California Pizza Kitchen opens its doors in the city

Clap. Squeal. Jump! We hate to sound like hillbillies but we really are excited...about California Pizza Kitchen that finally set its tables and opened its menu to Chennai. No more having to ask cousins, friends and friends of friends flying in from Mumbai or Bangalore to parcel a pizza from CPK. Chennai is the third Indian city that this California-based chain, present in 11 countries, has branched out to.

Chef Justin Parras — international brand ambassador for franchise operation CPK, who flew in from California to oversee the launch says, “We tweaked the whole menu to ensure the Indian palate accepts our taste and style. But that doesn’t mean the original flavour has been compromised… all it takes is adding a little teaspoon or tablespoon of ingredients here and there.” According to him, the menu in India has more listed out on it than the ones abroad. “We added a lot of Mexican infused flavours that are spicy and also have options for Jains, including a Jain salsa,” he smiles.

The cult status pizzas apart, there are also salads, soups, appetisers, baked specialties, sandwiches, pastas and desserts. Going by their recommendations we try the Kaprow Kai, a Thai-flavoured thin crust pizza and the vegetarian basil pesto pizza. While that arrives we bite into crunchy tortilla and soft pita dipped in a creamy Serrano cheese dip. Albeit a tad bland, its still wicked, gooey and addictive; and it’s best not to think about the calories in this blend of sour cream, cheddar, yoghurt and cilantro. We try and offset our guilt by ordering the healthy cucumber cooler. In Chennai’s sweltering heat, this drink is probably what neons are to the fashionistas this season — an essential. The pleasant green drink with a base of green apple syrup, green tea and topped with bobbing slices of cucumber is instantly soothing. The pizzas arrive amidst much fanfare, as three other waiters in black watch over as one of them artfully serves a slice. The wobbly Kaprow Kai pizza is delicate yet packed with a punch, like a supple gymnast on a balance beam. It’s spicy, smoky, tastes a bit like chicken gravy and is sprinkled with white mushrooms that are a little shrivelled and corns that look exhausted, but the pizza is simply irresistible.

“The BBQ pizza is the most popular order abroad. But in India it’s completely different. The vegetarian ones are the hot favourites,” says Parras as we help ourselves to the Basil pesto pizza. It’s slathered with flavoursome basil pesto sauce and spiked with tangy sun dried tomatoes, juicy Kalamata olives and cottage cheese on a bed of Mozzarella. This one warrants a paean written for it. There isn’t really anything to complain about this place other than the fact that they don’t have the summer berries and vanilla bean sabayon. “Some of the ingredients aren’t easily available here. Procuring them is expensive. And we wouldn’t want our clients to pay Rs. 800-Rs. 1,000 for a slice of dessert,” says Parras. The red velvet cake looks visually appealing and that’s what we order. The three-tiered, cream cheese smeared delight comes with a vanilla bean frosting. Thankfully at CPK they are generous with their slice. Unlike most other desserts which we literally inhale within minutes, demolishing this takes a while, allowing you to really soak in the delightful flavours.

California Pizza Kitchen is located at Phoenix Market City, Ground Floor. For details 6510 8888