stick to Kasturi's puli kolumbu ('280), named after the lady its recipe was sourced from. With chunks of Madras onion, sweet potato and pumpkin sitting in it, the veg curry is tangy and delicious.
We mop it up with a soft, fluffy appam ('65) with crisp brown, lacy edges. Meanwhile, we dig into the fiery chicken Chettinad ('350), where the roasted, tender meat is filled with flavours of pepper, cinnamon and chillies, with the flaky Malabar parotta ('75). Stripped of its Hyderabadi decadence, the south Indian-style mutton biryani ('450) reveals a sincere soul, where the shorter rice grains are laden with tender, juicy meat chunks soaked in mildly spiced flavours; even our Keralite dining companion savours it with a dollop of curd. With that, we exit this Tamilian home with a smile on our faces, the kind you have after a satiating meal at a bestie's home.
Time: 12 pm to 1 am
At: Jewel Mahal Shopping Center, 7 Bungalows, Versova, Andheri West