Abyssinian, Chennai






Being a travel buff, the
minute I come upon a country I am not quite familiar with, I instantly start
reading up on it. This is exactly what I did when I heard of Abyssinian, the
new Ethiopian restaurant that had opened doors in the city. Incidentally, Ethiopia
was once called Abyssinia and that is how the restaurant earned its name
as well.
Situated in the same
building as two other restaurants- Meena Tai [Maharashtrian restaurant] and
Batlivala & Khanabhoy[the Parsi restaurant], this is the 3rd
restaurant from the brother’s duo Uday Balaji and Vikram Mohan of VM
Hospitality.   While chatting with Uday, I came to know they
have a test kitchen in Coimbatore where all recipes are tried out. Infact, they
set up a farm to grow the Ethiopian grain, Teff but are also exploring other
venues to make this happen. When I enquired about how easy or difficult the
journey of establishing the restaurant has been, Uday shared the issues they
face in bringing in the ingredients, the hassles with customs and other such
concerns, which is why it took as long as it did for the restaurant to launch.
Since India and Ethiopia
have strong connections from the past, especially with reference to Spices, it
comes as no surprise that the cuisines are quite similar as well. The first
thing you notice when you step into
Abyssinian is the space, there are just four
tables, but it adds to the charm. The walls are adorned with traditional
Ethiopian musical instruments and scripts, not to forget the quirky the light
fittings. The seating is low- chairs and stools and the center table is meant
for the platter.  Their menu is quite
extensive; all dishes are given their original name with a description to help
us understand. They also have a glossary, which helps make sense of what we are
served.
J
We were there for
lunch and it so happened all 4 of us were vegetarians. The eating style in
Ethiopia is community style and so you eat from a single plate. This was taking
the phrase “a family that eats together stays together” to a whole another
level.
Our meal began with Thej,
the official drink of this land. Made with nothing but honey, sugar and water,
it is allowed to ferment a bit before being served. It was tad pungent but
quite nice, and not too sweet.  Next up
was a plate with Mandasi [resembles our bonda] but with strong ajwain &
garlic flavours and it was served with Abe [coriander green chilli dip].
While we were
busy polishing these off, we were served the sou – ‘Adengare Shorba’ – kidney
beans that had been cooked with onion and tomato. It was light and simple. 
The staple from
this region is Injera- the traditional bread of sorts that is eaten by all.
There is no rice in this region [hallelujah, my kinda place].. Injera is made
with a grain called Teffa [ which the restaurant is trying to source, but until
then Injera is made using Ragi and rice- two variations] . if I were to explain
it to you, it is similar to our dosa except it feels steamed.
The plate
arrived at our table and there were two big pieces of Injera at the bottom and
small rolls of Injera for each of us. And then came the side dishes, I lost
count after 4.. Was happy to note they had quite a range of vegetarian options.
We were served
Dinch Wot-
curried potato simmered with berbere, garlic and spices – this was a big hit,
loved the flavours.
Yedinich Alicha
– a stew of potatoes and carrots with onions,fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric.
It was semi dry and simple in terms of flavours.
Yatakilt Wot- curried
vegetable stew of cauliflower, potatoes, carrot, cabbage, beans with onions and
berebere- loved this one as well. 
Yeduba Wot –
curried pumpkin simmered with red onions, berebere, garlic and spices – Since I
love yellow pumpkin, I enjoyed this one as well.
Indubay Tibs –
mushroom sauteed with onions, chilli peppers, tomato and rosemary. Reminded me
of the sauté I do at home. 
 Fir Fir – pieces of injera tossed with onions,
garlic, berebere paste and Ethiopian Spiced butter- wasn’t a big fan of this,
but it kinda resembles the kothu parotta.- this is typically served at
Breakfast.
Shiro – powdered
chickpeas stew flavored with onions, garlic and peppers- it was mushy and runny
like our daal
Azifa – guessing
I got the name right- It was a daal of sorts that had brown lentils that had
been cooked down with spices and was quite delicious.
Apart from the
main dishes, we had three sides that added a nice touch to the side dishes.
Ayib – plain crumbled
cottage cheese that added creaminess to dishes. 
Mitmita  – cottage cheese with quit a hit of heat [with
a local birds eye chilli, cardomon seeds and salt]
Awaze- This was
a sauce made with Berebere and olive oil. It was a hot sauce that you add to
increase the heat factor in any of the dishes
Phew, now those
names are quite the challenge to remember, right?! That is the joy of trying
something new and out of your comfort zone.
We weren’t done
yet, now came the trio of desserts 
Kita- Fried
Ethiopian Flat bread with honey- this was a big dry for my liking.
Nech Azmud cake-
Soft olive oil cakes made with ajwain and served with liberal amounts of honey.
It contains egg [quite strong flavour as well] – one of those desserts that you
eat a few bites and are done.
Sweet Sambussa-
the winner among the desserts- Friend flat bread parcels of sweetened carrots,
dates and nuts served with honey – Loved this one…
And to bring the meal to
the close came the infamous Ethiopian Coffee that was served with a bowl of
salted popcorn. Yep, you read it right. That is how Ethiopians wind up their
meal. The coffee is served black into small cups, and you can either have it as
it is or add some spiced butter and salt to enhance the taste. I tried both and
loved them equally. The butter and salt adds a bit of warmth and cuts the
bitterness. 
Oh what a fabulous
afternoon it had been. An experience like no other I can say with confidence. I
had shared a few pictures during the lunch and was amazed to see that a few
friends have tried Ethiopian food across the world and were quite excited we
had one option in Chennai and then there were those who wanted to be taken here
for a treat…
J
One other thing I must tell
you is they are planning on introducing an afternoon coffee session where you
could be privy to tales about their coffee brewing tradition or just some
history about the place and people. Keep a look out for these events.
Service:
We were very impressed with the level of knowledge possessed by Eswar, the staff who took care of us through the meal. it apparently took him 3 months to master the names of dishes but he was phenomenal when it came to answering our questions and explaining the dishes. 

Price:
If you were to go for the Messob, which is this community style eating and are a group of 4 vegetarians, it would cost you Rs3399 . The restaurant also has tasting plates, curated with a combination of dishes. 

Address 
40, Maharaja
Surya Road, Venus Colony, Alwarpet, Chennai- 18
[Take right at
the end of Kasturi Rangan Road, drive past Tangerine and you will spot this on
the right]

Dial 044 42082809 for
reservations. 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AbyssinianRestaurant/

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit  🙂

Biryani fest at Spice Haat in Hyatt Regency, Chennai till 10th Dec

Biryani,
a dish that is much sought after by many and one that most of us vegetarians
only dream about [ cos there is no such thing as Vegetarian Biryani if you were
to dig into the history] Here is what I found when I went snooping on the
history of Biryani..
Biryani is derived from the Persian word ‘Birian’.  In Farsi,
Birian means ‘Fried before Cooking’. 

In the olden days,
rice was fried (without washing) in Ghee (Clarified butter) which in turn gave
the rice a nutty flavor and burnt the outside starch layer gelatinizing it.
Once this process is complete, it is boiled in water with spices till half
cooked.
Typically Biryani
is made with Goat meat, which is marinated in a whole bunch of spices with
yoghurt as well. And then the meat is cooked till it falls off the bone. And
finally, in an earthen pot [Handi], the rice and meat are layered, few layers
of condiments are added- spices, rose water, ghee and so on. It is then sealed
and sat on Coal fire to cook. The process has evolved with time, with influences
from various regions adding a twist to the flavours and each region today seems
to have their own special kind of Biryani as well. One other point I was told
was that back in the days long-grain brown rice was used in North India; while
the short grain Zeeraga Samba rice was used in South India. [Another article I
read on the net about Biryani]
Coming back to
this evening, we were at Spice Haat [Hyatt Regency Chennai] who have come up
with a Biryani Carnival of sorts. One that features 5 different kinds of non
veg biryani, one veg biryani/pulao and then there is the plain Rice cooked with
spices and with fried onions on it as well.  There are quite a few side dishes for the Biryani-
both in veg and non veg section, ranging from the Mirchi Ka salan to Egg curry
to Kaju mutter paneer, not to forget the array of raitas. 
Being a
vegetarian, I made a beeline for the veg dishes and enjoyed them all, including
the Rice, it had mild spices and was well cooked, while the rice had a bite to
it [I hate mushy rice]. It was fascinating watching the non veg part of the
group taste the rice, the meat and share their opinions, As with any dish,
biryani too comes with a range of flavours, and how cooking process, the spices
used makes a world of difference in the non veg arena.
To
wind up the meal, you should check out their dessert counter, they have Kala
jamun, tiramisu, other pastries and elaneer payasam as well [which I felt was
way too watery and bland, missing the beautiful elaneer flavours]. I did have a
south indian filter kaapi before calling it a night.
J
The
Biryani Carnival is on till 10th December at Spice Haat and is open only for
dinner [6.30pm-10.30pm]. Every day the biryanis on the buffet change with one
special biryani as well.
Two
options are available during this period-
     a)   
Buffet priced at Rs1550/- [excl tax] where you get to
dig into the various kinds of biryanis apart from other dishes available on the
buffet or
     b)   
A la carte where you pay for Rs999/- [excl tax] to try
one biryani but this comes with two Beers. 
Do
call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.
Spice Haat
Hyatt
Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai,

Teynampet, Chennai.

Koramangala Social, bangalore

It was a place like no other I have been to. I rode the elevator to the 3rd floor, and entered the place and was instantly greeted by nothing but plush greenery and plenty of sunlight streaming in through the glass panel windows above. It was such a breath of fresh air, especially for someone who has been to pubs across the country where most of them are dark and dingy. Infact, you don’t know where you are stepping in most places.
I found my friend seated in a table with a mix of chairs, I chose the sofa and it was damn comfortable. I got a view of the place and the one thing that hit me was the wide open spaces, the funky kitsch furniture, the overhead hanging plug points [you can pull em down if you wish to charge any device] and ofcourse the cool gear worn by the staff, very military style. 

There was a small aluminium bucket of sorts on the table that held the different menus [ they resemble the newspaper], a tissue roll with funky quirky words on it and cutlery alongside the same. I was in love with the place. Not to forget the girls whose company I always enjoy. We must have spent about 4 hrs there, and could have gone on for few more.. When I walked in, friend was drinking chai, there was a tall glass with tea, a small cutting glass with milk that said “cutting” [in hindi]. I instantly ordered one for myself. Similarly, I noticed that most glasses had a hindi word on them [paani=water, and so on]
Now coming to the food and drinks, I loved all that we ordered. I enjoyed my tall glass of Long Island Iced tea [ 500ml that came in a tall narrow glass with a long straw- it was made well] .. As for the food, the presentation is a big part of the experience- the plates, bowls they were served in and the flavours as well [except for the Laksa which I felt was different from what we expected and was tad spicy as well] 
We ordered pretty much everything on the menu, starters to desserts and were happy campers at the end of the meal. We tried the Khao Suey  [which was good,but the sauce felt a lot like what was served in the Laksa], the Paneer in a box [ it was served in a Chinese box with chopsticks], the Bhel puri and ofcourse the trio of desserts – Ramesh Suresh [ deep fried 5 Star chocolate served with vanilla ice cream in a metal box], the date sticky toffee pudding and chocolate explosion of sorts [ forgot the name, it was just an overdose of chocolate]
The damage [the box that contained the bill had this word printed on it..lol] was around 3k, but well worth the price…  The place has options for working, bring your laptop sit and work away; plenty of greenery which adds to the whole charm [apparently the other Social outlets are different and this is the largest of them all- 13000 sq ft]. Spotted quite a few groups with kids and babies as well. 

Address:
118, Koramangala Industrial Area, Koramangala 7th Block,
Bangalore
Ph- 080 40515253