The Vasantha Bhavan/Ponnusamy sister outlets first set up shop at Horton Place about a year ago. They're a worldwide outlet that specialises in North/South Indian and Chettinad cuisine; so you're looking at dosai, biriyani, thalis and a ton of other delicious and interesting dishes.
Our first experience at Vasantha Bhavan (Horton Place) wasn't exactly the best one we've had, but lately I find myself frequenting their Narahenpita outlet more and more. But only for a few reasons.
For one, they're situated in a really awkward spot, with minimal parking, right on the side of the main road. The outlet is as dreary as ever, with their signature gold statues placed at the front making it even gaudier although we didn't think that was possible. You really can't set the bar too high- this IS a dine and dash, South Asian inspired joint after all.
The walls are an off-white, the tables and chairs are uncomfortable, there's virtually no decor on the walls save for the occasional, highly necessary blotch-painting that needs to be there to serve some sort of visual enhancement purpose. And yet, somehow we still keep going there. Why?
Well for one, it's convenient, close by, and extremely unpretentious to the point where you can show up in pjs and nobody would care. The food might not carry the very soul and embodiment of Chettinad cuisine, but it's still hearty and at hefty portions, too. Let's take a look.
I actually like the food here. Perhaps the reason why they keep their interior bleak is so we can focus on how much the food enhances our experience here. Perhaps.
For our starter we got a portion of the Paneer 65 which is Rs. 540 for a small bowl of about 10-12 deep fried cubes of paneer. The batter has a little chilli powder+ lime infused into it, producing a little extra something in terms of flavour and makes for a really nice and light snack to start off with. There are some shredded onion bits as well- probs for decorative purposes because we didn't quite see the point in eating that.
This is another paneer dish. We did NOT want to order another paneer dish. But we were forced to. You can find the reason for this down in the 'service' section of this article.
The Chilli Paneer (Rs. 420) is pretty much a devilled, sweet and sour version of nomal paneer curry. With a heavy cornstarch-based, very spicy gravy base, there are chunks of paneer floaring about along with a few snippets of parsley. This one provides a nice, spicy edge to it and is good for dipping some naan into. It's a nice dish, just not the best dish at the restaurant.
Speaking of naan, their Butter Naan clocks in at Rs. 150 a portion of which we got two. Each portion comes with two large naans, so that's plenty enough for two people. The thing is, their naan is waaaaaaay too good to eat just one.
It's buttery, flaky, hot-hot, and crispy on the edges. If you're lucky you'll get a nice little char in one corner which is pretty much a smoky, flavour boost. Love it.
We didn't get these on the day of our review, but I'll include this photo in just as an honorable mention. Their Dosais are large, paper thin, crisp and clock in at around Rs. 160. As you can see it comes with sambar and chutney- refills are available and free.
I take my tea very seriously. Nothing in my life requires as much attention as a cup of tea. Same case with the masala version. Their Masala Chai costs a clean Rs. 90 for a single shot. It used to be good, strong stuff but their chef lost his grip somewhere down the line and now it's all watery. SIGH. The Masala content is high but doesn't really do anything to enhance it since it's so light.
The service here is really testing. Their waiters are awful, full of attitude, lazy and sloppy. I really wish I didn't have to say any of those things, but it's the truth. The waiter we got was a nice guy, but he knew jack all about the menu and kept telling us that we couldn't order ANYTHING ON THE MENU EXCEPT FOR THE CHINESE DISHES.
What does this even mean?! We then proceeded to ask if there were any paneer dishes available and he said yes, since it was under their menu of Chinese dishes.
I don't know, but I REALLY hope they get their little slop-act together, otherwise customers are going to get really ticked. The waiter was nice, just incredibly clueless to the point where you couldn't help but be annoyed.
I love this place because of the food and the chai on good days. But it honestly functions as more of an 'express' outlet, so don't go in expecting to have a smooth, dining experience.
However, families frequent this place by the truckload, so perhaps it all boils down to personal preference, no?