Address: 10, Haddows Road, Opposite to Shastri Bhavan, Nungambakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Time: 11 AM – 11 PM
Meals for two: Rs. 600
Facilities: Table booking recommended
Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Nungambakkam, Chennai: Decor
Was a time when most south Indian homes had red oxide, mosaic chip tiles or glossy cemented floors. Chef Regi Mathew’s Kappa Chakka Kandhari — meaning tapioca jack fruit and a typical Kerala chilli — has plain and simple glossy grey cement for its flooring. Solid teak wood tables, chairs and benches form the seating while sofas with backrests line walls for extra comfort. A long, pillar-to-pillar community table with high chairs is for large groups. It is a dark space, lively in its brown-ness. I like the ceiling and the vibe. Even though this is mid-week and it is lunch time, and it’s packed in here.
I really don’t know where to begin… So, I begin at the beginning. Three passionate, dedicated friends became partners. Together, they scoured the length and breadth of Kerala for two intense years, looking for the best food they could find. Whether it was in the toddy shops (65 of them) or in someone’s home, they went and tried it all. When they were ready, the success of a pop-up in Bangalore told them they were ready to set shop.
FYI, each hand-picked ingredient (except tomatoes and onions) comes from Kerala.
Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Nungambakkam, Chennai: Food
Nostalgia on a platter arrives in the Koorkka Ularthiyathu. For the uninitiated, looks are deceptive. These thick but small, curved strips with masala are not potatoes. They are Chinese potatoes and are made Kerala style, using coconut oil, and typical masalas, including pepper. A nightmare to clean, everybody loves eating Koorkka, but dreads making them at home. I like the slightly crisp ones.
Slow cooked for a really long time in an uruli, the meat in the Mutton Coconut Fry is tender to the point of drool-worthiness. I, anyway love food cooked in coconut oil, and this one is double the delight with coconut strips adding a crisp density to the perfect starter.
For my main course, if I can call it that, I must have the legendary Ramassery Idli. Only four families make them and one of the family members is standing right here making those very soft, very different idlis using a netted cloth base in a clay mould, which is then placed in an earthenware pot and steamed. I have two options to dip into. One is the Varthaarchathu Chicken Curry, whose freshness is lived up to in its name. The masalas for this curry are roasted before being ground, and (of course!) have coconut. I can alternate it with some coarse podi made using coriander seeds, lentils, dry red chillies and asafoetida.
In between my meal, I sip on the thin, salty, frothy Morum Vellam. It has, in its whiteness, shallots, bits of kandhari chillies and curry leaves: a combination to cool down the digestive system.
My first dessert is exclusive to this place, the star, in fact, and goes by the name of Kandhari Ice Cream. And has a split personality – the initial sweetness masks a spicy sting while the cool milky-ness soothes the initial shock.
Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Nungambakkam, Chennai: Plus & Minus
The amazing dedication and intense research show in the food here. All masalas are made under the supervision of experts: the mothers in Kerala. It really is a wonder how Chef Regi has brought together so many cooks who are experts in their particular dishes, under one roof.