Phone: 044 30855566
Address: Hilton Chennai, 124/1, J.N. Salai, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Time: 12:30 PM – 3 PM, 6:30 PM – 11 PM
Meals for two: Rs. 2,500
Cuisines: North Indian, Seafood
Facilities: Wheelchair Accessible, Full Bar Available, Indoor Seating, Kid Friendly, Luxury Dining, Smoking Area, Wifi, Table booking recommended, Valet Parking Available, Disabled Friendly, Private Dining Area Available, 4/5 Star, Buffet
Ayna Hilton Chennai, Guindy, Chennai: Decor
Ayna is grand, any day. I cannot help but notice its sophisticated opulence. I feel like I’m eating at a palace of sorts, with its mirrors: tiny, large, faceted, flat, cladding walls, looking down from the ceiling… all of this without blinding bling. Ayna shines like a dull gold mirror, living up to its name.
What I like best of all is that there’s lots of space around tables. I can have a private conversation if I like, without anyone eavesdropping…
Ayna Hilton Chennai, Guindy, Chennai: Food
Welcome drinks are just something to keep your taste buds busy while you contemplate the menu. But this one is different. It keeps me busy guessing how to drink the stuff that comes in a glass of ice… guessing how to get to the Nannari Sherbet served in a beaten copper jug kind of contraption.
Then, I bite into the Namak Pare that arrives on a grand note, with four different dips. One bite, and all the joy of the Nannari sinks. The Namak Para are chewy. Not brittle. Not crisp.
I’m wondering if I’ve signed up for disaster as I look at the Zaminkandi Ki Shammi with suspicion. To ease myself into optimism, I sip on the Anarkali made by Mohana, award-winning bartender, using fresh pomegranate juice and vodka. The pan-fried white yam Shammi crumbles in my fingers and I get a whiff of sandalwood fragrance. There’s a hint of nutmeg, too. It takes a master to blend all these individualistic flavors to bring out their best. All that Namak Pare foreboding is gone. I settle in and enjoy dipping my Shammi into the coarse mint chutney, made of homegrown mint and blended by hand in a mortar and pestle.
Remember: if you order lobster as I did, you have to eat it almost as soon as it gets to your table. I did and I enjoyed the Samundari Jal Pari in all its glory. I could actually taste the ocean in this one, even though it held the subtle smokiness from the tandoor and nutmeg rub. Next, a dip in the red chilli and garlic roasted chutney added new flavors to my lobster lumps.
Totally Kashmiri, the Shatawari Ark is made using asparagus and saffron from the stunning state. As I lift the beaten copper mug for a sip, I get a whiff of that fragrant saffron. My taste buds luxuriate in the cloud-like frothiness of cream, milk, fennel powder, garlic, cardamom and cinnamon. Asparagus plays an underlying supporting role, but makes sure its presence is felt by the fibres from the tips.
On to my main course… I get my fix of the Dal Ayna. I’m told the dal comes from Ambala as I dip my roti into its creamy, dreamy depths. The Dal is made using traditional methods: chefs work for hours on this one, using the same technique as is used to hand-blend Haleem. This information makes the dal even more precious in my mind. Another feather in Ayna’s cap is the Hyderabadi Kacche Gosht Ki Biryani. Now, we all know the way to Chennai’s heart is through biryani, and this one is certainly something that will work. It is based on Mumtaz’s recipe – and the chef claims to have learnt it from original sources. The flavors of the mutton reach every grain of rice. Tender, the meat holds on to the essence of the marinade it’s been in for 24 hours. Making this biryani needs loads of patience, time, effort and restraint. Ultimately, dessert. Badam Aur Gehun Ka Halwa. Lots of ghee goes into the making of this one, and its got soaked nuts, almonds (of course!) and dry fruits. The sweetness comes from jaggery and dates.