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Updated: May 21, 2014 16:16 IST

The Reluctant Gourmet — What's the buzz…about?

SHONALI MUTHALALY
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Food at Kobe. Photo: R. Ravindran
The Hindu Food at Kobe. Photo: R. Ravindran

Elementz, a haunt for the young and hip, is more lounge than lunch, while Kobe is business-like with an extensive menu

Heave a sigh of relief. You don't need to hug trees in hippy pants. Staying young demands different trials of strength now. Ardent polemic? Soaring ideals? Fiery fashion. Yawn. They're so, like, overrated. Not to, like, mention over-dramatic.

Instead, just add Z.

After all, if popular culture is to be believed, this is what identifies today's young and restless. I mean ‘todayz yung ‘n restlezz.' (Ooh. Look at me, I'm 18 again.) This is the age of short cuts: whether we're talking about cryptic SMS lingo or semi-literate e-mail/chat/Twitter banter. Not surprisingly herds of savvy marketing men are jumping on the bandwagon.

All this to explain Elementz, which specialises in mocha, music and ‘mocktailz' (but, of course.) We enter gingerly, squinting in the crazy blue disco lights that flash through the Davidoff-laden darkness. Like intrepid jungle explorers, we then navigate nervously past the hoards of hostile eyes peering at us through smoky hookahs, tall lattes and many layers of mascara. Built in the spirit of determinedly-hip Mocha, this coffee shop seems to be drawing the same crowds. Sorry. Crowdz.

The languidly stylish need dark nooks and shady corners. Set in a quiet side lane, Elementz provides an embarrassment of both. Perfect for playing hookey. And, also some hokey pokey. With crumb fried mushrooms. I mean mushroomz. (When will I learn?)

Crab tossed in butter. Honey mustard drumsticks. Sizzlers. The menu's ambitious, and attempts to move away from tired café classics. We try a comfortingly steamy tomato soup, paired with crisp bread sticks. It's followed by a sandwich bursting with cream cheese and jalapenos, and a pot of baked yoghurt, marred only by a crust of slightly stale nuts.

They also offer ‘foodles', which are noodles made of rice flour. (Shocker. They didn't call them foodlez.) There are wicked fry ups involving eggs, bacon and potatoes. And a range of milkshakes, which also seem Mocha-inspired (apple pie and Lindt chocolate). However, the focus here is clearly ‘trendinezz' (which could explain the suavely spaced out waiters, all berets and biceps). So if you're heading here, think more ‘lounge' than ‘lunch'.

Kobe's, just a potato chip's throw away is more business-like with its sleek furniture, shrewd spacing and showy sizzlers. The brand, which has passionate fans in Mumbai, has proved so popular it now has outlets in Delhi, Kolkata and Amritsar (to name a few) thanks to its winning formula of good meat, quick service and minimal fuss. After all, how wrong can you go with a sizzler: it's hot, it's well-spiced and it's accompanied by that great leveller — French fries.

At Kobe's Chennai, all the elements are in place, though the kitchen is still getting into the groove. The menu's extensive, offering salads (ranging from fish mayonnaise to Greek), soups (Scotch broth, vegetable, hearty onion with cheese) and pizzas (steak, chicken and vegetarian). However, not surprisingly, the sizzlers are their strongest point.

The steaks (garlic, pepper, Schezwan) are plump and juicy. We do notice however that the kitchen tends to be rather stingy with fries. This seems to be becoming a trend at many of the city restaurants. People, I understand we're all suffering inflation. But chips come from potatoes in our backyard, and are not prize white alba truffles flown First Class from Italy.

Our fish sizzler is disappointingly bland. The steak bun, one of Kobe's signature burgers, however is satisfyingly brawny, and twanging with pepper. We team it all with glasses of bracing ice tea, bursting with floral freshness.

Kobe has potential, and Chennai certainly needs more steak houses so hopefully they'll get better with experience. Not surprisingly their strength lies in the straightforward food. Hence our crème caramel is deliciously cool, rich and velvety. They call it one of their “honest puddings”. We agree. Especially because they don't say ‘puddingz'.

(Elementz is at 16, Wallace Garden, 1st Street, Nungambakkam. Call 45038473 for details.

Kobe is at 10, Khader Nawaz Khan Rd, Nungambakkam. Call 28332711 for details.)

Keywords: ElementzKobe

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