Dakshin at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Chennai’s cosmopolitan TTK Road displayed a dignified air of old-world South Indian charm & atmosphere. The main dining room was formal, albeit low ceilinged - it lacked the grandeur exuded by its Bangalore counterpart at ITC Windsor Manor with their indoor pavilions. The waiters, clad in gold-trimmed white ”dhotis”, were formal, polite, yet totally genial.
Live traditional South Indian music by a 3-man music group lent the place an authentic feel.
Another charming feature of Dakshin was the Iyer’s Trolley – a tribute to its first chef, Paramasivan Iyer, who attained something of a cult status, in this city of cult worshippers (think Kollywood’s legendary MG Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and even current Chief Minister, Jayalalitha). The Iyer Trolley would be used to cook “appams” or prepare the famous “tossed” South Indian coffee – pulled between 2 giant metal mugs till foamy. Who needs a cappucinno machine when you can have a “pulled coffee” , pexertly prepared by a Dakshin waiter?
Like Southern Spice (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844359), Dakshin’s specialty is in the cooking from the southern states of India: Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. There the similarity ends. Whilst Southern Spice was all grace and finesse, Dakshin was all heat and passion – its cooking emanated the heat of the South, spiced with aromatics like fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and more than generous helpings of ginger and onions.
Starter: A spicy chicken rasam soup to whet the appetite
Followed by a pair of small pancakes:
- A sweet banana dosa
- A savory , spicy pancake to be eaten with a mint-coriander chutney
Next came the special Thali platter, which consisted of:
- Chettinad chicken: hot, spicy, strewn with curry leaves which gave the dish its intoxicating fragrance. The last time I had a good Chettinad chicken, it was an off-the-menu dish offered by Gopalan Nair of Nair’s at the Ginza, perhaps the oldest Indian restaurant in Tokyo (Est. 1946);
- Lentil stew, scented with coriander seeds and kari leaves;
- Aviyal: a milky-white, coconut-infused vegetable stew
- “Kozhi Melagu Kozhambu”: chicken in a luscious pepper gravy;
- “Khara Sigadi”: prawns cooked in masala spices
- “Royalla Vepudu”: lamb cooked with browned onions, coriander and spices;
- “Sambhar”, a spicy-sour soup;
- Milk curd, to temper the heat from all those chilli-hot dishes. South Indians also like to end their meals with rice mixed with curd.
- “Nandu Puttu”: a fiery, dressed crabmeat tossed with onions, ginger and green chiles;
- “Kal Year Melagu Peratti”: an absolutely simple yet ravishing dish of the freshest lobster meat stir-fried with fresh crushed peppercorns and onions;
- “Chapa Pulusu”: a tangy, spicy fish curry
Dakshin’s parottas, appams & iddiappams had the perfect tastes & textures.
The dessert were great: banana dosa, kulfi topped with pistachios and milky payasam.
Every single dish seemed to burst with flavors. Whilst Dakshin may not be able to match Southern Spice in terms of elegance & sophistication, it made up for it with its robust, assertive flavors. Another South Indian dining icon in Chennai.
Sheraton Park Hotels & Towers
132, TTK Road
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