Review Food

Enjoy vada pav and other regional street food in plush settings at Chennai’s MKC


Madras Kitchen Company tries to combine familiarity with style, seating you in cushy chairs while serving you comfort foods from different regions

There is an odd sort of dissonance to being seated in a clearly upscale restaurant, on the upper floor of The Westin, and looking at a menu full of street food.

A menu, moreover, designed to look like a newspaper, in an obviously painstaking attempt to appear ‘street’. But that is how Madras Kitchen Company (or MKC, as the team likes to call it) wants it to be. With a bar and lounge right next door, they even encourage you to get a cocktail with your vada pav.

The good thing about said vada pav is that it comes smeared with Kolhapuri thecha (a Maharashtrian condiment of finely ground green chillies) and a sizeable, single, deep-fried green chilli, and would taste appealingly familiar to anyone who has spent some time in Mumbai. The not-so-good thing is that, it is just vada pav, but costs almost ₹200 per plate. And if Kolhapuri thecha is not hot enough to make your eyes water, it can’t be a clear winner.

But then, the menu is all about simple foods that tap into nostalgia, in that part of you that yearns for comfort. Take, for instance, the ghee-tossed podi idli served with vegetable kurma. A brightly-coloured tiffin carrier contains eight little pieces of idli in one tier, and steaming kurma in another. You might think that less than satisfying, but wait till you pop a fluffy little idli, redolent with ghee, into your mouth. As indulgent as those little bites feel, the mild and warm kurma is both filling and comforting.

Enjoy vada pav and other regional street food in plush settings at Chennai’s MKC

After this, we take a trip North with some chole kulcha. Surprisingly, it is the bread that steals the show in this particular performance, outshining even the single, large, dripping-with-mustard chilli that decorates the dish. The kulcha is thick, soft, and almost yellow in colour, with a generous smattering of coriander and a taste that holds its own for diners who find comfort in munchable breads. Though it accompanies a bowl of aloo chole, it is the latter that plays the role of sidekick: understated and only slightly spicy, but a pleasant enough companion.

Not all breads are that good, however. MKC’s menu has an entire section dedicated to baos, dumplings and wraps, among which the pan-seared barbecue chicken bao looks promising. On page. On the table, it ends up being a disappointment: the bread is more than a tad too sweet and the filling is just not enough. Eating it, for the most part, feels like biting into something soft but empty.

The tofu open bao with edamame, on the other hand, is more substantial, even if the taste has nothing memorable about it.

And then there is the karimeen polichathu, which we are informed is marinated for 24 hours with coconut and kokum, then grilled, and then steamed. The result is a fish that is rich, flavourful and almost smoky — the kind you wouldn’t mind picking apart with your bare fingers.

Madras Kitchen Company
  • @Level 1, 154, Westin Chennai, 100 Feet Road, Velachery
  • Hits: Butter chicken, podi idli with kurma
  • Misses: Chicken barbecue bao, vada pav
  • Meal for two: ₹1,000
  • 66205547

Another enjoyable dish is the butter chicken, which is thankfully not sweet at all. Instead, it tastes of semi-roasted smokiness and mildly teasing spices, that fall just short of red heat. Beyond doubt one of the more authentic butter chickens I have tasted in this city.

However, the one thing MKC claims to be really proud of is its hot chocolate, made with a single-estate Earth Loaf dark chocolate bar. It is thick, it is not too sweet, it is certainly indulgent. Not a bad note to end a meal on.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 5:52:41 AM |

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