Authentic flavours and forgotten recipes come to the fore at Chennai’s newest Kerala restaurant 

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Ramasseri idli, a tradition being kept alive by a handful of families near Palakkad

Somewhere in Pala in Kerala’s Kottayam district, the first process for a cutlet that will ultimately be served in a Chennai restaurant is diligently carried out almost every other day. That’s the thing with Kappa Chakka Kandhari (KCK) that takes its name from three unique ingredients in Kerala cuisine – tapioca, jackfruit and the kandhari chilli; nothing is left to chance. The brainchild of Regi Mathew (one of the driving forces behind Benjarong and Ente Kerala), Augustine Kurian and John Paul, KCK is built on a simple philosophy – put the spotlight on dishes these promoters enjoyed back in their childhood and make it relevant for a whole new generation. In a few years, simple home-style food will be the ultimate gourmet treat. A couple of decades ago, we craved for pasta, pizza and such; that was exotic back then. Homestyle food and our mother’s and grandmother’s recipes will be the new exotic.

The scrumptious chena (yam) fry

The trio travelled across the different culinary regions of Kerala and collated authentic home-style recipes. Almost all the ingredients are sourced from Kerala to retain the authenticity of the flavours. It’s totally worth the effort. This is the closest you’ll get to sampling home-style food in a Kerala restaurant. We tried quite a few of their small plates – the Kottayam style Idiyirachi (Beef fry) and the scrumptious Chenna (yam) fry stood out.

Don’t go looking for Appams here. KCK has some surprises in terms of staples and accompaniments. The Ramasseri Idli is a unique culinary tradition that is still being kept alive by four families near Palakkad. These flat idlis are cooked in jackfruit leaves in earthen pots. One of these experts has travelled all the way from Ramasseri to coach the KCK staff; you can see him work his magic at the restaurant. These idlis are served with a flavourful Palakkad style sambar or a chicken curry. KCK also puts the focus on another Kerala breakfast staple – Puttu. The Kappa biryani (with tapioca and beef) is an absolute must try.

The flat Ramasseri idli

The menu is voluminous, it’s tough to come to terms with it in one visit. This is certainly a restaurant that’s going to keep eliciting repeat visits. The vibe is relaxed, the interiors are warm and certainly not intimidating while the pricing is extremely competitive. I almost forgot, do try the Kandhari (chilli) ice-cream, it’s just one more surprise in a restaurant that has multiple aces up its sleeve.

Kappa Chakka Kandari is at 10, Haddows Road, Chennai. Phone: (044) 2828-1010. Open from 11 am to 11 pm. Meal for 2: Rs 800 

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