The New Player in Town
Chennai is probably not the first place that springs to mind when you think of progressive modern cuisine, which is probably why its newest restaurant Avartana has got everyone talking. Located inside the luxurious and super-grand ITC Grand Chola, Avartana is the realised dream of Executive Chef Ajit Bangera, after more than two years in the making. Chef Ajit, supported by Harish Rao, both frequented our table to personally explain the food and their story.
Traditional Cuisine Gets a Modern Twist
I had the privilege of being one of the first to try Avartana in its first week of opening. The concept is South Indian food served European style, taking inspiration from the cooking and presentation techniques from top restaurants in London and New York. It’s an interesting way to introduce South Indian cuisine to the many expats that pass through the city and hotel, as well as showcase European-style cooking to locals.
Avartana is Fine Dining
Having already eaten my way through the ITC Grand Chola’s nine other restaurants, first impressions of Avartana put it in a class of its own. The lighting and decor created an atmosphere of elegance and opulence, fitting for a place which aims to become the best restaurant in Chennai. It was also slightly smaller, while still spacious, contributing to the feel of exclusivity. Staff were extremely attentive, service impeccable.
Converting Classic to Contempory
The taster-style menu and presentation flair will no doubt be a hit with expats, however, I can understand the challenges Chef Ajit faces in convincing, or rather converting, South Indians to his concept. It’s the same story everywhere, as I’m reminded of the Michelin-starred Italian Chef Marco Stabile, whose unique style of deconstructed Tuscan culinary classics also took its time to win over the hearts of his clientele, who initially resisted his contemporary cooking.
The First of its Kind
Chef Ajit told us proudly how he is the first to experiment with Southern Indian flavours, expressing them in such a progressive way, underpinned by his love and belief in the local cuisine. The meals were without a doubt delicious, fresh and modern, the presentation artistic and often surprising. For example, the tomato rasam, a typical South Indian soup, was poured from a hot teapot into a coffee filter, where it infused with fresh herbs before being poured into a martini glass for sipping.
Tasting Menu Mosaics
There are four different vegetarian and non-vegetarian set menus to choose from, starting with their six course Maya to their twelve course Tara. We went for the two menus in the middle, Bela and Anika. I loved every course of the Bela menu. I really enjoyed the lamb brain fritters and watching the hesitation among my Greek friends to eat it, the spicy pork dumplings, pan fried cod, succulent lamb masala chops and sal leaf wrapped chicken rice with aubergine pachadi, which was truly excellent.