2019 has been a year of the new restaurants in Chennai. While every year does see a few nice openings, this year has been one that churned out quite a few high quality restaurants, from an entire new category of restaurants, to fresh catch to the table lobsters, the year has been kind to foodies. While new restaurants did take the spotlight, some older restaurants have made a few huge strides with their offerings. So, in no particular order, these are five restaurants to look out for in 2020.
Madras Kitchen Company
The test phase is over, the menu is ready, a new chef is in and this new space is now open. I call this a space, because this isn’t your typical restaurant. This is like a standalone coffee shop, where you can order a couple of coffees, plug your laptop in and work for hours, except that this is in a 5 star hotel. And unlike those coffee shops, you get a full menu, complete with dishes that can make fine restaurants go weak on the knees. Excellent butter chicken masala, shares space with very local dishes like Masala Bovonto and Amul Cheese toast. This is neither a coffee shop nor a restaurant, but and entirely different category altogether and is Chennai’s most exciting new food outlet.
Converting old houses to restaurants is not new and Chennai has a fair share of those, so in theory, there should be nothing exciting about FIKA. However, the renovation is so good that it is a topic in itself and the kitchen helmed by the expat chef Willy is well thought out, comforting with familiarity and simply well done without gimmicks. Simple dishes like chicken tenders and pesto pastas are so well made that it is easy to forget the reasonable prices that you’re paying for these.
Not just new restaurants, some restaurants that have been around for a while are also getting exciting. Soy Soi is one such example. An Asian street food themed restaurant that continues to be packed on most days, Soy Soi does some fabulous food festivals. The recently concluded Dim Sum festival with more than 45 types of dimsums, some of which are available in a platter even after the festival has ended, was so well received that the event was extended twice! This is the place for satays, baos and anything Asian.
This has been around for nearly three years, but it only seems to grow from strength to strength. With a three pronged team, one an operations expert and the other a passionate foodie team up with the brilliance of a seasoned pro chef like Anand, almost every dish stands out. Their pink beef burgers, with a patty inside and an extra patty outside, a coffee mutton gravy and the Chilli Chicken Salad, all come with slight twists to the classics, but without any drama. The festival menus are rather ridiculously low priced and are a killer both in terms of taste and value.
This rather interesting tiny 10-seater space in the middle or a food hub like KNK road sprang a surprise with its fantastic kebabs. While the 1m meter long kebabs became an Instagram thing quickly, the rest of the food is hardly a pushover. Open till about 2 am with a range of Turkish inspired and Indian kebabs this is now my go-to place for kebabs. Don’t miss their simple Adana Kebab or Shish Kebabs. Juicy enough that the pita bread they serve with it is more than enough to savour it.
Will all these places keep up the good start or the momentum they’ve built so far or will they fizzle out? Only time will tell. Or may 2020 will tell!