Braving the tornado, six inches of rain, and jaw-dropping traffic on just about every road in New Castle County, four intrepid Chowhounds made their way to Café Chettinad (2671 Kirkwood Highway in Newarks Meadowbrook Shopping Center) for a great meal of South Indian specialties on Tuesday. This restaurant opened recently and we were happy to find the kitchen open and enthusiastically serving even in the worst storm of the last several years. The four of us packed in quite a spread:
Starters: (1) idlis (rice patties) in sambar (lentil soup/stew) were solid, a good size of two idlis for the four of us. The sambar was pretty thick--Im used to a much thinner variety--but tasty nonetheless. (2) plaintain bajji (fritters made with chickpea flour)--a little low on plantain flavor but very light, not greasy at all, and a generous portion that we couldnt manage to finish! (3) "Shrimp 65," Chettinads version of a stir-fried spicy shrimp dish originally served at a restaurant in Madras. This was extremely good, nicely spicy, and served with quick-fried curry leaves--I thought it was the winner of the appetizer round.
Main courses: (1) We splashed out and ordered not one but two dosas, which are a mainstay of the menu. My favorite was the Madurai Malli Masala dosa, heavy on the cilantro and curry leaves, and we also had the Andhra Spicy dosa with potatoes and spices. Both were served with my favorite coconut chutney as well as more sambar. (2) Masala ka Gost, lamb cooked in tomatoes and onions, was flavorful and as fiery as I like it--unfortunately, the lamb was a bit tough. Next time I might try a chicken dish instead. (3) We wanted the Alleppy fish curry, but the restaurant was out of fish, so we asked them to make it with shrimp instead. This was excellent, in a coconut-milk-based sauce that I could have eaten all by itself. (4) The standout, in my opinion, was our last entree of Bhindi Masala (okra quick-fried and then cooked with tomatoes and onion). This was cooked perfectly, as Ive had it in India, and the okra was just delicious.
Our entrees came with plain white rice (next time Id order a special rice dish--this rice was dull and cooked without any flavoring) and two breads, puri and parathas. Both of the breads were really great, the paratha nice and flaky, and the puri huge and puffed right out of the fryer. They both disappeared very quickly!
After all this we were way too stuffed for dessert, which was very unfortunate because the menu includes some great specialties that you dont see every day (including three kinds of halwa--wheat, almond, and carrot).
I will definitely be back to try more of the menu at Café Chettinad. Im particularly thrilled to see an Indian menu in this area that includes things like curd rice--my favorite comfort food when Im in South India--and all those dosas and rice specialties. Several of the entrees, like pan-fried king fish and avial (vegetables in coconut-yogurt sauce), stand out as original and interesting. I hope more Delaware hounds will step off the tandoori bandwagon and "go south" to try this place!