"The gravies are now smooth and food is light on the stomach. People want flavour but not oil-rich, heavily spiced food.
There is also more attention being paid on the dish presentation, which was not so earlier," Hushmoin K Patel, executive chef at The Raintree Hotels, Anna Salai told IANS.
He added Indian dishes are no longer 'coarse', as he offered the tasty lemongrass rasam, a new addition in the revamped menu card of the hotel's South Indian cuisine restaurant Madras.
Seemingly a simple dish - made with a mixture of tamarind water, steamed lentils, tomatoes, chilli and pepper powders, coriander and curry leaves, getting the rasam right in South India is the one test that everybody -from the newly -wed girls to wedding caterers and hotel chefs - in Tamil Nadu have to pass to be accepted as one having culinary skills.
While it is termed as soup, normally at South Indian homes rasam rice (steamed rice mixed with rasam) figuring in the middle, occupies an important part in the three course meal of sambar rice, rasam rice and curd rice.
Normally at homes the coriander roots are cut and thrown out. The roots can be used after cleaning in the making of making rasam or other items. The flavour from the coriander root is far greater than its leaves," Patel said.
Speaking of the new menu card he said that nearly 50 percent of the dishes listed in it are different under various cuisines.
"While including the new dishes we do look at competition menu card so that ours should stand out differently. However some dishes are common and cannot be omitted. An item is taken out based on customer feedback and its sales performance," Patel said.
According to him the new dishes are first tested for their taste amongst the staff, then included in the buffet and then they find their place in the restaurant.
"Once a dish goes out of the menu card it is not brought back without an innovation," Patel remarked.
By this time the vegetarian starters from 'Mami's Special Plate' comprising of masala kuzhi paniyaram and banana dosa started arriving on the table.
It was interesting to note that Patel and junior sous chef J.Prabhakaran, both young bachelors, entered the profession by choice and not through default.
"I liked cooking at home and wanted to become a chef. My father agreed with me but asked me to work for three months in a hotel kitchen so that I know what it actually means being a chef," recalled Patel.
On the other hand Prabhakaran hailing from the small temple town Kachipuram, wanted to go abroad and saw the kitchen route as the easiest one after his education.
"I did not have the money to join a private catering technology institute immediately after my plus two course. In order to enter the government catering institute here I had to improve upon my plus two marks by giving the exams all over again.
Finally I entered my dream college," Prabhakaran told IANS.
After passing out and working in a star hotel here Prabhakaran went to Malaysia to work in a restaurant.
"The pay there was not great, I came back rich with enough experience to run a restaurant independently," he added.
Digging into the items on the plate while digging out information about them, is always a 'fulfilling' experience.
As if adding spice to the chat, the taster's portions of Raintree Royallu Vepudu (masala prawns) Nandu Puttu (crab meat tossed with coconut and spices) and Telangana Kodi Roast (deep fired chicken with masala) started arriving on the table.
The spicy prawns and chicken slipped down the throat leaving a hot trail on the tongue and mouth, craving for more.
On the other hand the Nandu Puttu while soothing the hyper-active taste buds with its gentle meat and coconut taste activated a different set of taste buds.
It was time for the main course and Patel offered appam (pancake), pesarattu (similar to dosa but made with green gram batter) and malabari parotta.
The appam, pesarattu and malabari parotta tasted great with Raintree Pomfret Curry (pomfret darnes cooked in spices and masala) and Saagu (mixed vegetables cooked in coconut gravy flavoured with green chilli and cinnamon).
One can also go for the spicy Andhra chicken pulao and vegetable brinji rice.
For those having sweet tooth, the badam halwa and elaneer payasam (tender coconut cooked with coconut water and coconut milk) should not be missed.
According to restaurant manager R.Prithviraj, a meal for two would cost around Rs.1,500 - Rs.2,000. The Madras restaurant is open for lunch (12.30 p.m to 3.p.m) and dinner (7.30 p.m. - 11.30 p.m).
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 04-09-2013)