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Anjappar was a surprise. I’m a huge fan of Indian banana leaf but must admit that often the curries and veggies adorning my leaf at various vegetarian spots begin to taste a bit same-same. I was looking for something to pique my interest in Indian food all over again, and I found it at this ‘up-market’ (if ‘up-market’ means aircon, servers nattily attired in white shirts with black bow ties, and brass serving dishes) Chettinad spot in Bangsar.
Chettinad cuisine is among India’s spiciest, and Anjappar’s Chettinad chicken masala, chunks of tender bone-in chicken bathed in a gorgeous brick red sauce fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and especially black pepper, certainly lives up to the billing, leaving lips a tingle and tongue on fire. Palak paneer soothed the heat. With a good solid spinach flavour and plenty of milky paneer cheese, this pureed vegetable dish is reassuringly olive in color (other versions around town are sometimes a shocking – and suspicious – shade of jade green. Sometimes a dal is just a dal, but not as Anjappar makes it: rich with legume flavour, featuring al dente yellow lentils that have been pulled off the stove before they turn to an indefinable mush, and studded with bits of chopped pegaga that add an intriguing hint of vegetal bitterness, and just a little spicy from whole dried chillies.
The restaurant’s basmati rice is just fine, slightly nutty and dry enough that the grains remain distinct, but the full-on flavours and slightly oily sauces of Chettinad food cry out for an accompaniment that’s solid and wheaty. Which brings us to my only complaint. While Anjappar’s naan is tasty enough, freshly made as it is and touched with dark spots from the oven, ours arrived just lukewarm and soon turned cold, rendering what was probably at the start a pillow-soft round of bread as stiff as a piece of cardboard. If Anjappar could figure out a way to deliver naan and keep it warm at the table it would make a real difference.
Mellow, milky masala chai is the idea end to a highly spiced meal. Thumbs up to the Anjappar manager who took our tea order and actually listened when I said ‘Very lightly sweetened please.’ For once my chai tasted of tea first, milk second, and sugar last, rather than the other way around. Robyn Eckhardt
136 Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields
|Opening hours:||Daily, 8am-11.30pm|