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Indian restaurants

There are good restaurants and there are great restaurants. Padmanabham is a great South Indian specialty restaurant. When it opened at Janpath last month, it quickly lit its path as a favorite and it's really because the painstakingly researched comprehensive menu by Chef Bakshish Dean's dishes from Kerala and Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has wowed people's palates! Walking in, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was packed to capacity on a Monday afternoon, be it students, foreigners or discerning foodies. And, I fell in love with the temple- inspired interiors with its Mandala art work inspired by Madurai’s Meenakshi Temple, Balaji statue, Kalamkari, Chettinad pillars and inspiration from Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. 


Seated at Chef’s table, sipping fiery rasam served with pappadam, I poured over the comprehensive menu packed with regional delicacies and was in awe — the gastronomy is traditional, the waitstaff wear mundus, the food is served in brass utensils and the team aspires to make to make the meal memorable with thoughtful suggestions. Under Chef's guidance, I began luncheon with 'Paniyaram' . The popular snack down South, made in a round mould with fermented rice and lentils, was spiced with onions, green chilli, ginger, curry leaves and coriander — which I gleefully dipped in carrot- tomato- coconut chutney. Delicious! Up next was an idli- vada platter. What's different about this, you may ask? Fresh fluffy texture of the plain idli made it a treat, I say. The sharp flavour of 'Idli Varuval' i.e. idli dusted with gunpowder and the lightweight crisp 'Paruppu Vadai' which didn't leave a trace of oil behind proved Chef's culinary prowess. Simple and flavourful. The kitchen then sent 'Cauliflower 65': cauliflower florets marinated in curd, ginger, garlic and red chilli, batter- fried. I savoured mouthful after mouthful of the crisp treats, dipped in coriander coconut chutney. Quite unlike me!! I don't know how Chef did it but it registered as a completely new vegetarian treat, demonstrating that great rubs and marination can transform a seemingly simple savoury.


Up next was one of my favourites — 'Puttu' served with 'Kadala Curry.' Or, cylindrical steamed rice cakes with shaved coconut, served with Kerala- style chickpea curry. Beyond sumptuous!! After a break with much conversation and camaraderie, I couldn't wait to get to the entrée that hasn't made its way on the menu yet — Bhojanam. Or, poppadum, banana, chips, pickles, red rice from Kerala, four varieties of vegetables, dal, sambar, pullisery, rasam, buttermilk and pineapple halwa served on a banana leaf. Whoa!! There is something about relishing a meal on a banana leaf, with fingers; it felt special. The reason the restaurant hasn't begun serving Bhojanam yet is because Chef wants to ensure it is prepared and served in the authentic style. And, that's perhaps what made the luncheon such a treat — his strict eye for detail.


Wrapping up with filter coffee, I promised myself I'd be back for more of the meticulously- researched specialties. After all, the comprehensive menu is the result of a lot of time spent down South researching and recreating indigenous dishes, which simply aren't served elsewhere. PS Since it is already acclaimed for it's stringent quality, authenticity and flavour… if you forget to make reservations be prepared to wait a little while as the restaurant is packed any day of the week and it's well worth it. Bon Appetite!


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52, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi

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