" The average meal for two would cost around Rs.1,000 and the dishes are available for lunch and dinner."
By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, Dec 7 - Ahoy! It's again 'Chaakara' time at fine-dining restaurant Ente Keralam.

Seafood loving sharks on land can dive into Ente Keralam outlets at MRC Nagar, Poes Garden and Anna Nagar here and gobble up different kinds of delicacies made out of bounties from the sea till Dec 14.

'Chaakara' refers to the marine phenomenon during the monsoon when a large number of fish gather as a result of the formation of mudbanks. In India, this phenomenon happens only along the Kerala coast.

With the scent of various seafood delicacies getting activated in the mind, one landed up at the Ente Keralam in the upmarket MRC Nagar located very near the beach.

Once comfortably seated, a lungi-clad waiter with a panama hat served two varieties of Nendran banana chips - one coated with jaggery and ginger and the other plain and salted - both Kerala's trade mark items - fried in coconut oil.

As the chips get swallowed, P.Muthukumaran, assistant manager at the outlet, suggested njandu rasam - crab meat cooked in lentil stock and spices and njandu soup - crab meat cooked with spices and finished with coconut milk.

Taken by surprise at the special request of making nannari sherbet with tender coconut water instead of normal water, Muthukumaran nevertheless agreed to serve this.

The rasam was spicy, giving out a stringing crab flavour. The soup was mild and one has to add pepper to spice it up a bit.

By this time taster's portions of hot and spicy reddish nethili/anchovies and ayala (mackerel) fry arrived at the table.

Soon after the two went down the gullet a banana leaf package that Muthukumaran announced as the neimeen (seer fish) pollichathu arrived at the table.

Fish pollichathu is a style of cooking in which the fish and the masala are packed inside the banana leaf and cooked.

When one opens the package, the masala and the leaf will give out a smell that would be divine for foodies.

The hot and spicy boneless seer fish dish too met the same fate like the other dishes. One can also have the popular karimeen (peal spot) or scampi pollichathu.

According to Muthukumaran, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans frequent the outlet.

The seafood loving Japanese would want the fish dishes to be less spicy, he said.

Ente Keralam brand chef Jaya Prasad said Oriental Cuisines, the company that owns the outlets, is expanding the chain but through a smaller format called Ente Keralam Express.

The plan is to open such outlets at information technology (IT) parks here. Already one outlet has been opened in an IT park as a part of the food court, Prasad said.

In the meantime, njandu chikkiyathu (crab meat scrambled with eggs and spices), jumbo prawn tawa roasted and the lobster arrived at the table, but not necessarily in the same order.

The aroma of the crab was stronger than that of the scrambled egg while the dish was spicy and tasty, making it difficult to focus on the conversation!

Agreeing that the realisation per bill will be lower at the Ente Keralam Express outlets as compared to the regular outlet, Prasad said: In the regular restaurant the portion size will be larger, sufficient for two persons. But at the smaller format outlets, the portion size will be sufficient only for a single person.

The smaller format is one way of expanding as the regular format involves higher investment, Prasad said.

For those who love their prawn hot and spicy, the jumbo prawn roasted should not be missed.

The fresh water prawn is cut into two and chilli paste is applied on it. Without any oil, the prawn meat is slightly roasted, Prasad said.

Prasad then suggested sulaimani tea - without milk made with 13 ingredients/spices including the tea. It helpd in easing the heavy feeling in the stomach.

The tea also made some space for the main course - thenga varutharacha modha (sea bral fish cooked in roasted ground coconut masala) and vatta manga curry (trevally fish cooked in ground coconut paste with raw mango).

These two go well with appam or idiappam.

The average meal for two would cost around Rs.1,000 and the dishes are available for lunch and dinner.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])


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