Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Azulia, GRT Grand, Chennai - Restaurant Review


I love Arabic cuisine and Mediterranean is definitely a fav. To add to that, authentic Mediterranean fare is difficult to come by here but the uber chic and extremely cool Azulia in GRT Grand, T Nagar, Chennai is one of the most popular choices you have because of an array of reasons. So the opportunity to visit Azulia presented itself and I went with a group of fun foodies  and had one of the longest spanning lunches. Well, they do have 161 dishes to offer. and it spans the breadth of 10 countries that share a border with the Mediterranean Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Malta to name a few. So...! But that was not the only reason our lunch ran into 4 odd hours. Yes, there' more to Azulia that just their food!

They offer a truly Mediterranean spread (leaning slightly towards the Turkish when it comes to Baklava though! :)) Chef Ethem is a charming Turk gentleman and has a career spanning decades backing his experience. Engaging and easy going, we chatted him up and he regaled us with his intriguing stories. He comes from a family of cooks where cooking is the way of life and has been for generations. So when he takes you through the menu and when he comes and checks on you occasionally, you can't help but feel you are in good cheffy hands. The décor has Moroccan lanterns, glass mosaic ware, and ethnically dressed servers amongst other beautiful things. The excellent lighting, the practical seating and the sophisticated décor lend a very good feel to the place.and if you were not feeling Mediterranean enough already, check this out: They have live performers dishing out their fare up in front of the restaurantThey have a sax performace lined up as well. Talk about being swanky!
The staff are very hospitable and in a change from many other restaurants, they know what they are serving. You could ask them what goes into a dish and they can help you without fumbling. and dig this: the Chef comes in and checks on you every once a way and you could always ask for a dish in a style you prefer. They also cater to various preferences like vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten free and so on and so forth.  (They would need some notice to get that dish ready as it is not featured on the menu though). The menu does justice to the vegetarian palate as well.
Enough said, now, moving onto the stuff you've been really waiting for: The food! They have an extensive drinks menu where making a choice is not very difficult. i went for the Reviver, it is a lemon and mint concoction topped off with ice. and revive me it did.
The food menu on the other hand is another affair altogether. Designed as a coffee table book, it looks and feels every bit like one. With those glossy and extremely appetising pics of food looking up at you, this super neat menu  not only mentions what fare they have to offer but also gives you a brief intro about the countries that have their dishes featured there.
For the appetisers, we got a cold Mezze platter and a hot Mezze platter. The cold Mezze included the kubbus, the tzakziki, hummus, dolamdes and moussakka marakkech. The hummus and moussakka marakkech were extremely good while the dolmades or the vine stuffed with onion, rice, raisin and pine nut and flavored with cinnamon  is indeed an acquired flavor. The hot mezze offered us falafel, fatayer and bourak bel jibneh for the vegetarians and jawaneh for the non vegetarians. The bourak bel jibneh was this interesting looking plate of rolled up cigars with a stuffing of halloumi, feta and gruyere chesse infused with onions and dried herbs. For the chicken wings sucker, the bourak will interest you. It is deep fried wings sauteed with garlic lemon and coriander. And of course, the pizza! The manakish pizza is of course a thin crust with such balanced finesse, it is beautiful. The toppings were the zaatar with tomato, cheese, fresh mint and olives. The sumac shone, which is an essential middle eastern spice: it is tart in flavour and will go very well with chicken, fish, salad dressing or hummus - pretty much everything! It can also substitute lemon and bring a different zing to any dish.


For the main course, i had a Poisson a l'Estragon which is fish fillet in white wine and white butter served with grilled vegetables. The star dish was however the prawn marrakech with gnocchi. It is not on the menu but the chef would make it if you asked him for it. Its grilled prawns with gnocchi, spinach, mushroom, garlic in creamy parmesan cheese sauce. The flavors were spot on and the prawn cooked beautifully : juicy and succulent. They have a decent steak for the meat lovers. The castalata is the Australian lamb chops marinated in wild mustard and served with feta olive struddle. The Cannelloni à la Bolognaise is a treat for the eyes and is fresh cannelloni filled with lamb meat topped with a creamy cheese sauce. The Risotto Tortufo Fungi was a creamy mix of Italian porcini mushrooms and arborio rice drizzled with truffle oil.






We were all quite full but were definitely saving space for dessert. They have a good looking dessert spread and the Chef was gracious to bring out a platter of the desserts and we got the Baklava, orange cheesecake and hot chocolate soufflé. The baklava is the Turkish version meaning moist and a tad more sweet. The cheesecake was a combination of cream cheese and orange flavors. The hot chocolate soufflé is a Chef' special: it's a chocolate volcano with chocolate oozing from the inside.


What added to the experience was of course those unique little quirks that Azulia abounds in. They are the champions of this pretty little thing called Turkish magic. What happens is, once you come in and settle down at your table, you are served a tiny shots-like looking glass with water in it. No, dont drink it! They pop a small  pill of sorts into the water and you see it transform into a tightly wrapped wet napkin to refresh yourself with!! How neat is that?! They introduced this concept to the folks of Chennai when the restaurant started some 3 and a half years ago. Now, as i know it, there are other restaurants doing the same! That is how much of a novelty this has become :)


Apart from the napkin we all get to lay out on our lap before eating, each diner is given a pretty Azulia branded apron! i know! :) They believe Mediterranean food is best enjoyed when you go all in with your hands and if it gets messy, well, that's what the aprons are for!


Or like how they served a palette cleansing scoop of the most, i-cross-my-heart-delicious passion fruit sorbet. It came between courses and definitely served the purpose. and whetted my appetite for more (maybe that was the intention, but i don't really care!) That sorbet was one heck of sorbet: ultra smooth, balanced and so refreshing!

By the time we polished off the last crumb of the baklava (ok, i did that :P ) we were a table of satisfied and 'more-educated-about-the-Mediterranean-way-of-life' people. I liked the experience and is definitely a place i would go back to when i am in the mood to splurge a little and have a beautiful Mediterranean meal. Like the folks there say, 90 % of their stuff is imported, including the Chef  himself, so i believe the pricing is justified. 
A good meal for two including one appetiser, two main courses, two non alcoholic drinks and two desserts will come in the INR 3800 to 4000 range.
So what are you waiting for? Yalla yalla!


Ambiance: 8/10
Service:9/10
Taste:8/10
Portions:7.5/10
Price: 8/10
P.S: This post ran quite long and it was'nt intentional. i apologize for that. Next time maybe i should put my pics on a link and share that with you. Till then, stay happy! :)

11 comments:

  1. Good one! Would like to see a pic with their Apron!

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  2. neat review.. awesome pics!! am just about getting down to uploading the pics, wish i had taken one of me in the apron :)

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  3. @Mummy: i know! i was too busy clickin pics of the food, didnt get a chance to do that myself, but others clicked pics of us in the aprons. :) Will pass one on as soon as i can lay my hands on it!

    @Aarti: Thanks Aarti! :) waiting to read your review too! and i know, same here, should've clicked pics with the apron on! it's ok, next time huh? r we all doing that profile pic-with-the-apron together? ;)

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  4. its in Chennai!!! (sob) when are they coming to Bangalore???

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  5. @Sarah: Blor has SO many lovely eating places too! i wish at least half of them came to chennai. seriously! :D... so everytime we are in blor, our priority is to check out the eating joints in town :D

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  6. Very well written Kajal and loved the pics.

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  7. Kajal:

    Glad to stop by here and the review was excellent. One suggestion: Along with the following:
    Ambiance: 8/10
    Service:9/10
    Taste:8/10
    Portions:7.5/10

    You could also add price.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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  8. @Shalini: Thank you Shalini! :) you have some amazing pics of the review too!
    P.S: We need to meet up for the bake party! :P

    @Susie: Thanks so much Susie for the kind words! and thanks, you are right, 'price' is added to my list now. i have also added it to the Azulia review :) Hugs!

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  9. btw, doesn't "yalla" mean go away? :P I think "tha-ali" means come

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