Sabha Canteen Roundup 2018 - Lunch by Gnambiga catering @ Vani Mahal - T.Nagar


I hate the longer waiting time for food or getting a table at any restaurant. That thing annoys me to the core and spoils my mood. Also I hate people watching me like a hawk so as they can get seated. That அண்ணன் எப்போ போவான் திண்ணை எப்போ காலியாகும் கதை. Unfortunately lunch in Sabha canteens tests my patience in both the above said categories. But the love for typical இலை சாப்பாடு is much more so I always put up with that. Same thing happened today @ Vani Mahal. Gnambiga is the caterers here and I kickstarter my lunch roundup of this season with them. Crowd management is what they should figure out. That too given the basic common sense or decency our people have, it was highly annoying to see people who cared nothing about those waiting before them and grabbed seats right royally as if they own the Sabha. I expressed my concern with the owners (they were managing the cash counter) to figure out something and after a good 20+ minutes of waiting we got seated. One of the elderly gentleman who was serving food issued some unwanted statements. It wasn’t called for and he & his attitude really tested my patience and the argument was put off by the owner who was apologetic and asked me to let it go.

A simple but delicious fare was waiting for us. Paruppu podi + ghee, avarakkai poriyal, bitter gourd poriyal, radish sambhar, manathakkali vatha kulambu, rasam, buttermilk, appalam, pickle, payasam and today being “Arudhra Dharisanam” they also served thiruvadhirai kali & kootu. Every single item served was delicious. Especially the bitter gourd & mochai poriyal was mindblowing. I haven’t come across such a tasty pagarkai kari with no traces of bitterness in recent times. Vatha kuzhambu & rasam were divine. And there wasn’t any hesitation from their side when we asked for 2/3/4th servings 😜 And a sweet Beeda is also part of the menu.






A meal is priced at Rs.200 and they start their lunch session from 10.30 am and runs till 3 pm. I was told that they will keep the canteen up and running till 5th of January.

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Sabha Canteen Roundup 2018 - A food walk for evening tiffin

That season of the year is here, where you get to relish the special/popular food from various caterers of Chennai. Yep. Margazhi has started and so does our Sabha Canteen Roundup :)

Shab & Myself went on a Sabha canteen walk, covering five sabhas, popularly known for their canteens :P Started off with Music Academy. Surprisingly this year Pattappa's is running the canteen here instead of the usual Mint Padmanabhan. I was told that they aren't running canteen in any of the sabhas this season.
We settled for a portion of carrot halwa - fantastic oozing with ghee
karamani vadai - crispy vadai, that delivers a mildly tart flavour of the karamani. Loved it.
Manglore Bonda - Pillowy soft bondas with perfectly balanced seasoning served piping hot.
Coffee - Was pretty thin. Felt like the decoction wasn't fresh. 






While the coconut chutney & onion/tomato chutney was very good, Sambhar wasn't fresh. Paid a total of 195 bucks for the above.

Pattappa's @ Music Academy is open for breakfast from 7.30 am, lunch from 11-11.30 am & evening tiffin & dinner (pretty much the same menu as the evening tiffin) from 3.30 pm

Our second stop was Sri Sasthalaya Catering @ Naradha Ghana Sabha. I had high hopes for this place as I've had good experience with them for their tiffin items. Frankly was disappointed with the food. We had a portion each of
Chettinadu Vellai Paniyaram (Rs.40)- Soft rice paniyarams with minimal salt served with dangar chutney was good. 
Asoka halwa (Rs. 40) - Have had better ones. Can give it a miss
Pidi kozhukattai (Rs.70) - Out of the four kozhukattais, two weren't cooked completely. I could taste the raw rice grits in them :( The brinjal puli gosthu was too tangy (raw tamarind flavor was dominating the whole dish)





Paid 160 in total for all these. Sasthalaya are open for breakfast. They serve only mini meals & variety rice for lunch. They do have evening tiffin & dinner.

From here we moved on to Meenambiga caterers at Mylapore Fine arts club. I always loved their simple yet delicious lunch. According to me their, tiffin ain't that great. The vazhaipoo vadai & keerai vadai (Rs. 60) are of the same batter with the main ingredients mixed in separately. Mint chutney & sambhar were good. Mani kozhukattai (Rs.60) with coconut tempering was good, but I've had better ones. Piping hot Kasi halwa(Rs. 50) was mindblowing. Coffee(Rs.20) was so so. Paid a total of 190 for all these. They are open for lunch & evening tiffin/dinner





The next stop was Mountbatten Mani Iyer catering service @ Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha (Vidhya Bharathi Kalyana Mandapam in Mylapore). Average food with high pricing. The jack fruit paniyaram (Rs.100 for 3 pieces) was a disaster. Tad bit of jackfruit inside a oily paniyaram wasn't edible at all. Apple Bajji (Rs.100 for 3 pieces) wasn't great either. While I loved the bajji which was perfectly cooked, it failed to deliver that sweetness of apple. Coffee (Rs. 45) was way too bitter inspite of adding sugar. Paid a total of 257 bucks.


Our actual plan was only these four sabhas. Since we didn't have a good coffee & the food was also average, we decided to check our luck with Gnambiga caterers at Vani Mahal in T.Nagar. Best decision made :D

We relished their podi idly (Rs.70) - soft idlies, covered in generous amount of podi & nallennai (gingelly oil) was yummax. It was delicious on its own without any accompaniments. Rasa Vadai (Rs.80) was brilliant. The vadais have soaked in the rasam nicely and served hot. It was delicious. Shab gobbled up one whole vadai which is a rare phenomenon :P Capsicum Sevai (Rs.70) wasn't extraordinary. It was plain sevai with capsicum tempering. It needed a push flavor wise. Coffee (Rs.30) was mind blowing. One sip into it and we had a huge sigh of relief as we had atleast one good coffee for the evening. Paid a total of 250 for this and another 210 bucks for a take away of rasa vadai, adai aviyal & kasi halwa. Folks at home enjoyed it too.






With that we ended our Sabha hopping. 5 Sabha canteens in 4 hours :) Watch this space for more sabha canteen updates (regarding lunch & breakfast)

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Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, Madurai

While starting from Theni, I decided to do a quick stop over at any one of the iconic places in Madurai, so that I can pack some delicacies for folks at home. Since I've tasted prema vilas halwa umpteen times, I wanted to check out Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, West Chithirai Street, diagonally opposite to the West Gopuram of Meenakshi Amman Temple. A 117 year old shop dishes out halwa along with other sweets and savouries. Priced at 320/Kg, this halwa was silky smooth in texture. Summa vazhukittu pochu :P Not overpowering with ghee and perfect amount of sweetness, this was one of the best I had in recent times. Their "kizhabgu pottalam" aka the potato masala, sells like hot cakes. Priced at Rs.10/per pottalam, it was super spicy with bite sized green chillies and loved the strong note of fennel. It would be an apt side dish for thachu mummu :P


They do serve a tasting portion (in picute) for 20 bucks. A must try if you are in Madurai. 

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Amma Mess, Madurai

When I scheduled my return from Theni, via Madurai I made sure that I’ve time for a relaxed lunch at Madurai before the flight. I wanted to try Amma Mess this time and while talking to my brother about the same, he casually said “Avlo scene ellam illa”. Sometime it’s okay to listen to the younger ones advice. Doing so would’ve saved you from the utmost disappointment. But adhellam kettuta namakku Enna mariyadhai.

4 of us checked in Amma Mess at Alagar Kovil Main Road, Thallakulam. It was 12.45 and we were the second set of customers. One among us was pure vegetarian. Ordered 4 meals along with crab omelette, ayira meen kuzhambu, few Kola and a mutton liver fry. Two veggies (ladies finger & snake gourd kootu), mutton kuzhambu, meen kuzhambu, rasam, buttermilk and pickle are part of the meals (Rs.100) Upon requesting not to serve any non veg to one of us, we were told that there’s an exclusive meal for vegetarians that comes with extra veggie, payasam, sambhar and pappad. Very considerate eh!!
First came the kola urundai. Was good. But nothing to rave about. Couldn’t help comparing it with the ones I had in Venu biriyani in Dindugul. Next came the biggest disappointment in a small bowl. Ayira Meen Kuzhambu (Rs.225) was served in a small bowl. You can imagine the size of the bowl which can hold about 7-8 spoonful of the kuzhambu. Portion size oru pakkam, tasteaavadhu nallairundha parava illa. I’ve not tasted such a tasteless gravy in recent times. It was neither spicy nor tangy or nothing to relate with a meen kuzhambu. Disappointed to the core I moved on to the mutton gravy that comes with the meals. Coconut based gravy was damn watery and again didn’t even cross the average mark in taste. I felt the regular meen kuzhambu that was served with the meals was better beyond comparison than the ayira meen kuzhambu that we bought separately. Mutton liver fry and crab omelette were served much later after multiple reminders. At a stage I even asked to cancel those two as we were almost done with the meals. Crab omelette was okayish.




I should’ve gone to Chandran Mess as per Bro’s suggestions. Paid 1400 bucks for such a below average meal. More than the money, I feel bad for wasting my time in Madurai on a padu sumaar sappadu ☹️☹️

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Hotel Karthik, Theni

When we were on our way to Vaigai Dam, I was told that the fish fry & meals are not to be missed for lunch. After enjoying a stunning view of Vaigai, the lifeline of some of the southern districts in Tamilnadu, we checked in Hotel Karthik, highly recommended by the locals for lunch. This place is located a few metres away from the Vaigai dam Police station on the periyakulam-varusanadu road. A tin shed, functioning as a hotel, was clean and I could see fish swimming on every banana leaf on all the tables :P

Meals (Rs.50) has fish kulambu, one veggie, one legume, rasam & buttermilk. You can opt for the fish in the kuzhambu & fish fry separately. Both kuzhambu & fry had Jalebi (type of freshwater fish). The coconut based kuzhambu was thin, zero tangy, spicy. Even though I always like meen kuzhambu thick & tangy, I loved this one to bits. Fish in the kuzhambu was as fresh as it can be and was melt in the mouth type. Chumma vennai madhiri vayila karainjadhu :) Fish fry was mindblowing. Deep fried fish with perfect marination had a crisp outer layer and soft flesh. Loved it to the core. Surprisingly thattai payiru went well with the kuzhambu. During my short stay in Theni, I noticed that people here eat sundal rite from the morning itself. Every tea shop has a legume varaint with minimal tempering. Infact I had it as my breakfast on all three days :) 




Five of us had meals along with kuzhambu meen and fish fry. Paid 610 bucks in total for all these. Given the size of the fish & its freshness level, it's absolute value for money. 

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Venu Biriyani, Dindugul

When the road trip to Theni was finalised, I told myself that whatever happens, we need to stop at Venu for lunch. During our Coimbatore trip, these people floored me with their awesome of the aromale biryani & kola. But it was 11.45am when we were nearing Dindugul. Appa wanted to skip this en-route. I had other ideas :P I threw a tantrum (When it come to food I'll go to any level :D) and he finally gave up. 11.50 we were at the restaurant, which was pretty empty. They've a air conditioned dining space and a separate take away counter. I was told that majority of the business happens at the take away counter.

Appa refused biriyani and he just had mutton chukka and liver fry. Myself and junior had 1/2 portion of biriyani each along with boneless chicken. I was disappointed when they told that kola will take time and won't be available anytime soon. Upon multiple requests (read nagging), the staff somehow managed to serve me kola. Biriyani was piping hot with lots of tender mutton pieces. Less oily and few irritants. Medium spicy and aromatic biriyani, I loved every morsel. Asked Appa to taste a little and he also liked it a lot. Kozhuppu kulambu wasn't ready by the time. But the Dalcha made up for it. This place serves onion raita exactly the way I like. I took 3-4 servings of the thick creamy raita and ended up eating it just like that. Kola was brilliant with perfect balance of spices and was melt in the mouth type with a crispy outer. Boneless chicken fry was tender and surprisingly no food colouring and was 
well marinated. It was crispy and the batter rendered a mild spicy note to the chicken. Loved it. Paid close to 1000 bucks for all these.





The take away/parcel section is damn busy with biriyani packets flying off the counter. Before billing, they are asking whether it's for local consumption or travelling. Accordingly biriyani gets packed in banana leaf or aluminium foil containers. Two half portion of biriyanis along with 4 kola urundai set me back by 600 odd bucks. I was told that the biriyani tasted awesome even after 2 hours from packing.

This will be one of my favourite places for biriyani. Every time  I happen to pass by, I will definitely take a detour just for this beauty :) 

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Makkan Peda @ Chettiar Sweet Stall, Arcot

Spending about 9 years of my childhood in Vellore District has given me a lot of good memories to cherish. I wasn't a foodie then. My mos was an excellent cook and the maximum exposure I had was Kanna Hotel in Vellore, my college canteen, few sweet shops (dry fruit halwa & coconut mixture) opposite to fort. A veg hotel in Muthukadai & some snack shops in Walaja. Out of all my all time favourite are the gundu gunndu makkan pedas oozing with jeera :) I was a herbivore who eats only eggs (that too outside home)

So during our recent trip to Walaja, I decided to loot the Chettiar Sweet Stall :P Located in the bazar road, few mtrs away from the bus stand (near Pillayar temple) this is 186 year old establishment that sells droolworthy sweets & savouries. Every makkan peda is 100gms and costs about 25 bucks (I think). A twin version of gulab jamun, but stuffed with nuts & dry fruits these beauties will make u fall in love with them. But beware even for a person with sweetest tooth, one full makkan peda may be a bit cloying. On the other hand, it's sin to stop without finishing one :P




Packed about 2kgs of makkan peda and that's when the owner surprised me with a malai badhusha (I remember him saying something like that starting malai) and some onion pakoda. The taste was mindblowing. I almost hate badhushas and this one was absolutely melt in the mouth kind of ones with perfect sweetness. Got 1/4kg of that without second thoughts. I was clicking pics while my orders were getting packed, the samosas soaked in jeera (sugar syrup) looked damn inviting. He gave me a handful of onion pakodas and asked me to have them. While I was puzzled, he kept a khova samosa in a paper plate and handed over it to me <3<3 The regular samosa outer layer, stuffed with sweet paalkova :) Whattay wow it was. Since my dad was already looking at me like "Carukku badhila lorry eduthuttu vandhirukkanum" I refrained myself from packing that too :P





2 kgs of Makkan peda, 1/4 kg of malai badhusha, 1/4 kg of coconut mixture & regular mixture, I paid 610 bucks for all these. There are also places like Kannan Sweets, Chairman Sweets which sells makkan peda, I personally prefer them. Makkan Peda served with a bit of love & care :)

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