For the longest time, Ponnusamy was the leader of the pack when it came to Chettinad cooking in Chennai. It started in 1954, and my middle-aged Chennai colleague's eyes will mist over when he talked about the time when he, as a little boy, was taken there for Sunday lunch by his parents. He still came back here, but with his own teenaged boys now.
But the Ponnusamy of today seemed a far cry from its heydays - these days, it had to contend with top restaurants in the "real" hotels, i.e. the Taj, Hyatt, Le Meridien, etc. (in the old days, the word "hotel" in Chennai was used interchangeably with "restaurant" - so Ponnusamy Hotel did not actually *have* any rooms to lease out at all. Restaurants are often called hotels, even today)
Our lunch today at Ponnusamy:
- Mutton Kola: finely-minced, silken-smooth fried mutton balls, scented with masala spices and cardamom;
- Sura Puttu: minced shark-meat stir-fry with eggs & onions;
- Chicken 65: this is a very 'Indian' spiced, fried chicken dish, with many arguments over the origins of its name - marinated with 65 ingredients, marinated for 65 minutes, invented in a hotel with 65 on its address, etc. Irregardless, it was delicious.
- Rabbit biriyani: tasted pretty much the same as any other types of briyanis, butthe rabbit meat was surprisingly tender;
- The spiced lamb's brain fry was something else though - soft globes of brain coated with spicy, peppery, ginger oil.
- the Chettinad chicken here was blanketed in a thick, unctuous, ultra-spicy chilli-curry sauce. Deliciously hot!
All the above for 6 persons costed Rs950, or only about US$20! An oldie that's definitely still worth checking out.
#55/1 Gowdia Muttu Road