Affordable Live Lobsters at Sea Salt, Chennai

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I have keep lamenting about this. For a coastal city, especially one that is home to the second longest beach in the world, Chennai is woefully short of fantastic seafood restaurants. Yes, you could get the odd fried fish on one of the beaches, there is Marina that has some live seafood with more Chinese and Conti preps and for something rustic, you drive an hour south to Mahabalipuram, but with the beach being out of bounds for restaurants, yes, we are short. And save for those odd beach shacks, nothing really captures the flavours of the city either.











Sea Salt brings together Sandesh, a serial restauranteur and Harish Rao, a fantastic South Indian chef for their first collaboration. And instead of making it like a run-of-the-mill grilled seafood restaurant, they've made significant strides. Probably for the first time, live lobsters are on the menu. While live crabs have been around for a while, live lobsters, not so much. And the cuisine is limited to the coastal flavours of Tamil Nadu and Andhra/Telangana. Guess what dominates the menu? Recipes from the fisherfolk, so this is local food right down to the roots being served.

I been here twice since they've opened. First time was the real deal as lobsters were available. We took their signature recipe, the Uthukuli Butter Lobster. Uthukuli is a small place in Tamil Nadu known for its butter and is colloquially called the Uthukuli Vennai. While butter garlic seafood is nothing new, the Uthukuli Butter and Garlic lobsters are an elevated version of the classic. On our second visit though, the lobsters were long gone and sold out, so we picked a large grey snapper fish and got it done three ways.

Oh man. The Uthukuli butter was just as good on the fish as it was on the lobster. But it seemed that the grey snapper fish was born for a dish aptly called the Madras Fish Gravy. Now the three of us were salivating long after we were done. A runny soup like tangy gravy was perfect for all of the staples, the appam, the parota and the thatu idly.

Both times we had the karuvapillai prawns, 🍤 a simple but excellent starter and both times we had their crab pepper masala. On our first visit we also had a masala fried fish that stood no chance with the lobster and the prawns around, while the fried crunchy squids were a nice time pass before our mains came along. And as a lovely finishing touch they serve the Kadala Mittai from Kovilpatti. The real one, so it doesn't stick. And it is addictive, something you warned about with a bold instruction on the jar.

Now the interesting part. They serve small crabs and small lobsters, so our crab was priced at Rs. 397. Under 400 bucks for a superb live crab. And the 220g lobster was priced at Rs. 1100. Now in a city that is used to paying upwards of 2k for lobsters and live crabs and always needing company for finish the large crabs, Sea Salt is a welcome change.

If sea salt continues to keep up the freshness and quality, there is no reason why it cannot be the next Gajalee or Trishna or Mahesh Lunch Home. All three are in Mumbai and none in Chennai to speak of. Yet.

Sea Salt is in Wallace Garden above Sandy's.

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Grub Waz: Affordable Live Lobsters at Sea Salt, Chennai
Affordable Live Lobsters at Sea Salt, Chennai
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