HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Buffet

The site of two of the greatest meals of my life.
During our stay at the Taj Green Cove in Kovalam, the hotel just happened to be hosting a special Chettinad-themed dinner buffet at their premier restaurant. Chettinad is a region located in southern Tamil Nadu, and its people are also members of a caste that specializes in the preparation of food. The Taj had flown in their head chef from one of their outposts in Chennai; home to Raintree, widely considered one of the best restaurants in all of Tamil Nadu. The opportunity was enticing: for 750 rupees, about 17 USD, you would get access to an all-you-can-eat-buffet. So, on our first night, we sauntered into the restaurant to check it out. Little did we know just how incredible it would be.
14 pots of perfection
The selection was simply mind-blowing. There was an appetizers/salad table, two soup options, unlimited parota (South Indian bread), dessert, and the main event: a long table playing host to fourteen claypots, each holding a unique delicacy. Our eyes bigger than our stomachs, we dove in headfirst.
Some samples from the appetizer table.
After trying some of the starters, we tackled the main dishes. The highlight of the night was a staggeringly good fish curry. The sauce it was cooked in was honestly one of the best-tasting things I've ever eaten. I could pour it on my cereal in the morning and be a happy man. Most of the dishes were curry-like in consistency, and they included chicken, pork, lamb, and a number of vegetable dishes. There were also three different types of rice to choose from. I only have one picture to share from that first meal since, if I'm honest, Indian food isn't the most photogenic cuisine, for the most part. However, its taste more than makes up for it.
Rice, fish curry, and two other things I can't remember the name of.
After four plates each, in addition to several pieces of parota and a bottle of wine, we were absolutely stuffed. It was one of the fullest I've ever felt, but it was so worth it. We waddled back to our room and passed out, hoping our stomachs would survive the night.

We hadn't initially planned on returning to the buffet our second (and final) night at the Green Cove but, as the day progressed, we realized just how good of a deal it was. One would have to pay hundreds of dollars to get Indian food in such quantity, and quality, in the U.S., and here we were paying an amount that couldn't even get you a full meal in many American restaurants. So, as night fell, we prepared to gorge ourselves yet again. Oh, how glorious it was!

The fish curry had been replaced by an equally awesome crab curry; actually there were no repeat dishes, which was amazing. The diversity of Chettinad's cuisine was certainly on full display here. We hoed into plate after plate of curries, vegetables, rice, and parota, bringing ourselves, once again, to the breaking point.
Then, came the piece de resistance of the meal. Throughout our trip, waiters were surprised when Kevin and I asked for our food to be "spicy". One of the chefs at the hotel was equally surprised, so Kevin explained that we were from New Orleans, where much of the local food is spicy. We could handle it, and we liked it. The chef replied with: "I have some Cajun spices in the kitchen. I'll make you a Cajun fish dish."

This sounded great, but we weren't expecting anything more than a filet of fish, cooked in some spices, and plopped on a plate. Much to our delight, we were given an exquisitely presented dish of Cajun fish, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Our delight turned into ecstasy when we tried the fish: stunning, and there's no other word for it. We've both eaten a lot of fish in our day, and it blew just about anything either of us have had out of the water. I didn't even want to finish it, since I knew it would probably be a long time before I tasted anything as good. Almost as amazing as the fish was the fact that we weren't charged for our special plate.
An orgasm in my mouth.

Heaven is a place called Chettinad
That fish dish put us, once again, over the edge, into complete gluttony. Both meals left my stomach more distended than just about anytime in my life. But, my god, was it worth it.
I feel your pain, buddy.
All of the food - all of it - was very high quality. Nearly every dish I tried was flawless. So was the service. The restaurant was oddly empty both nights, so the wait staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible; constantly bringing us piping hot parotas, refilling our waters, etc. Not to mention, we got a custom dish for free. I've never had that happen before. By the end of my second meal at the buffet, I knew that both had been among the best of my life. In terms of bang for your buck, they are probably right at the top. Simply incredible. If you ever see an Indian restaurant advertising Chettinad cuisine, make a beeline for it. I certainly will in the future. I just wish I could eat at that buffet on a regular basis, but all good things must come to an end, I suppose.


  1. Thank you. I just wanted to know where to ship it since I know now to keep producing it

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