Located on the 3rd floor of Ambience mall, Vasant Kunj, Peninsular kitchen is a one stop restaurant for coastal cuisine. The interior of the restaurant obviously maintains the South Indian coastal theme with small nuances like a boat shaped table or anchors instead of regular holders for colorful storage drawers, huge boat shaped decor on the wall where each element adds to the overall aesthetic. Overall you are really brought back to the peacefulness of the coastal areas with the use of shades of blue and brown.
They have an interesting 4 course menu planned out that really gives you a glimpse of what this restaurant is all about. The menu boasts of dishes from all stated across the Southern part of India
For many people across north India we are quite ignorant of the dishes across south India. Our basic response when someone suggests a South Indian meal is to think of dosa, idli and vada. Our minds and taste buds are quite stunted in this regard. Makes me think of the bollywood film 2 states where major differences between the two families involved is essentially due to their ignorance for each other’s culture. 😛 There is actually so much more that constitutes their daily diets and it is indeed a pleasure to try some of it. I was lucky to have a friend from Tamil Nadu accompanying me for the meal. He had a fair knowledge of the menu and the cuisine. He helped provide insightful details for many dishes that made my overall experience even more delightful. By giving us little tit bits like difference of cuisine between various states of South India and how one can recognize which state a particular preparation would belong to made it a fun meal for us as we learned some great things on the go.
Get Set Gobble:
~ Amuse bouche – We were started off with some rasam to begin our meal. This was a very interesting flavour combination. They had 4 chutneys for us to try, coconut chutney, mint chutney, tomato chutney and mustard chutney. Having tried the former 3 many times the latter was something new for me and turned out to be my favourite. This was served with a bowlful of fried appalams.
~ Life at the bar – I first tried their Khattalicious which was a mix of kala khatta and dark rum served in a long glass with loads of crushed ice. Takes you back to your street side gola eating days! Other drink was the Ambitini which was a mix of aam panna and vodka. This was served in a martini glass. Both of them had interesting flavours and a great punch of alcohol in them. MUST TRY. The mocktail I loved was the Guava Burst that was served with some chilli salt on the rim. Absolutely try this if you are a guava lover. The other mocktail was Coconut mojito; though this sounded very interesting to try I did not like the flavour combination.
~ Course 1 – We were served their Peninsular Seafood Rasam. The seafood consisting of cooked prawns and fish came in a bowl with a jug of hot broth. The idea is to pour the broth in and allow the heat to further cook the seafood. It was a new dish for me. The vegetarian soup was the Punar Puli Saaru which is essentially a rasam of sundried kokam fruit. This is renowned for its ayurvedic properties. No sooner had i heard this that i gulped it down 😛 Well it was quite light to sip and good to taste too, so that certainly helped!
~ Course 2 came in soon after. We started off with the Tossed mini idlis that had a beautiful spice coating on them. These steamed delicacies was served with gunpowder (this is a traditional spice mix that is often found at South Indian restaurants. The way to eat is to mix some ghee into it to make a paste. This really helps elevate the flavour of the dish). MUST ORDER. Next came the Kerela stir fried prawns that had a dark fried onion masala topped on some delicious prawns. This is a dry style of preparing the prawns. As we devoured these, more good things followed. MUST TRY.
Next was the Khatti Machli that was prepared Andhra style. The fish was soft and flaky. This was ‘khatti’ with the help of tamarind but was balanced well as it wasn’t too sour. MUST TRY. Another crowd favourite was the Ghongura chicken fry. Not only was the boneless chicken absolutely tender but the Ghongura masala (made from sorrel leaves popular in Andhra Pradesh) seemed to have enveloped these pieces so well that is was a burst of flavour in your mouth. If you like tangy and spicy food then you will surely love ghongura and all the dishes prepared with it. No one could keep away from it and we ended up eating this again and again as the dish kept making its way back to the table on public demand!! MUST ORDER
We then tried the Maddur vadai which were deep fried cutlets that had some rice flour, peanuts, onions and coconut as a few of the ingredients in them. The chef later on told us that it derives its name from the city of Maddur, Karnataka where these were originally prepared. They are soft and buttery in the center. The trick to eating these is to eat them up instantly with some coconut chutney as if you let them get cold, they start to become hard and dry on the inside. Lastly we had the Butter pepper garlic mushrooms. Though I am not a big mushroom fan myself I happened to really like this dish. When served it had a beautiful aroma of garlic that instantly permeated the air and lead us to the dish. DO TRY. Their appetizers definitely had some good bang of flavours and helped you understand that playing around with spices was definitely their strong suit. I was pleased that none of their dish was either too spicy not too bland. Great balance of flavours.
~ Course 3 – Having done a good job devouring their second course we made our way to the next one. Bowls of various curries were served in the table. My favourite would have to be the Chicken chettinad. I have always been a fan of this preparation and the restaurant definitely helped me maintain that stance. The boneless meat was cooked to tender perfection. The gravy was semi thick and had a good balance of spices. I found this to be lip smacking and frankly ate most of my paranthas with it mopping up as much gravy in each bite as possible! MUST ORDER. We also had the Mutton stew. This had super tender mutton pieces in a creamy coconut gravy. Also tried their Kerela fish curry which had an amazing gravy as well that was tomato and coconut milk based. My friend did point out that the dish was quite authentic in its preparation.
I liked the diversity of culture preset on the table through all the variation of gravies across South India we could see in front of us. What really helped it along were the breads accompanied with it. My favourite has always been the malabar parantha. It was soft and had these beautiful layers that best complemented the curries. MUST ORDER. They also had appams which were quite nice. DO TRY. Though I have been trying the neer dosa at many South Indian restaurants, they have never really suited my palette. They also had servings of steam and red rice (which I was told is a big preference among South Indians for mixing into their curries).
On the vegetarian side of the table they had a Vegetable Korma (cooked with spices and coconut paste), Vegetable stew (that was similar to the mutton stew we were eating) and Beans Porial (Stir fried preparation of green beans with shredded coconut and mustard seeds tadka on top).
~ Course 4 – Having made a successful journey across the meal, we finally moved to the last course. We got to try the Aravana payasam (this was made of jaggery and rice) and the Pineapple halwa (had a subtle pineapple flavour made with coconut milk and topped with chopped dry fruits). Overall we were so full from the previous courses that this last one seemed more like a formality to get some sweet flavours on our tongue while our tummies could not take in more food any further.
Coastal cuisine. Spicy treats. Good service. One stop dining experience for unique dishes from all Southern Indian states.