Restaurant Reviews

An Amazing Tour of South Indian Food in Chennai

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I had such a great stay at the Park Hyatt Chennai that it’s hard to choose a favorite moment, but my food tour with the Arun, the Assistant Manager definitely vies for best experience.

I presented myself in the lobby at the agreed upon time and the hotel car whisked us away to begin eating. Arun was asking me about my preferences and I mentioned that I was willing to try almost anything, had a decent spice tolerance, and preferred to eat local foods.

And thus the fun and the gluttony started! We pulled up to Saravanaa Bhavan, a popular vegetarian chain restaurant where Arun introduced me to the many South Indian “snacks.”

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant dosa with sauces

Dosa was the first thing I tried and I immediately became a big fan. It’s a giant crepe/pancake made from rice flour and black lentils and served with various sauces. Apparently many Chennai households keep a pitcher of batter in the fridge and any guests are immediately offered this snack (like sweet tea in the South).

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant dosa snack

Then followed a bunch of different pancakes and other savory breads that were made out of similar batters (and tasted pretty similar), so many that I stopped being able to keep track of what each was called.

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant snack (5)

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant snack (4)

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant snack (3)

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant snack (2)

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant snack

Fortunately we were in between traditional meal times so there wasn’t a big audience to see the only American diner getting her first taste of all the breads and sauces. Those that were there were obviously amused by table full of dishes and only two people, which amused us.

saravana bhavan chennai restaurant Keri

The best part — the prices! Most of these ranged from $1-$2.

Having tried ALL THE SNACKS on the menu, we headed to the next place. Thalappakatti was a fancier restaurant known for its biriyani and beef.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai historical pictures

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai placement menu

We were on the early side for dinner, so there was a minimal audience as Arun tested my spice tolerance. I’m proud to say he was the one getting a little teary-eyed over his soup.

I started with a (pleasantly) spicy mutton leg soup.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai soup

Spicy barbequed fish served on a banana leaf. While at the first restaurant we had talked South Indian food, at this restaurant we discussed Hyatt and how to make customers feel more welcome and rewarded.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai bbq fish

This is one of the many things that made my stay at the Park Hyatt Chennai — he and the rest of his staff truly care about the people staying with them and wanted my opinion on how Hyatt can provide better benefits to elites.

But back to the food. And he did a good job ordering for me, cause next up was the roast chicken leg, which was one of my favorites.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai roast chicken leg

Mutton biriyani which smelled so good I forgot to take pictures before I dug into it 🙂

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai keri biriyani

I was full to bursting at this point but some kind of dessert was a must, so I tried the gulab jumun, balls made of curdled milk, soaked in a sweet rosewater syrup.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai gulab jumun

And then there was the candy coated fennel seeds to help with digestion.

Thalappakatti restaurant chennai candy fennel seeds

I was appalled by how much food was left over so much appreciated Arun’s willingness to see that it was given to folks who could use it.

And I thought we were done, but not yet! After driving around Chennai’s brightly colored and hectic downtown area we stopped at one more snack shops: Hot Chips.

hot chips chennai pani poori

hot chips chennai snacks

They serve pani poori with sweet and spicy sauces and Arun and fellow patrons appreciated seeing if I could stand the spicy version.

hot chips chennai keri spicy pani poori

I did! And I traced my way through the maze on our paper placemats first.

hot chips chennai keri mid bite pani poori

I was uncomfortably full but quite happy. And when the friends I was staying with at my next stop in India saw my Facebook photos they were a little disappointed that I had apparently tried everything already 🙂

When I was checking out of the hotel Arun presented me with a box full of traditional Indian sweets to share with my friends and a beautiful dancing figurine to keep for myself. Would that all my tours were this amazing!

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