Ox and Tomato that specialises in pizzas New York style is among the snazzy new places to eat out in town.
It's oddly appropriate that I write my food reviews in The Aubergine. The MetroPlus office has so much cheery purple, its reporters have started referring to it as ‘The Aubergine.'
The nickname has its advantages. It makes us look unbearably hip for starters. When every else groans about going back to work after a press conference, we twinkle mysteriously about heading to ‘The Auberge'. Half the city's reporters probably think we're members of a mysterious underground club by now. On the flip side, it clashes awfully with pink. And always reminds me about my failures with Baingan ka bharta. No matter how I try it just never tastes right. However undercooked brinjal wasn't my only problem this week. I also had absolutely no idea about what to feature in today's column. (Hence the rambling.)
Cut back to The Aubergine where I whined incessantly, till the team had no choice but to help. One of the girls generously offers to hook me up with her ‘Juice Maama,' an old man who cycles around Mylapore peddling vadams and musambi juice. (She gravely tells me he also goes by the alias ‘Vadam Mama' Tel: 2834 2185.) The resident shopaholic squeals Express Mall, where ‘Bulls Eye' specialises in eggs. But I quickly discover her ulterior motive is to get me to carry her shopping bags. (“Eh, Look. Sale. Sale. Sale.”) Our land expert suggests we eat at The Hindu canteen (rice, rasam, sambar, poriyal and vadams — not vadam maama's) and save our money to buy land in Perungudi.
Other suggestions included 50 Bucks (Tel: 4323 8050) on R.K. Salai, where dishes are priced at Rs. 50 or less. Spice in Kilapuk, from the popular vegetarian Little Italy stable (Tel: 2647 1100). And Al Arab in Mylapore, featuring barbeques. (Tel: 4513 0000)
In the end The Aubergine's youngest employee directs me to Ox And Tomato, her neighbourhood pizzeria. Since we're sneaky and have bad manners, we are knee deep in mozzarella by the time she arrives, hungry and breathless after an intensive Ashtanga yoga workout.
Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of place where you can drop in without reservations, and then randomly invite friends. Fashioned like a neighbourhood café, it's tiny but joyous. Maybe it's the fragrance of yeast — there's something elementally comforting about baking bread. Perhaps it's the décor, a higgledy-piggeldy collection of New York scenes. Or the charmingly cheesy music: Taylor Swift, Bryan Adams, Rihanna. We quickly discover it's therapeutic to sing ‘Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone/ I'll be waiting/ All there's left to do is run…' between large bites of pizza.
Owned by Mansi Hemdev, who ran Karma Café in the same space, Ox And Tomato is fashioned along the lines of a New York style pizzeria. So it forges its own path instead of conforming to Italian ideals. Which explains the Indian Temptation pizza with cottage cheese and the Indian Cuckaroo, with roast peppers and chicken tikka. They offer a range of sandwiches: from roasted peppers and olives with pesto to the classic chicken club. To round off the menu, there are soups, desserts and a daily list of specials.
In a fit of virtue, we begin with a Greeko romaine salad, a generous bowl of crunchy lettuce, bright with red and green capsicum and speckled with sharp, crumbly feta cheese. With a balsamic vinegar dressing, it's satisfying without being terribly exciting, though the feta's delicious. The accompanying bread is as cold and hard as Voldemort's heart.
Our thin-crust pizza's large and crusty, covered with a trembling pool of béchamel sauce, topped with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. A gratifying combination, especially when it's enlivened by roasted garlic. There's shredded chicken, scattered in a way that's more aesthetically pleasing than generous. We drink overly sweet lime soda and a healing lemon tea.
Dessert's from the Sinful Something counter: a pot of cool Tiramisu, layers of cool cream woven together with strong, dark espresso. And a mousse-like German Chocolate cake, which our Ashtanga girl eats, effectively negating at least a month of class. Next stop, Juice maama.
Ox and Tomato is in Alwarpet on St. Mary's Road. Call 4306 0009 for more details.