Food

Fine dining in Chennai, with Uthukuli butter and Semmancheri cheese

Adhira Swamy at On The Rocks, Chennai   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It is rare for Adhira Swamy to helm a restaurant’s dinner service. The 25-year-old culinary consultant, who helps caterers plan menus and pairings, has taken over the kitchen of On The Rocks, kicking off the second edition of the restaurant’s Curate series on Thursday.

The ongoing single-seating dinner offering features a playful mix of cuisines and techniques, serving up everything from pork and duck to a select curation of cheeses, over eight courses.

At the centre of it all is Adhira’s decision to highlight the country’s varied, local produce. Himalayan as well as Tamil cheeses, Uthukuli butter, free range ducks all have a role to play in this feast that gradually moves from light, summery dishes to heavier, headier flavours of Autumn and Winter, course by course.

As an homage to On The Rocks, up first is Adhira’s take on their complementary, pull-apart focaccia and butter. “We used Uthukuli butter, made from buffalo milk,” says Adhira. What follows is a gazpacho that is strained and light; very different from the thick cold soup traditionally served in Spain and Portugal. This twist, says Adhira, is borrowed from her grandmother, who would serve her a distilled gazpacho at home.

“It seems better suited to the Chennai heat,” she says, and after a sip of it from a spice-rimmed glass, it is difficult to disagree.

Fine dining in Chennai, with Uthukuli butter and Semmancheri cheese

In each of her dishes, the flavour bursts forth from the little things. Anchovies give a kick to tomato-laden bruschetta; dollops of red pepper and walnut puree elevate a fish tartare; an in-house glaze of honey mustard sauce adds some welcome sweetness to a hearty, just-this-side-of-crispy grilled pork belly.

Some of the offerings are more complex than others: the sweetness of caramelised figs vies for the spotlight against the kick of a sunny orange vinaigrette in the duck salad, and soft mejdool dates stuffed with blue cheese, finished with butter, make for an intriguing mouthful. Two kinds of honey — a burnt honey mousse and a honey comb — make their way into a ‘milk and honey’ dessert, that is just one of three desserts on offer.

Says Adhira, “We really wanted to highlight the fresh ingredients and produce that have come into the Indian food scene, that not a lot of people know about because they haven’t been marketed in the past.” To that end, her biggest statement is the cheese plate, that comes not only with an array of pan-India cheeses but also with accompaniments like raw honey, a liver pâté set with orange rind, pepper and some herbs, some preserves, and a glass of light, cold ginger granita.

More on the menu
  • On The Rocks’ series of kitchen takeovers is also set to feature Mangaluru chef Shriya Shetty in October. The two-day kitchen takeover, conceptualised by Bengaluru-based The Soul Company and gin brand Monkey 47, will see Shriya introducing Chennai to the menu of Mangalorean Oota, her signature pop-up sit down dinner that showcases Mangalorean cuisine in different parts of the country. The dinner-only event is scheduled for October 8 and 9, at On The Rocks.

“Fine dining restaurants have cheese that are imported from Italy and France, known for the best cheeses in the world. But I do think that, considering the amount of beautiful cheese being made in India, now is the time for us to bring them into the luxury food scene,” says Adhira.

She elaborates, “For this platter, we have a garlic nettle gouda and a walnut gouda from Himachal, by a small company called Himalayan Cheese. We also have a Monterey Jack from Acres Wild in Ooty. The classic French cheese, tomme, is from The Farm in Chennai. They call it Tomme de Semmencheri, which I think is a very nice touch since in France, Tommes are named after the region it is produced in. Our fifth cheese is a Cheddar from Begum Victoria in Bangalore.”

This edition of Curate by On The Rocks is underway till September 26 at On The Rocks, Crowne Plaza, Chennai Adyar Park. The non-vegetarian menu begins at ₹4,250 per person, and the vegetarian one at ₹3,750 per person. For bookings, call 044 24994101


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 11:06:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/chennai-fine-dining-event-highlights-local-indian-artisanal-produce/article36517659.ece

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