The air at Nadodi is cool and casual. The blue hour beams soft light into the restaurant that is decked in warm neutral hues – suggesting a warm welcome woven with tunes of contemporary jazz. The calm ruffles as Chef de Cuisine Sricharan Venkatesh walks out to greet us on our first visit to Nadodi.
“The new menu travels across the southern region of India, from Kerala to Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka. The southern flavours are a balance of sweet, spicy, tangy and creamy. Most of the dishes originate from vegetarian recipes but we add our own spin to it here at Nadodi,” introduces Chef Sri.
As ready as we are, he clasps his hands and assures a fantastic ’11-mile journey’.
Begin with a trio of amuse bouche comprising a puri with coconut, a beetroot ‘burger’, and a final surprise as Chef Sri would describe. The puri is a light Indian puff filled with sweet coconut filling, giving the perfect introduction to the menu – expect sweet nuances in the following dishes. The beetroot ‘burger’, the lightest in the world if you may call it, is invitingly tantalising with its deep magenta hue from the meringue with a curried beetroot patty in the centre. On the first bite, your palate will be perfumed with curry and spices, followed by the lingering flavours of beetroot for a nice earthy aftertaste – of course, spices take precedence.
Here’s where the surprise comes in: a tiny white something that resembles a piece of cheese topped served with some chutney. You’d expect some weight when lifting it up but it is as light as a feather. In the mouth, it melts like cotton candy – leaving a beautiful familiar taste that leaves you wondering: “What is it?”
“It’s something you’ve eaten all your life — the flavours of nasi lemak. The white morsel is made of coconut milk that is mixed with malto to draw all the fats out and it becomes this light cube,” laughs Chef Sri as he explains how this brings back memories of growing up and the familiar flavours that come with it.
Safe to say, The 11 Mile Journey is a walk down memory lane as Chef Sri brings you back to his hometown in Tamil Nadu and the intrinsic south Indian flavours of neighbouring Kerala and Sri Lanka.
The 11 Mile Journey Begins
Appetisers consist of sophisticated plates of little bites starting with the Duo. On one end are the flavours of Kerala’s biryani packed in a deep-fried breadcrumb-coated morsel sized like a quail egg. On another end, Chef Sri highlights the texture of fermented batter typically used in the making of idli and thosai.
“It’s like Japanese takoyaki but executed with Indian techniques. It is filled with chicken kheema paniyaram (minced chicken with spices) and Scamorza cheese,” he explains. And here’s where your palate craves for more as you begin to taste the fragrant spices from the absolutely flavourful bites.
Chef Sri continues to interest with a second dish that harkens back to his childhood in Chennai. The dish, Bakery Memories, is a modern take on the egg puff, which is a popular teatime snack comprising pastry shell with egg filling – pretty similar to the karipap in Malaysia. He creates a miniature version of a typical afternoon tea that comes with an egg puff (filled with scrambled duck egg with onions, tomato and spices) served with special ketchup made from the residue of the rasam, and lemonade on the side.
He harps on the idea of memories with another dish, Puliogare that is traditionally a voyaging meal packed during travels or excursions. It is a humble dish of barley, shallots, peanuts and tamarind – a common Brahmin recipe that is obviously meat-free. The rendition in Nadodi comes with a piece of freshly grilled fish that comes on a hibachi grill for extra smokiness and umami. We highly commend this dish for its honest representation of a traditional dish with a piece of beautifully cooked fish that syncs perfectly with the tanginess of tamarind.
By the fifth dish, it is clear that Chef Sri wants to introduce the word ‘home cooking’ to his vocabulary again – that’s after two seasons of theatrics and elaborate innovation in the first two menus at Nadodi.
He continues to entice with three main courses; I Am So Prawny, Pickled Chops and Nadodi Globe. The first is a balancing act of finesse and flavours with a combination of green pea curry that sings harmony when eaten with a superbly cooked king prawn – you know it’s good when it comes with a good bite and its natural sweetness. The dish is accented with a yacon salsa for extra zing.
Onto the Pickled Chops, you’ll find yourself getting your smartphones ready for an Instagram moment as the chef lifts the glass cloche – unveiling a piece of Iberico lamb sitting on a bed of habanero, mango and mint pickle. And the penultimate dish reminds you of the tiffin carriers but with a Nadodi spin. The three-part dish comes with a reddish Kerala Matta rice, Jaffna crab curry and tapioca leaves. It is a refined interpretation of our everyday staple dish – rice, curry, veggies – and the perfect way to sum up the ’11 mile journey’.
Pair the first few starters with an interesting cocktail of rum infused with rotovap (rotary evaporator) burnt dill, fermented cucumber cordial and aerated water. Perfect as an aperitif on its own, the concoction gets its unique flavour from the fermentation (takes about 7 to 8 days) that gives that acidic, almost citrusy note, for a refreshing finish.
The turmeric gin is another standout with sweet, sour and spicy flavours dancing in your palate. The rim of the glass is coated with a house made spice frosting comprising dehydrated chilli, lime and sugar. Pair that with passion fruit and a turmeric-infused gin for a vibrant golden yellow concoction that draws your attention instantly.
If you’ve dined in Nadodi before and are expected the theatrics of molecular gastronomy, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. Chef Sri has very much scaled down the drama and kept his focus on creating strong flavours that represent a voyage through south Indian cuisine in its purest form.
Out of the eleven dishes served, there are bound to be one or two that fail to hit the mark including the Lobster Ribbon and the sole dessert in the menu, Bhumi. We find the lobster tagliatelle excessive when the highlight of the dish is seemingly the pumpkin erissery, a traditional recipe of Kerala cooked with pumpkin and coconut that is used as the complementary sauce to the strips of lobster ‘noodles’.
The dessert, on the other hand, is overly dusted with soil distillate, drowning the fragrance of the lavender ice cream and the botanicals of the kelulut honey. While flavours are truly a subjective matter, we think that these dishes may have been eclipsed by the smashing starters of Duo and Bakery Memories, Nadodi Globe and Puliogare.
However, it is the familiar flavours of traditional south Indian cooking that are captured in the repertoire. At the heart of each dish is innovation and what we’ve seen displayed in Nadodi’s latest menu are the sophisticated flavours that stem from a place close to Chef Sri’s heart.