I don't like ice cream. After years of boarding school, you would think I'd eat anything gratefully. But I have some strange issues. No soft drinks. No oysters. (In my opinion you might as well lick a sea-weed encrusted rock by the beach.) And no ice cream. It's too cutesy. Too self-indulgent. And far too sweet.
Yet, at Amadora, I find myself feeling strangely nostalgic when owner Deepak Suresh waxes eloquent about how ice cream is an emotional product. “You always remember your first taste of ice cream,” he says, as we settle down around a table shaped like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle at his newly opened ice cream parlour. And yes. Deepak says the tables fit together in a big jigsaw. I'm hoping to go back when there are no customers around so I can sneakily try pushing them together. It's another little issue of mine. I don't really believe anything till I try it myself. Which is why I'm currently on a gluten-free diet, to research a story. And why I spend every morning in a panic typing questions into Google. Today's was ‘Is there gluten in tequila?” Yesterday's was — of course — is there gluten in ice cream? Apparently not.
Right now Deepak is chief ice cream maker, head waiter and errand boy all rolled into one, since this is pretty much a one-man show. We suspect he's also drawn and coloured in the delicate pink butterflies on the blackboard menu, but he tells us it's his driver's nephew, Justin. The little boy turned up in the morning neatly combed and powdered and covered the menu in bright chalk drawings for Rs. 100 and a big scoop of ice cream. “He's my main menu guy,” laughs Deepak. Admire the board while you're there: it's endearingly feisty.
After doing an MBA in Madrid, Deepak was working in the U.S. as a consultant. A couple of years ago, convinced that there's a growing market for good Indian artisanal ice cream, he decided to start work on creating his own brand. “In the U.S. you just call a dairy farm and tell them what percentage fat mix you want, and they send it to you,” he says. “Over here, you have to make it yourself.” Hence his hulking ice cream making equipment, which pasteurises the milk, and then turns a blend of milk, cream, milk powder and sugar into the ice cream mix. It tastes like a hefty, cold milk-powder. “I like it so much I offer it as one of the flavours!”
Other flavours include a liberally speckled five bean vanilla ice cream. “We soak 50 beans in 10 litres of ice cream mix, so every litre has at least five beans.” There's ice-cream made with Sri Lankan strawberries from a farm that offers naturally sweet fruit for most of the year. Both flavours are delicate. His ‘Mami's Filter Kapi' flavour on the other hand is more earnest than flavoursome right now. “The problem is pouring in filter coffee seems to dilute the ice cream.” It's still work in progress.
The salted caramel is flavoured with fleur de sel, the chi-chi salt of choice for food snobs. It's usually used for its fragile texture as well as flavour, but over here since it's blended into the ice cream, you don't get the full experience. I don't find the flavour any different from regular sea salt once it's blended, but hey, ‘fleur de sel ice cream' sounds so much more appetising than salt ice cream. I choose the Stracciatella, swirled with frozen Belgian chocolate. You don't get the full intensity of the chocolate because it's frozen — chocolate tastes best at room temperature — but then it's all a question of taste, and people who like restrained flavours and contrasting textures might enjoy this.
The evening's winner seems to be the Sweet Cream with caramel swirl and cake. My two tasters, who obligingly came to help me with the review, delightedly demolish this in minutes, enjoying its complex jigsaw of flavours and textures. All the ice creams come in waffle cones or waffle cups, none of which I could try thanks to my gluten vow. But yes, the tasters vacuumed those up too, so I'm assuming they were good.
And if you ask nicely, Deepak will let you try some trifle pudding made by his mother. (It's hidden in the fridge behind him, point and ask plaintively.) He's considering adding it to the menu. As a trifle pudding addict, I'm voting yes. I've also got my eye on his Fresh lime sorbet, which is currently so sour it will make your face pucker like a day-old mango seed. Another work in progress. Though I have a hunch it'll go great with tequila. Hence my Google question for the day. And yes. Tequila is gluten free.
Amadora is at 23, Wallace Gardens, 3rd Street. A regular scoop of ice cream costs Rs. 160. Call 4232 3482 for details.
Keywords: Chennai restaurants