Azzuri Bay's menu canters across Asia, featuring both Indian-Chinese staples as well as unusual offerings
There's a Buddha statue, of course. The symbol of choice for new-age Asian hipsters. Predictably tranquil, shrouded in warm yellow light. But not strictly conventional courtesy the spirited gush of water spouting from its palm.
Evidently, producer Suresh Menon's love affair with rushing water continues in his newest restaurant Azzuri Bay. It's housed in the same compound as his first culinary venture, Crimson Chakra (which encompasses Cornucopia). Set within an old colonial bungalow, the earlier restaurant is characterised by quirky touches, languid pools and vivacious waterfalls.
Despite being housed in the same property and sticking to the central Crimson Chakra themes, Azzuri Bay manages to have a character that's unique. We take the lift up and emerge on a terrace, crowded with packed tables and bustling with waiters. We've been gauche enough to schlep all the way to Adyar without reservations, yet the staff is courteously welcoming. And no, they have no idea we're here for a review.
Great service and good food is a given when restaurants invite a critic for a meal. After all they get to set the stage, brief the waiters and plan the menu. But it's when you sneak in as a regular punter that you get an authentic experience. So I'm delighted that the waiters are welcoming, quickly finding us a table and offering to guide us through the menu.
Admittedly, the service is patchy. There are long waits between courses and we spend a good part of our meal desperately trying to catch a waiter's eye. Fortunately the aromatic dim sum starter is moist and flavoursome enough to keep us occupied for a while. It helps that we have a view of the Adyar bridge by night, defined by a hypnotically steady flow of car headlights. All very scenic except for a blindingly bright lantern set on each table. It totally kills the starlit dining mood!
The menu canters across Asia, featuring both the Indian-Chinese restaurant staples as well as more unusual offerings. There's calamari chilly-garlic, stir fries and chop suey. But also Korean bulgogi, Malaysian fish in a banana leaf and Singaporean chilly crab.
Our main course consists of Thai spicy fried rice, speckled with egg and generously flavoured with finely-chopped beans, carrots and garlic. Also a version of char kuey teow which comes across as rather stodgy since it doesn't have the intricate layering of textures and flavours that should define the dish. Even the bean sprouts look defeated. There's crispy lamb in honey chilly — an old favourite — which is good without being astonishing.
We try a Margarita pizza, delightfully juicy thanks to a generous amount of fresh tomato sauce sprinkled with rosemary. The cheese however, draped across in generous puddles, could do with more character.
The diva at the next table whines incessantly, calling for the cook, the waiter and the candlestick maker, to list her demands. “Tweak this, tweak that and how dare you say you're almost out of chocolate gelato? Pack up every remaining cup of it for me.” Astonishingly, they humour her, nodding politely and offering her table free deserts.
Thoughtful touches abound here. From Odomos on every table to bar stools with a view for single diners in the indoor dining area. The delightful marine aquarium, filled with dancing clown fish, can lift anyone's spirits. A good thing too since the waiters are struggling to stay above the water, and things are a little haphazard. They will probably settle with some training. It helps that they're nice. You can't get that with all the training in the world.
I choose a popsicle for dessert, much to the dismay of our waiter. He insists we try the gelato. Since I firmly stick to my infantile dessert, he offers us a tray full of popsicles on the house — and then grandly brings in the only gelato flavour that's not sold out: strawberry. (“What! No chocolate!”) It's velvety, creamy and delicious. I make a mental note to get there before the divas next time.
Azzuri Bay is at No 13, First Crescent Park Road, Gandhi Nagar. Call 4211 5253 for more details. Portions are generous, and a meal for two costs approximately Rs. 600.