We arrived at Batlivala and Khanabhoy in Alwarpet late one afternoon. We were handed a beautifully designed aqua coloured menu. We smiled. We were going to love this place.
Uday Balaji wears many hats. Hailing from Coimbatore, he’s an engineer, food enthusiast – who eats too little, great boss and cuisine expert. And when he studies food, he really studies it. He tells food like a story and makes it sound almost dramatic. We sat listening to his stories about Ethiopian food, Parsi traditions, the truth about Maharashtrian food and a whole lot more- when suddenly we remembered..um, the food. And when someone can make you forget lunch, you know they’ve got some magic going for them.
Batlivala and Khanabhoy, for the unassuming Chennai-ite, is a Parsi specialty restaurant. As Uday puts it, B and K is more about destination cuisine. It isn’t about grab and go, nor is it about all under one roof. It’s about understanding the nuances of Parsi cuisine over a plate of some of the finest food from age old recipes.
We couldn’t tell what aromas they were, but they took us home. Half a dozen Russian Chicken Pattices came our way with some refreshing salad. And they were sinfully creamy, they were. It’s the kind of food you want to sit there and love for a while. We sipped on our Lime Sherbets infused with beautifully fresh cardamom and waited to see what else was in store for us.
Ps. Long list to follow. I was reminded of a conveyor belt. Things wouldn’t stop rolling out of that happy kitchen.
Next came Mamaiji- well, at least her famous Prawn Kebabs. And when you think you’ve tried many kebabs and that makes you well, the expert-these come in and change the game. They were little balls of minced prawns in masala rolled in rava and served with a tangy mint chutney. We had them by the dozen.
Along came Kheema Pav. Freshly buttered pav served with an inviting Kheema-didn’t last very long. At this juncture I will move away from the food for just a minute to talk about the absolutely adorable waiters. They’re in white shirts with black suspenders wearing cute little spectacles and just about the jolliest bunch you’d meet. Take your face out of that Kheema and meet them, will you?
I’ll take a deep breath and introduce Gravy cutlets. Hah. I know what your non-Parsi brain is thinking. Cutlets, sheesh! But while that may be so for the average cutlet, you’re sadly misinformed. Huge juicy mutton cutlets, spiced and dunked in tangy tomato gravy. Amen.
We were a little apprehensive when Uday suggested the Sali per Eedu Cupcakes– Baked Egg Cupcakes stuffed with Kheema. If you’re like me you’re also wondering what business Kheema has with a cupcake. But imagine this. Someone took out flour and cream from your cupcake (Calm down) and threw in a moist egg layer and wrapped some of that spicy kheema in it. Not only did they do that but they threw on some Sali, fried potato sticks. If you’re still not thinking that kheema, potato and egg can work wonders, you haven’t met Batlivala or Khanabhoy.
To snack on between the starters and the main course, Batlivala brings out some home style Akoori. This is a mix of hard boiled eggs, diced in a nutty sauce. The combination worked so well as a pre-main-course. You should give it a shot. Maybe a spoon or two while you’re looking at the menu.
Just when you’re dreaming about that cupcake and smelling your Kheema hands, Uday brings out the big guns. This dish had me thinking, questioning actually, why I’ve lived my life eating Dal without Mutton. Take it from a chicken-itarian, I wouldn’t go out and order lamb unless thrust into my hands. But this Dhansak will have you cheating on chicken. (No!)
Served with caramelized brown rice and kachuber, you can’t just get through this dish without happy tears.
We had to have pre-dessert, didn’t we?
Red Prawn curry with steamed rice came by. Fresh prawns in a tomato based gravy will take you somehow to your Patti’s kitchen. No, not your Parsi Patti. Your South Indian one.
Happy endings come in small dessert bowls. Ravo, which is a creamy kheer, is what dreams are made of. Lagan nu Custard is a rich pudding topped with fried nuts- served at Parsi weddings. And Kopra Pak Shot is coconut soaked in rose water and topped with nutmeg. I’m a coconut lover, so for me this is happiness in a glass. But for you non-nutters, go for the Ravo.
If it wasn’t evident, we enjoyed our Parsi experience. Batlivala and Khanabhoy is opening its doors pretty soon and we suggest you get through them.