It is that time of the year when Carnatic music and tasty food go hand-in-hand in Chennai. December Music Season 2018 has started and its a well-known fact that as much as people throng to these sabhas for the concerts, there are a group of people who visit these places for food too.
Just a little info on the event – In general, the prominent sabhas in Chennai have these concerts going on from mid-December to the first week of January. Some of these places are Narada Gana Sabha, The Music Academy, Mylapore Fine Arts Club, Vani Mahal, Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha at Vidhyabharathi Kalyana Mandapam, and so on. In each of these places, a prominent Wedding Caterer sets up a shop serving their choicest dishes. There is breakfast, lunch, evening tiffin and dinner. You do not need tickets to the concerts to dine at these places.
While there have been mixed opinions on food, as a food lover, I only see this as an opportunity to try something different compared to the usually available veg-restaurant options. From my previous experiences in 2016 and 2017, there have been mixed feelings, but I would certainly not let that dampen my enthusiasm to try something different.
I’d recommend you to try the specials that each caterer serves, which is generally not available in restaurants. Asoka Halwa, Kasi Halwa, Khoa Jangiri are not regular sweets you would get in a restaurant. Likewise, Kalyana Elai Saappaadu again is a typical Muhurtha Saappaadu, very unlike the Thali Meals you get in restaurants. These caterers come with years of experience passed on for many generations. It would be nice to taste and experience their touch in a meal. Some of the prominent names are Sri Sasthalaya Catering Service in Narada Gana Sabha, Meenambika Catering in Mylapore Fine Arts Club, Gnanambika Catering in Vani Mahal, Mint Padmanabhan in The Music Academy (update: this year it is Pattappas), Mountbatten Mani in Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha and so on.
Sri Sasthalaya Catering Service, Narada Gana Sabha, TTK Road.
This time, just like the previous years, started the season with a visit to Narada Gana Sabha on TTK Road. Sri Sasthalaya Catering Service have their shop setup here. I have been here last two consecutive years and have liked their food.
I was a solo diner, so a bit of gluttony in an attempt to taste more. 🙂
Ghee Pongal and Vadai, A set of Poori Masala, Asoka Halwa, Khoa Jangiri, and a Filter Coffee to wash it down. Food tasted good. Pongal was oozing ghee, chutneys tasted good, sambhar was yummy. Poori Masala was good too, a bit oily, but manageable. The sweets were different and tasty. Khoa Jangiri was basicallly Khoa topped on a Jangiri sans the orange color, tasted good. Asoka Halwa was soft and super yummy, and Filter Coffee was good. Paid 270 bucks including a 500ml water bottle.
As I mentioned earlier, to appreciate a caterer’s usp, you have to order something different from the regular dishes you get in a restaurant.
This time, I’d like to visit a couple of other places either for the evening snacks or an elaborate lunch. Quite bored of the same breakfast that I have been trying for the last two years! 🙂
While regular restaurants are there all year round, these pop-up places add to the excitement for the normal south-Indian Vegetarian food lover. If Carnatic music or classical dance is not your cup of tea, never mind, there’s always filter coffee waiting for you at every venue 🙂
Gnanambika Catering, Vani Mahal in T. Nagar
Gnanambika Catering, another prominent name in the Wedding Caterers scene in Chennai. As always, they have set up their shop at Vani Mahal for the 2018 Music season. Decided to try tiffin items for dinner, instead of the usual breakfast.
Just checked if they have something different other than the usual dishes. “Kodamolaga Sevai” (Capsicum), came the reply and looked no further, decided to try! The subtle flavor of capsicum was nice, it was different than the usual Lemon, coconut, and Thayir Sevai. The chutney and Sambhar were very yummy. Decided to do an Adai-Avial next. It was also tasty. Personally I prefer a little crispy adai, that’s perhaps just me! This was soft throughout and the avial could have been a bit spicy. It tasted good, but a bit too bland. Badam Halwa was the special sweet of the evening! They had wheat halwa too. Decided to go with the former. It tasted very good, but a tad hard and not gooey. A filter Coffee to end the dinner, it was good, no complaints. They also have some pickles, Kai-Murukku and Sweets you can purchase for takeaway.
They come with a brand name, and hence the pricing. 250 bucks for all I ate. If you split it, it was okay after all! Badam Halwa was 80 bucks, 70 each for Adai avial and Sevai, 30 for Coffee! Fair enough! Something different as compared to the regular restaurants. Service was courteous and pleasant.
Pattappas, The Music Academy, RK Salai.
Pattapas, one of the very old wedding caterers in Chennai! Having heard not so great things about their restaurant in Mylapore, I was a bit skeptical initially, but I was proved wrong!
Normally it is Mint Padmanabhan in Music Academy, but this year Pattappas have set up their shop. I tried their breakfast!
They did have some different items, after looking at the menu, decided to try Javvarisi Pongal (Sabudana), Onion Vada, Rava Idly, Strawberry Pudding, and Filter Coffee.
I liked the Javvarisi Pongal, different and nice. Onion Vada was nothing but Medhu Vadai with onions, tasted good. I mistook this to be some masala vadai types. Rava Idly took a long time to arrive, as it was a new batch of idlies, tasted good. Strawberry Pudding was something I enjoyed, small chunks of Strawberry, in a sweet kesari. You could say it was close to the pineapple Kesari at Sangeetha (not in taste, just texture) just to get an idea of how it was! Filter Coffee was a bit watery, but I am used to drinking it like this, so no complaints.
Overall, tasty breakfast. Its a pay-in-advance system always at Music Academy, buying tokens in advance and keeping track of them may be a challenge for big orders. Paid 205 in all, 60 bucks for Javvarisi Pongal, 25 for onion vadai, 40 for rava idly (2pcs), 50 for Strawberry Pudding and 30 for Filter Coffee! Neat and clean place, courteous service. Have to mention, the portion sizes did seem small as compared to other places.
I did check with them regarding their restaurant in Mylapore. It was initially Pattappa’s Thaligai, not anymore! For over a year, it has been taken over by someone else and is just called Thaligai. They have nothing to do with it now!
Lunch by Gnanambika Catering, at Vani Mahal
From the time music season started, I wanted to try lunch at one of the places. So far, it has been mostly breakfasts and dinner. Made a plan with my friend and headed to Vani Mahal to try the spread that Gnanambika Caterering have to end the last day of the year on a high.
A prominent board for the Special lunch on January 1st caught our attention. It was an elaborate spread and was priced at 350 rupees, a typical Kalyana Muhurtha Saappaadu. We purchased tokens for 2 meals and it was 200 rupees each. Immediately had an idea it was going to be a lot less elaborate than what I saw in that board. Settled down in a pandhi-type of seating. They started to serve. It was a sweet and three dishes to start with – Vendakka Thayir pachchadi, podalanga curry, and Kootu. It barely filled a small plantain leaf. I was hoping it was going to be an elaborate meal. Subsequently Podi and Ghee, Sambhar, Kaara Kozhambu, Rasam and Thayir were served one after another with a couple of appalams too. Food was very tasty, not denying at all! Just didn’t have that ‘special’ feel to it. Perhaps they intentionally wanted to reserve that ‘wow’ factor for January 1st Special Meal! For 200 bucks, I have absolutely no complaints about what I ate.
When it comes to this season, for me its not about comparing whether restaurant is better or these places are better. Just enjoy these pop-up places as long as they last, and for the rest of the year, you will have the Sangeethas and Saravana Bhavans anyway ! 🙂
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