Eli and Joe's Kitchen - Blissful Dining Experience

Beautiful view of sea with fishing boats setting their sail, breezy and lush green atmosphere, awesome collection of A.R.Rahman competing with the sound of waves and lip smackingly delicious food. What more one can ask for? A blissful dining experience is what you get at Eli & Joe's Kitchen in Mahabalipuram.

Eli & Joe's Kitchen run by Liz Thottan does not fit into the formal definition of a restaurant/cafe. It's more like a friends place, where you can just lay back, relax and have some amazing food. There's no fixed menu. Food is prepared based on the fresh catch & meat supply (mostly pork & beef) of the day. It's always better (infact advisable) to call them up, check for the availability of food. Rosh & Shab writing about the food and her FB post on Sunday menu (loads of beef & pork dishes) left me craving for meat. We called her up 3 days prior to our visit. We told her that we would like to have pork chops and beef steak. This place is located off Othavadi street in Mahabalipuram (Second right after moonrakers and first left, this place is in the first floor of the house at the end of the street). We landed there for lunch and was welcomed by few pet dogs and the staircase to the dining space has a cute little garden.

We started off with a Kumquat drink. Chilled citrus-y drink with mild fizz was so refreshing. Before the meat, we were served pesto pasta on the house which was delicious. Liz told that the basil was from her own garden. Pasta was cooked al dente and the pesto was perfect. Loved it. Then came the beauty in a plate. Pork chops and beef steak were served with curried potatoes. Beef was juicy and was melting in the mouth. But the star of the meal was the pork. Beautifully cooked in it's own fat, with crispy edges/crust it was mind blowing. The meat was a tad bit dry but wasn't hard or chewy. The marination with whole peppercorns rendered a mild spicy flavour to the meat. I relished it with some English mustard sauce. Worth travelling all the way to Mahabalipuram just for this :) The curried potatoes was good with a hint of rosemary. Friend loved it. Fish was fried to perfection with spicy marination. It was so fresh and tasted delicious.

Dessert was a surprise. Liz served her own version of falooda which had strawberry ice cream, little bit of semiya, chopped apple, tutti fruity and walnut muffins smashed into it. It was like dessert in a cup. Though it sounds weird, the taste was delicious.

Paid 1500 bucks for all these. (Pork-400, beef-350). Keep in mind that this is not a restaurant which stocks food. Liz prepares food as per the availability. It's better to call her at 9840740840 to avoid disappointment. E.L.I's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Padrino

There is no punishment bigger than wading through insane traffic under blazing sun. Our plans for heading to Egmore for lunch seemed impossible and we quickly decided to do lunch at The Padrino in Mylapore. This place is located in P.S.Sivaswamy salai, which leads to Cathedral/Radhakrishnan Salai. Didn't get a complete look at the place as we got seated near the entrance itself. Open kitchen along with gelato & dessert display at one side and view of the buzzing PSS salai. We were handed over the food and drinks menu and we placed order for couple of starters and drinks.

Before proceeding to the food, wanted to write about our unpleasant conversation with the owner of the place. For all planned lunch, I carry my DSLR with me as I love clicking pics of food. Same thing happened here and I started clicking picture of the drink. And this gentleman (we came to know that he owns the place) walked to us and asked why we were taking pics, to which I answered that we are food bloggers and asked him is there any problem with taking pictures. He said "It's our property and we have the rights to know and you have to ask before taking pictures". That was kind of rude and it spiked my anger. I said "How do you expect us to know that you don't allow us to take pictures when there is no sign of any board reading photography not allowed". He simply said it's fine and walked away.  See I understand that the restaurant has every right to allow/deny photography. But they should make sure that message is conveyed to the customer and not expect the customer to ask them as  Nowadays right from local tea shop to star hotels, food is being photographed everywhere. We were quite upset with the way the message was conveyed. When we were talking about it, another partner, overheard us and asked us what was the issue. We told what happened and she was apologetic. She also gave a reason that they are sceptical about their competitors trying to replicate their menu. Errrr. So you suspect each and every person taking a pic of your food is it? Jeez.

Enough of ranting. Let me move to the food. We ordered a mango & passion fruit lemonade and a zara paan mojito for drinks. Both of them were excellent. Particularly the zara paan mojito was kickass. It felt like drinking paan pasand (Not sure how many of you have tasted  this candy). I loved it to bits and ordered one more of it :) For starters we had Tortino Di Porri (Leeks and Cheese Quiche) and Piccante crispy calamari. The quiche was delicious with buttery crust and the filling with soft leeks with cheese, topped with melted gorgonzola cheese. Calamari was crispy, mildly spicy and well seasoned. The accompanying dips complimented the crispy calamari beautifully.

Though I wanted to try their pizza, we just ordered two main course leaving the pizza behind. Cappeletto Carbonara - pasta pockets filled with parmesan cheese in a carbonara sauce which is a mix of cream, cheese, eggs and bacon (here it was chicken bacon). The sauce was creamy and perfectly seasoned with mild notes of freshly ground pepper. The pasta at the top of the dish was cooked al dente, but the ones in the bottom were little bit under cooked. Pollo Al Funghi - grilled chicken breast with cream and mushroom sauce along with butter noodles. The chicken was cooked to perfection but the sauce was way to salty. We sent it back and they served the dish again. The sauce was thinned by adding more cream to adjust the salt. But in that process, the meat lost its tenderness. The noodles weren't cooked properly and it was sticking together like a mass. We didn't want to send it back again so we left it as such. While clearing the plates we were enquired about it again and we showed them the issue. They said that the dish will not be billed inspite of us insisting not to do so.

For desserts we ordered a dark chocolate gelato and a tiramisu. Tiramisu was excellent with the kick of espresso and the creaminess of mascarpone cheese. Gelato was mindblowing. It's a delight for dark chocolate lovers.

Service was spot on. Polite, efficient, quick and attentive. Paid a total of 2300 bucks (chicken dish wasn't billed) which was definitely on the higher side.

Place         : The Padrino
Location   : P.S.Sivasamy Salai, Mylapore
Cuisine     :  Italian, American Veg & Non Veg
Cost          : A meal for two would easily come around 2.5K
P.S : The write up is based on personal experience only. The Padrino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Paradise Biriyani

If I remember correctly, last time a place that got too much of chaotic attention for opening a branch in Chennai was Dunkin Donuts. People were crazy about them opening an outlet in Velachery and were standing in queues for a long time to get their hands on it. No. I haven't tasted anything from DD yet. The same kind of treatment was given to Paradise, when they opened their first outlet in Chennai a month ago. People were insane waiting for hours to get the biriyani. But the general feedback was complaints on service, waiting time, inefficiency in handling crowd etc etc. When it comes to trying out new places, I wait. I patiently wait for the dust to settle. Once they are on their feet, you get to see the true potential of that place.

I told myself that I'll visit paradise after 2-3 months. Even I kept myself from ordering in through Swiggy. In fact this visit to paradise was totally unplanned. We were heading to OMR Food Street for a simple dinner. I was showing hubby "Hey look. This is where Paradise has opened. I was telling you about this Hyderabad biriyani place na. This is that". And voila all of a sudden, hubby wanted to go there. I was like what seriously?!! That was big shock to me because I know how hard it is to convince him to try a new place. Now I panicked. I know the place will be crowded on weekdays itself. For sunday nite? At 8pm? One should be insane to even think of it. I tried to scare him away with statements like, it'll take atleast an hour to get seated / I heard the service is not good and all sorts of things. I don't know what had gotten into hubby that day, he was so adamant and he made a u-turn too. Who can rewrite the fate?

Paradise biriyani is located in Perungudi, diagonally opposite to Turyaa. It's hard to miss this place even if you are not looking for it :P Got pretty good parking along with valet service. They've few chairs in what looked like a waiting area along with a water dispenser. Two guys handling reservations as well as coordinating with the dining area regarding table availability. When I booked for 3 of us I was told that it'll take another 45 mins to get a table. We took a small walk and after good 30-35mins of time, we got our table in the third floor.

The place looked rich and classy, done in red mostly. We occupied a corner table and where handed over menu card in no time. We asked about the portion size of Full Chicken biriyani, to which the staff said two can share it. And he asked us to order just one which will serve the kid too. So we went with his suggestion and ordered a full chicken biriyani (Yep. Hubby doesn't eat mutton. Yet), a gobi manchurian, apollo fish and nizam handi subzi. Starters arrived in ten minutes. Gobi manchurian was typical andhra version. So spicy with loads of onions. Loved it. I would've been great if it was more crispy. Apollo fish was amazing. Melt in the mouth kind of fish and the marination was perfect. Spicy, a little bit sourness from the curd and the semi crisp batter was amazing.

Biriyani was simply divine. Rice was so fragrant and was cooked to perfection. Non oily, perfect in flavours with a brilliant aroma. There was generous amount of meat and it was well marinated, so soft and tender it falls of the bone with no effort. I loved the masala flavour at the bottom of the dish. Mixing it with the white and saffron infused rice at the top and I call that heaven :) As the waiter said 1 Full biriyani was just the right amount for the three of us.

Qubani ka meetha and double ka meetha were our desserts. Double ka meetha was yummy to bits. It was very hot and the richness of ghee gave an amazing taste to the dessert. Qubani ka meetha was very good too. Since we both were struggling with double ka meetha we packed the other one.

Service was exccellent. Staff were very polite and attentive. Paid close to 1400 for all these along with 300ml coke. Starters are priced on the higher side, whereas the biriyani at 245 bucks was worth every penny spent. I will be definitely going back just for the biriyani again and again.

Place           : Paradise
Location      : Perungudi
Cuisine        : Veg & Non Veg - Biriyani, kebabs, breads and curries
Cost            : A meal for two would come around 800-1000 bucks

P.S : The write up is based on personal experience only. Paradise Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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J.Hind - Grand by GRT

I'm a die hard fan of Super Star (Well who isn't). When friends were talking about the set menu, designed as a tribute to thalaivar, I so wanted to try it. In spite of hearing "not that good" kind of feedback, I still went ahead for two reasons. One was thalaivar and another one was I wanted to spend quality time with my best friend who was in town. She was also interested in trying out this place as they were making big names in social media.

J.Hind stands for Jugalbandhi Hindustani which focuses on Indian cuisine with a twist and more theatre added to the dishes. The place was vibrant and energetic and was beautifully done with loads of Indian touch to it. We were handed over two different menu. One being the set menu, a 8 course meal, that was designed as a tribute to thalaivar and the other one was the A-la-carte. We decided to stick with the set menu and asked them whether they could make something with baby corn for the kid. They obliged and we got a huge portion of crispy pepper baby corn. The first one to arrive was the welcome drink. Which was tender coconut water with rose flavour served along with mango and saffron spheres. It was good, but I didn't get the connection between the spheres and the tender coconut water.

Next one to arrive was the soup. Named "Moondru Mudichu" a movie where thalaivar dons three different roles the soup was a mix of tomato and artichoke topped with beetroot foam. I loved the soup. It was thin, mild in flavours and was very soothing.

The gun powder arancini was in line with the movie muthu. Served in a pearl plate with a tangy relish and gun powder, it was quite bland.

Coin chicken pav, after the movie Sivaji, inspired by the epic scene when thalaivar flips the coin. This was so meh! The chicken vada had nothing in it. I felt like eating rubber fried with batter. A mince of chicken with some seasoning would've been nice. Neither the lehsun (garlic) chutney nor the mint chutney in powder form had flavours. They were so bland. And the pomegranate juice given in a filler, had no use on that place. I was told that the juice was to balance the spiciness of the dish, which was not at all there.

16 condiments chaat trolley had a fantastic theatrical effect with dhokla put in liquid nitrogen and smashed on the table. Taste wise it was absolutely nothing. They called it 16 vayathinile, as they said it has 16 ingredients in it. Trust me one of them was caramel pop corn (yep that was one of the 16 ingredients). Come on who adds caramel pop corn to a papdi chat ?

Aadu Puli attam was the name for the dish which had grilled tiger prawns, Sous-Vide lamb korma and ragi idiyappam. Tiger prawns - puli, Lamb korma - aadu. Now what's the connection between them? Nothing. This time it was just a mere representation of the name. Idiyappam was soft n fresh. Lamb korma lacked the punch n flavours. They goofed up by serving the lamb to my vegetarian friend. We didn't have any suspicions by the look of it, as the plate had a veg kebab on it. While serving the curry on the plate, I was shocked to see paruppu urundai in my curry and lamb in my friends. On notifying, they apologised and replaced the dishes. We had around 4-5 people including the chef, apologising.

I still don't understand, why a deconstructed paneer makhani was named thee (means fire in tamil). Oh wait. Yeah, they blow torched the dish. Oh please. Thee would be justified with a nice spicy/hot/fiery curry? The deconstructed paneer makhani had paneer pakoras in a beetroot base and tasted so so.

The only thing I loved in the 8 course was the chitti chicken curry flambeed with XXX rum. This was associated with chitti's train fight sequence in the movie Enthiran. What's the connection? Well it was served on a miniature train :O along with soft n flaky wheat parathas. The curry tasted finger licking good, with tender chicken.

Baasha - They got the perfect dish to justify the name. Biriyani. Smoked biriyani lacked salt, and didn't have the punch of biriyani. And mutton in the biriyani was tough n chewy. Epic failure :(

Annamalai - three different varieties of rice with curd as the hero. Beet, saffron and milk based curd rices. Again nothing exciting or exotic.

After a not so satisfying courses of meal, I was eagerly looking forward for the desserts. The dessert platter had billa - a baked paan kalandhar, ninaithaley inikkum - ilaneer payasam and phool bane angaray - frozen fruits. Nothing was exciting. The paan kalandhar was okayish, with paan ice cream sandwiched between sponges. The fruits were frozen and were so so. The ilaneer payasam tasted like milk payasam and had no trace of ilaneer flavour in it. 

Service was very quick and attentive. The staff knew what they were serving and were very polite too. The bill was 3782 bucks after a 15% discount (I think that was for the goof up). Veg tasting menu at 1450 + taxes, non veg at 1650 + taxes and the baby corn starter was 450 bucks. Definitely pricey.

I strongly feel that the food needs more flavours. The wow factor was completely missing from the food (tastewise).  After all, just the drama and theatre is not enough rite? As long as the tribute to Thalaivar/ Kabali fever concerns, they failed to deliver the connection, IMHO. The connection with the movie and dishes should be either with the names, literally or with the epic scenes from the movie or just a literal translation. Not all the three leaving the diner confused. 

Place            : J.Hind at Grand by GRT
Location        : T.Nagar
Cuisine          : Indian, veg and non-veg
Cost              : A meal for two would come around 3.5 - 4k approximately

P.S : The write up is based on personal experience only. J.Hind - Grand by GRT Hotels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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