Where to go for an authentic South Indian meal in Chennai? It's no longer a question that only visitors to the city ask? The people who live here also keep looking for new and great places to satiate their craving for regional delicacies. This is a city where you find all versions of South Indian cuisine - from spicy Andhra meals to exquisite Kerala seafood dishes crispy masala dosas served by Udupi restaurants and, of course, the best of Tamil cuisine from the length and breadth of the state. But, not all these establishments are luxury, ambient restaurants where you would take your outstation guests whom you need to impress; or venues where you would celebrate special occasions.
Here, we round up restaurants that have not just done the city proud but have also set high standards for fine South Indian cuisine. Find below a list of handpicked fine dining restaurants where legendary recipes have been sourced from homes across South India
Rasam in a martini glass? ITC Grand Chola doesn't shy away to experiment with its concept restaurant. In a span of two years since its opening, it has made a big impact in the culinary world with a bold new vision for Southern Indian cuisine. The restaurant offers a host of tasting menus that have changed the way South Indian cuisine is presented. But, this isn't some molecular gastronomy fad or just theatrics. The flavours are authentic; it works equally well whether you're a stranger to South Indian cuisine or if you've grown up in South India. If you're familiar with South Indian cuisine, you will appreciate how the stuff you love gets a fresh lease of life. South Indian design motifs are seamlessly integrated with the interiors. The restaurant has just launched a new tasting menu – Jiaa that includes some interesting dishes like braised lamb cheeks served with tempered semolina and a curry leaf sorbet.
Where: ITC Grand Chola, Mount Road
Cost For 2 People: INR 4,500 approx.
Taj Coromandel's South Indian restaurant has been one of the flag bearers of authentic South Indian cuisine in a fine dining context since the late 1990s. Back then, the restaurant's culinary team travelled to homes across South India in search of heirloom recipes that have been passed on from one generation to the next. The restaurant went through a makeover a few years ago with a design language inspired by temple and palace décor. From kalamkari paintings to Chettinad pillars, to rich wood work from Kerala, each of the design elements have been carefully plotted. The cuisine hasn't changed, remaining faithful to its roots. You must try one of their signature meals like the Maha Virundhu.
Where: Taj Coromandel, MG Road, Nungambakkam
Cost For 2 People: INR 3,000 approx.
This fine dining chain began its journey over three years ago in Pune before it was ready for its acid test in Chennai. The interiors – we really like the use of Athangudi tiles from Chettinad in Tamil Nadu - and the menu are proof that this restaurant is driven by tradition and authenticity. The restaurant focuses on representing signature dishes from 8 culinary regions in South India rather than just theming their selections state-wise. The legendary Ambalapuzha paal payasam (kheer) and the Mangaluru-style Anjal Rava fish fry are among the many regional specialties you must try.
Where: Gandhi Mandapam Road, Kotturpuram
Cost For 2 People: INR 1,600 approx.
‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. It's been exactly 30 years since this restaurant made its debut and it looks pretty much the same today. Much of its success can be attributed to Dakshin's vision to stay true to its roots. The interiors haven't changed a lot since I first stepped in to this restaurant as a child and was enamoured by Chef Iyer's trolley of his ‘specials of the day'. Some of those dishes like the bite-sized banana dosa lives on while the restaurant continues to add authentic dishes – like the Nattu Kozhi (free range chicken) Ammi Masala that was added for the 30th anniversary menu. Their thalis have been a bestseller and are the best way to begin your Dakshin experience, which has now become a national chain of fine dining restaurants.
Where: Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, TTK Road
Cost For 2 People: INR 2,500 approx.
Chennai has its share of outstanding restaurants that showcase cuisines from specific regions or states in the southern part of India. But, if you're looking at restaurants that serve the best of South Indian cuisine under one roof, our list of restaurants is a great starting point.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.