Food

Luxury bhajjis and rabri shots

WelcomCafe Riva hits all the right flavour notes with its exhaustive multi-cuisine menu

The glass door opened for a couple of seconds as a child ran in, letting a warm, heavy breeze enter WelcomCafe Riva: a subtle reminder that the tropical summer hasn’t completely waned, and that it is still the ECR coastline outside.

Inside, the glass panels, decorative ceiling and the view of fountains make you forget; though the empty, licence-bereft bar counter might serve as another not-as-happy reminder. That’s fine, though, because once the server places roomali papad and mint chutney on the table, you forget everything.

Personally speaking, half of that perfectly buttered and spiced complimentary papad, coupled with the heavenly mishti mehfil (the near-perfect North Indian dessert, but more on that later), is more than enough for the happy satiation of both tummy and soul. But then, that would be a waste of a pretty impressive menu.

Chef Naresh Dubey’s menu is a combination of North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Italian and American. This means everything from Andhra-style Guntur chilli chicken to pizzas, all planned and plated thoughtfully.

The ingenuity lies in the proportions: a lot of the items in the main course are designed to serve as a rounded meal for one person. Curries are served with parottas, kulchas or other bread. Even the stuffed kulchas (with two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian fillings) come with buttery dal makhani, along with a bit of papad and some salad: quite enough for you, but not for your partner. The thoughtfulness lies in the fact that there is as much variety in the vegetarian offerings as in the non-vegetarian.

There are quite a few intriguing twists on the menu. Take, for example, the make-your-own-sandwich options, and the make-your-own-sundaes in a jar. There’s a bun fair, inspired by the ever-popular pav bhaji, but with other alternatives, such as paneer bhurji and prawn thokku. It’s a fun idea, but if you’ve ever enjoyed your pav bhaji liberally buttered and fresh-from-the-steaming-tawa, these preparations won’t live up to it. On the other hand, the humble assortment of chilli, plantain and a host of other bhajjis in a basket will definitely hit home.

As will chappala pulusu: a simple, garlic-and-onion-based fish curry, with a dash of tamarind that makes all the difference. Served with rice, it’s almost exactly like your mother makes it at home. No, trust me on this: regardless of whether your mother lives in West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra or anywhere else, she has made some or the other variation of this fish curry at home, and you have been comforted by it. Go try it out; I guarantee a nostalgia kick (though visiting Mom might be easier on your wallet, and your conscience).

While we’re on the subject of comfort food, a surprising candidate stands out in the Chinese menu. The noodles are served in dimsum baskets with a pool of meat or vegetables in the centre, and are meant to be eaten directly from these baskets. Another strong recommendation is the Bohri kofta curry. This is the chef’s personal favourite for a pretty clear reason, with beautifully soft koftas in a rich, slightly sweet gravy.

Speaking of sweet, the dessert spread isn’t too bad either. There’s panna cotta with a glazed syrup of coconut and jaggery. They serve three kinds of payasam in shot glasses.

The same concept works way better in the mishti mehfil, probably because in this case, the contents of the three glasses are meant to be had together. It consists of shot glasses of mini gulab jamuns and boondi, with a glass of thick, creamy rabri to dip them in, adorned with a stick of shakkar para that can give all your ice cream sundae dressings a run for their money. Quite the perfect way to end a drive down East Coast Road.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:35:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/itcs-welcomhotel-on-ecr-mamallapuram-serves-up-delicious-fare/article19179265.ece

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