Earthen Oven, the restaurant at My Fortune Chennai, takes a flavourful detour to serve its well-known specialities
You can dust off your VIII Standard Shakespeare. You can say ‘what’s in a name’ till you’re blue in the face. You can even hold up an actual rose to prove your point. The truth is, a rose by another name doesn’t smell as sweet. Call that rose by your ex-boyfriend’s name and tell me how you feel about it now. The truth is we instinctively believe that names are connected to personalities. It doesn’t mean that it’s logical. I have a friend who doesn’t like people who have double vowels in their names. How logical is that? But it is undeniably true that we all make snap-decisions based on names.
So when Chola Sheraton changed to My Fortune, although it seemed like a very minor move, it had long-lasting repercussions. For a generation who grew up, ‘going to the Chola,’ the new name just did not make a connection. So a lot of people simply stopped going there. I’ll admit that I’m guilty too. I used to love their old-fashioned little bar, where you could actually have a conversation without having to outshout Rihanna. Once the hotel changed its name I assumed things would be different and switched loyalties.
One year after the change in names, the old Peshawari, now called Earthen Oven, is unsettlingly quiet. But here’s the good news. It’s still — in many ways — the same old restaurant. At the same old prices. Which means you can now eat a Peshawari meal at about 20 per cent less at My Fortune.
The new management has intelligently kept the old menu, even if they had to change some of the names. I’m also assuming at least some of the former kitchen team still work here given the fact that much of the food tastes the same. As for the dal? That’s what you’re thinking about, right? The heavy butter-laden, cream-heavy, velvety Peshawari dal. It’s still delicious. Still indulgent. Still a crafty combination of flavours that melt into each other: A bite of ginger, a backbone of tomato and the lushness of cooked-down onions. It’s called something like Dal Fortune though. (Which admittedly brings up random images of slot machines, lottery tickets and poker games.) Nevertheless, it’s dangerously addictive.
In an attempt to expand the repertoire, the kitchen recently added a range of kebabs, from broccoli to galouti. Kolkata loyalists will be especially thrilled about the addition of Iranian Chelo kebabs, made famous by Kolkata’s ‘Peter Cat’ restaurant, which tops the dish with fat cubes of melting butter. In keeping with tradition, the saffron basmati rice here is topped with fried eggs and served with sheek kebabs, baby potatoes and salad.
Since I’m on a retro trip, I decide to order the Sikandari raan, which turns out to be fairly disappointing. The meat, which is marinated with malt vinegar, cinnamon and black cumin, is subtly spiced but stringy, and served in a fairly unaesthetic lump. Fortunately, I also order Changezi kebabs, big juicy pieces of tandoori chicken in aromatic gravy, deepened with tomato. Portions are generous, and it comes with a ridiculously tasty Afghani naan, fluffy with yeast and glazed with sugar.
Dessert is kulfi, heavy with nuts. Like the rest of the meal, and the service, it’s indulgent, old-fashioned and conventional. Sometimes things don’t change deep down, even if they seem different on the surface. And that’s a comforting thought in this age dizzy with change.
Earthen Oven is at My Fortune, Cathedral Road. A meal for two is roughly Rs. 2000. For details call 28110101