I actually went to The Tamara Kodai with no expectations as to what the food would be like. I assumed that this would be yet another place serving what I call ‘Resort cuisine’ and wonderful as that might be, I am the kind of person who seeks out the local rather than the ‘multi cuisine’, however well made it may be.
In fact the first look at the menu sort of reinforced my apprehensions as I flipped through sections of Pan Asian, continental and the ubiquitous pan Indian and though to their credit everything seemed excellent, I was still feeling rather unfulfilled.
All this came to a dramatic end when I eventually met the Executive Chef Prince J, at dinner time. An interesting chat with him revealed to me that they had several exciting innovations up their sleeve which involved a range of local fare with entertaining twists. The chef himself displayed a very intuitive sense of what their guests would appreciate and told me that they usually play with ingredients and flavors after gleaning what the diner would want.
But naturally, I hit it off well with him and after a long and animated conversation regarding my gastronomical fate in the near future :-D, it was decided that he would pull out all the stops and create some remarkable fare which he was sure that I would love.
The deluge that followed on the following day is what you are now going to follow today on this post 😀
Part 2 of the 3 part series covering The Tamara Kodai – An Overview, The Tamara Kodai – Cuisine and The Tamara Kodai – Activities.
The Tamara Kodai is very focused on giving the diner a fulfilling time (full’filling too). There are 2 restaurants, a coffee shop at the lobby and 24 hour In Room Dining (IDR) service, which altogether ensure that at no point will any guest stay hungry 😀
There is also an upcoming Poolside (non alcoholic) bar that will be operational soon.
According to Chef Prince J, the menu is geared to present as unique an offering as possible, the likes of which is not easily seen in Kodaikanal. Hence apart from the local fare, they serve cuisines that are novel to the local palate and Asian, Continental, Mediterranean etc find their way to the menu and delight the diners, of which a sizable portion also includes walk-ins.
All the ingredients are obtained only from certified sources. Asian ingredients like sauces, mushrooms and other condiments are procured from authentic sources.
They are particular about using a variety of flours in their in house bakery, as per the requirements of the different breads that they produce. There is no ‘One flour fits all’ concept and their cakes, pizzas and even the various Indian breads are made from flours of appropriate gluten and protein percentages.
They have frequent events like chocolate tasting, where unusual fillings and flavors are showcased.
Ingredients novel to the region, like Activated charcoal, are used in certain dishes like appams, breads etc. Even the plating and presentation makes use of fun items like Balsamic vinegar caviar etc 😀
A range of meats are served even at regular buffets and this is the only restaurant that serves turkey, quail, duck and other rare meats on a frequent basis through the year.
The menu is not static and guest feedback and preferences are sought on an ongoing basis and even children’s opinions are taken into consideration.
There is also a focus on Responsible cuisine and future menus will aim to incorporate more ingredients like the locally grown organic vegetables, the GI tagged Hill Garlic (Malai Poondu), the GI tagged Panchamrutham prasad of the Palani temple etc.
The chef himself interacts with the guests and his open mindedness and innovativeness make sure that he presents dishes with interesting twists and blends various ingredients and cooking styles to create unconventional fare that works really well.
The staff is capable of churning out dishes from many states of India and guests with dietary preferences can also avail of Jain and other cuisines.
The dessert chef is from Bengal and all their Indian sweets are made in house and are of excellent quality, as are their western counterparts.
Their recent first ever Cake mixing ceremony (which I just missed), was said to be a resounding success and was entirely organized by the in house staff.
The restaurants –
La Providence is the buffet restaurant, where breakfast and dinner is served.
The ambience and decor are retro in keeping with its history, with a mammoth chandelier fitted with old fashioned lamps, framed pictures of a bygone era, a pull cart bearing fruit and a toy train that circulates in a rectangular orbit above the dining area and makes for fascinating viewing while chewing 😀
It also has an outdoor deck area and an adjoining live counter that is operational during mealtimes and also when there are High teas organized. The deck flooring is made of re-purposed railway sleepers in accordance with their eco friendly theme.
The brick red deck umbrellas break the monotony of wood and stone and the splashes of color make for a very pretty postcard like picture, greatly enhanced by the bare trees of autumn and the ever hovering mist. A bonfire pit lies in the center of the deck and though I wanted to enjoy its warmth, I forgot to ask for it to be lit!!!
Bistro 1845, so named after the year that Kodaikanal was established, is the other restaurant which offers a French bistro style all day dining a la carte menu. This is also used when the buffet is not on, during low season.
Originally the office of the Jesuit ministry, one section has now been turned into a wine lounge with an ancient medieval ambience.
The rest of it is divided into an operations area, the dining space with a full fledged corner bar and an outdoor deck. There is a bonfire pit here too.
The current menu encompasses Pan Asian, Continental and Indian but one can request for customization to whatever extent it is possible. Every meal is preceded by the ubiquitous and very welcome hot lemon honey tea.
The Bar –
There is a full fledged bar that serves a good range of alcohol, in addition to the wines from the cellar.
Prince is an award winning Flair bartender who was as pleasant as he was talented. He obliged me with a rendition of a cocktail called 3 Priests, which I am sure the earlier Jesuits would have approved of (and no it is not a pre requisite to be called Prince to work at the Tamara 😀 though it was rather confusing to have 2 Princes).
My experiences –
Pl note that the portions of all the dishes were reduced at my request, hence may not depict the accurate size.
Day 1 –
At my first lunch I opted for Thai cuisine and was served an excellent spread of Tom Kha soup, Som Tam salad, Wok flashed Thai garlic pepper prawns (can you see me smiling) and Bangkok style Pad Thai noodles with pan seared prawns. I had no space for dessert.
Dinner on the first night was in the company of Chef Prince J who recommended that I go continental. A Broccoli veloute soup with almonds and cheddar served with a charcoal bun and mini cheese garlic sub, Watermelon and feta salad with Balsamic vinegar caviar that popped tartly in the mouth, Pan seared salmon with house garden thyme butter and torched mashed potato filled Vol au vents and Shrimp and woodear mushroom risotto, made up my hearty dinner which again made it impossible to try out the desserts.
However, chef had promised a mind blowing experience at the next day’s lunch and I was looking forward to that in excitement 😀
Day 2 –
Breakfast was from the buffet at the La Providence. They offer a vast spread of Western and Indian options, health juices, breads and viennoiserie, cold cuts including ham and bacon, waffles, pancakes etc. They also have an outdoor live counter that brings forth eggs cooked to order, dosas and other items.
The food is fresh and top notch.
My lunch was a masterpiece of innovation where Chef Prince got all the creative juices flowing and presented me with over 10 dishes, each one more delightful than the other 😀
Intuitively sensing my favorite vegetables and ingredients, he started me off with an excellent Karela phalon ka chaat – Crisp friend bitter gourd filled with fruits and chutney.
The rest of the spread included –
Prawn moilee soup with miniature appam – I don’t need to say any more here 😀
Vazhapoo vadai with Muniyandivilas chutney – Crisp banana flower fritter and spicy chutney. Another favorite of mine.
Menasinakai kodi – Stuffed chicken in Bajji chillies (big fritter chillies) with Mysore Kurma.
Vellatukari pothi sadam and Malai poondu kuzhambhu – Rice cooked in a banana leaf pouch with mutton broth and mixed with hill garlic sauce. This was brought forth dramatically complete with smoking cinnamon sticks and served on a bed of Kerala rice.
Beef Parota Kizhi – beef stuffed parota.
Sticky rice parcels with pork vindaloo tidbits. A perfect example of an international and Indian mix and match.
Nandu podimas idli with ayirameen kuzhambhu – crab idli with the popular local Spiny loach fish curry. A real work of art.
Turnip thayir sadam, sutta appalam with meen urugai – a very novel curd ‘rice’ where the rice was shredded turnip, accompanied by fish pickle served on a roasted papad.
Dessert was Karupatti kaapi paniyaram with vazhaipazha thayir – a very interesting country jaggery paniyaram with banana yoghurt. I actually was too full but after one tiny bite, I ended up finishing it. It was delicious 😀
Well all that food needed help to be digested and the supari and gulkand were served in a unique manner within a paan cone.
A bright pink Panneer soda was the perfect accompaniment to my food. This is a drink that is popular in many regions of Tamil Nadu.
Prince from the Bar obliged me yet again with a demonstration of this recipe.
Well what can I say about this meal. The descriptions do not so justice to how exquisite each preparation was. There was so much attention to detail with flavors and textures that blended with ease and delighted the palate that has always been hungering for the unusual. What was my favorite you ask? A very difficult question to answer when everything is par excellence but you know how predictable I am … I will pick the Prawn moilee and charcoal mini appam 😀
Dinner that night was light with a soup and appam and stew. It is noteworthy to mention that they are able to serve whatever one asks for from the menu, including appams, neer dosa, akki rotti and other Indian breads, that require preparation in the form of distinct batters/dough and are not easy to produce in small numbers.
Day 3 –
My final day was reserved for shooting some Indian sweets, cheesecake and tarts. And though each one looked like a work of art, I could only manage a small nibble of the Chocolate tart or as I called it, t’Art.
And I did not want to leave without one final goodbye to the prawns, so I had the oat and panko crusted jumbo prawns with Wasabi mayo. Really to die for and a great lingering aftertaste to carry back home.
And I cannot believe that I forgot to click a pic!!! Someday I will go back just to do that 😀
Please Note – This is a collaboration, based on the invitation of The Tamara Kodai and I thank them for hosting me with their warm hospitality. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated, hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Nov 12th-14th, 2019