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Jun 14, 2012 07:02 PM

Looks promising: Chettinad cuisine in Lottes Plaza area (Chantilly)

I have heard that the Chettinad restaurant Karaikudi is open now. It is in the Lottes Plaza shopping center. For me it is always exciting to find Indian restaurants that go beyond the prototypical Indian-American faux Mughlai-Punjabi genre, and to try restos that serve an authentic regional menu. We have a lot of South Indian (Tamil and Andhra) snack shops, but this place has snack items plus a full menu of dishes.

I trust anyone interested enough will google. But the Chettiyars are a Tamil Hindu community and Chettinad is one of the regions where that caste community lives. Chettinad is famous for its food: non-vegetarian food. I am no expert on Chettinad cuisine, but I have had Chettinad chicken and Chettinad style biryani before and really enjoyed...very very different from any typical North Indian type 'curries' that you may have had, really something interesting for CHers to try especially if you enjoy South Asian foods.

Some stuff that I want to try: kottu porotta (shredded up, seasoned, stir fried whole wheat-white flour mix flat bread. Keema dosa (all of the many S. Indian dosa houses in the DMV are pure veg, this is an interesting opportunity to try a non-veg dosa.), and of course, their selection of mutton, fish, chicken curries done in the Chettinad regional style. I also love sampling regional versions of sambar, so I want to see how theirs differs from other styles I have had. I see they have 'thali' plates for trying a handful of dishes at once.

I plan to go soon and report back (I have high hopes that this place will really deliver), but I thought I would give NoVa hounds a heads up just in case anyone is inspired to go try the place.

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  1. Okay, here are my thoughts:

    I arrived in the afternoon not knowing that one can only have the buffet at lunch time. I was disappointed since I don't usually enjoy buffets, but decided to give it a try. I am glad that I did. The buffet was really excellent. So very different than any other Indian buffet I have tried. Everyone in my party enjoyed the buffet and praised it, one saying it was the best Indian buffet she had ever tried.

    I avoided all of the North Indian standards and filled up on Chettinad dishes which were new to me. (The North Indian stuff may be good, too, but I wanted to try the Chettinaad dishes and not fill up on stuff that I can get on any Indian buffet.) Before this day, I had only ever tried Chettinad Chicken and Chettinad biryani. I am not well versed in any Tamil regional cuisine, so I did not know what everything on the buffet was. However, I enjoyed the following: chettinad biryani-very spicy and loaded with warming garam masalas, karaikudi chicken-very delicious gravy and tender bone in chicken pieces, vankai something or another (eggplant curry)-very spicy and tasty eggplant curry, and meen something or another (fish curry)-fish was broken up a bit in the gravy but the gravy itself was fiery and extremely enjoyable. I went back multiple times for these items.

    The idlis were a bit stiff and dried out. Ideally idlis should be freshly made. Also, the chicken 65 was a bit tough for me. The sambar wasn't well seasoned, but the chutneys and rasam were excellent. There was also a chettinad crab soup which was delicious.

    I wanted to try the chicken korma, which I could tell was cooked in coconut milk (unlike the North Indian-Pakistani qormas that I am used to) but I was too full.

    The service was very friendly and attentive. The owner came over and spoke in Urdu with me. He was very welcoming and told me to be sure to come back for the porotta in the evening. I WILL make it back, I keep hearing about how great it is. I have heard through the grapevine that the kottu porotta is divine stuff and sells out every evening.

    On their menu I saw lots of other interesting things: keema dosa sounds fascinating. You MUST visit this restaurant if you are an Indian food enthusiast like me.

    4 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima

      I am totally with you on avoiding buffets - it always irks me when people say Indian (or Pakistani) food is good for buffets as I find it suffers the same fate as most other cuisines. Buffet idli? Uggh.

      Did you go yesterday? I have been wanting to go, but so far I am wondering when I can have the Chettinad specialties but avoid the buffet. I am thinking that mid-week dinner will not have the specialties. Maybe weekend dinner?

      Of course, maybe I should just go and enjoy the buffet curries and biryani like you say.

      1. re: Steve

        Hi Steve,

        I went last Thursday afternoon. The owner told me the kottu is there every evening but sells out fast.

        They also have thali in the evenings, which is sort of like buffet but the carb accompaniments (rice, flat bread, idli, etc.) should be piping hot and fresh.

      2. re: luckyfatima

        I did like the food at Karaikudi but lately it seems like they are closed? Found another restaurant serving Chettinad cuisine nearby, called Kalpasi (at Worldgate). Will update when I have more info.

      3. Went here for lunch today, and came away happy. We opted for the buffet since it kind of seemed like that was really the only option, but it looked good and I recalled hearing good things. I have to say that for an Indian buffet (which I argue does actually fare better as a buffet than most other cuisines since most dishes are curries and they hold up decent in the warmers) it was pretty good. Everything was spiced well and the dishes actually had spice to it, which was great and unexpected (most places go very conservative when it comes to spice, esp. buffets). I don't remember the names of the dishes, since a number were new to me, but the chicken makhani was very good, and the palaak paneer was good, but a little runny IMO. I wish that this place and Saravana Palace were in the District. I would happily trade both for all the Indian places in DC.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mdpilam

          Thanks for the update.

          I like this place. I am actually going there very soon with a ladies' group I attend.

          Since my post, I have been back for the famed kottu porotta. It is very delicious. Worth going back in the evening for. I plan to try the keema dosa on my upcoming visit.

          I am usually very anti-buffet and only end up having buffet when other people have chosen a venue and I have no say on where to go, but I very much agree with you that this place has a good buffet.

          I will report back if I eat anything noteworthy on my next visit.

        2. OK, now had Karaikudi food for a third time. Awesome place.

          We had chicken kottu porotha, which was so delicious.

          Also got crab curry, which I suspect was frozen crab, but it was still good just as a curry. The crab was also a bit overcooked by my standards, but to tell the truth I usually only ever get seafood out in Cantonese seafood restaurants, so my judgement may be bad since Cantonese tend to cook seafood until it is just barely done, so that is how I always have it. Everyone at the table really loved it though we were covered in spicy crabby curry from eating this dish. Don't get this if you care about how you look when you eat. It's messy.

          The keema dosa was flipping amazing. The keema (seasoned ground mutton) was soften with raw papaya in the marinade, which makes it have a pasty texture...this is a special style I have only ever eaten in Muslim homes (I make it myself) so I was surprised to find that this was the style of keema spread inside this dosa. The texture of the papain tenderized ground meat contrasted with the crispness of the dosa was great. I was expecting something with larger grains of ground meat, and more crumbly. But anyway this was just superb. So well-flavored. I highly recommend this. Usually dosa is not a shared item, but we requested that it be served to share so they cut it into pieces for us.

          We had eggplant curry, which was okay. Probably wouldn't order that again.

          And we had egg biryani, also very good...similar to what has been said before about their biryani on this board, that it was very fragrant with warming garam masalas like clove and cinnamon, and not at all like a layered biryani but more similar to a pullao. Very enjoyable and unique in flavor.

          I simply love this place. My entire party was raving about the meal, and although we ordered too much food, we polished it off since it was just that good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: luckyfatima

            I saw this report, and I happened to be going to the Sugarloaf crafts festival in Chantilly today so thought I'd include a stop at Karaikudi for their lunch buffet (and the Lotte grocery store).

            Overall, I liked the buffet, especially trying some new Indian dishes I hadn't had before. I'd go to Karaikudi again if I'm in the area, though next time, I'd be interested in ordering off their menu. The buffet had a few new-to-me dishes like a rice dish that looked like an Indian version of congee. I liked that one so much I got a second helping. Another of my favorites was the chicken 65, which was fried chicken nuggets coated with spices and red inside like tandoori chicken. I got the chicken 65 right after they put it out so that might have helped in terms of the toughness mentioned above.

            The buffet also had a green salad, a green bean dish, cut fruit, condiments, sambar, a soup, lentil donuts, vegetable biryani, chicken biryani, okra, eggplant, mutton, fish, chicken chettinad, poori, white rice, and a few Indian desserts (which I didn't try). The meats were small pieces that were still on the bone.