Chennai, India - Keralan delights at Ente Keralam, Alwarpet
Ente Keralam, nestled in a smallish bungalow in the ultra-exclusive Poes Garden estate (the Chief Minsiter of Tamil Nadu, ex-actress Jayalalitha's residence is a couple of streets away) is one of the most popular Keralan restaurants in town. There were at least a couple of dining areas, and we occupied what appeared to be the largish front sitting room of the bungalow. Dark-wood furniture, subdued lighting and low ceiling gave the room a cosy feeling.
We started our meal with a plate of hot, crisp-fried Trivandrum fried chicken - very well-seasoned fried chicken pieces, slightly spicy and fragrant from the spices and generous sprinkling of pungent “kari” leaves. Great start.
The mains came in quick succession:
- “Meen Moilee” – Seer fish fillets cooked a coconut crème-rich, ginger-infused stew, scented and given a golden yellow tinge thru the use of turmeric. Well-prepared, though not exactly unforgettable;
- Mutton Khorma stew was also creamy, studded with sweet little pearl onions, and spiked with pepper. The stew was tasty, even if a little under-spiced.
- The “Pachakkari” vegetable (carrots, potatoes, scallions, onions) stew was, again, coconut crème-rich, with light, subtle spices (hints of cloves, cardamoms). Another overly-rich stew – am beginning to sense a pattern in this restaurant’s cooking.
- Crisp “appams” and soft, pillowy ”putus” (steamed rice-flour cylinders) were perfect to absorb the delicious curry gravies.
- “Thalaserry Biriyani” – cooked using aged short-grain “Khaima rice”, which had an almost quinoa-like texture. We ordered the chicken version, which came subtly-spiced and fragrant, generously sprinkled with crisp, golden–fried onions.
The recommended dessert – “Ila Neer Payasam” (tender coconut flesh in milk) was a serious miss. It was served lukewarm, instead of chilled, and was just way too sweet. There was hardly any coconut flesh in the dessert. A rather disappointing ending to an otherwise enjoyable, if not particularly outstanding, meal.
Kasturi Estate, Street 1
Poes Garden, Alwarpet
I just returned from Chennai and also spent a night at Ente Keralam. While we were there, they were running a "Moplah food festival," showcasing cuisine of Kerala's largest Muslim community. The food was outstanding! Unfortunately I don't have the real names of the dishes, as this menu isn't listed on their web site -- however, as an appetizer, we shared a dish of mussels out of the shells, sauteed with coconut and onion, which was delicious. My friend had a mutton and raw banana curry, while I had a malabar seer curry -- the fish was so fresh and the sauces were very delicately flavored. We tried several kinds of bread, the best being a large type of puri with aniseed and shallot. Really wanted to try dessert, but we were both way too full. Both of us had eaten at Southern Spice the previous night, and agreed this meal was a lot more enjoyable (and easier on the wallet).
There's no beating a good Keralan seafood restaurant. At least one of Ente Keralam's chefs must be Moplah-Muslim - the “Thalaserry Biriyani” which I really enjoyed was also a typical Moplah dish - and it was sensational.
BTW, if you're ever in Bangalore, don't miss Karavalli - simply the BEST of the best ;-)