Monday, 18 February 2013

Hip Asia, Vivanta by Taj Connemara, Chennai

Situated centrally in Chennai, this hotel does not need any gloatingly brilliant prologue. It is the oldest hotel and a stunning-work-of-art form of jewel in Chennai’s diadem. It was built in 1854 and had numerous owners until it finally was acquired by the Taj group. It was given a facelift in 2010 and was renamed to Vivanta by Taj Connemara.  But for me, Vivanta by Taj is still Taj Connemara and it still feels at home to be there.

Taj Connemara is a piece of history and has an art deco look to it. The corridor walls are affixed with numerous photographs of yesteryear that give it an authentically museum feeling. Here, I do not mean museum in the bad boring way instead I mean it in the most exhilarating and exciting way and it never fails to surprise me when I see guests standing in the corridors and admiring the artwork.
Apart from all the excellent services and exquisitely abundant rooms which are very comfortable, I do have to jot down about Hip Asia. I have been going to this restaurant since 2010 and every time I go there, I just sit down and enjoy my meal to the full. I never take a mental note or even jot down few things about this stylishly elegant. On entering, you are greeted by the most gracious and obliging staff and they usher you into a neatly arranged, subtly Chinese-esque restaurant.

The first impressions of the interiors are stylish, chic and very trendy. The lighting is perfectly apt and the chairs are also very comfortable. The teppanyaki is situated duly so that the scents of various ingredients being cooked on the open grill do not waft in the whole restaurant. The inner segment of the restaurant has high ceilings and the tables and chairs are arranged well beyond the earshot of other people in the restaurant. It is spaced correctly and this is why the privacy can be maintained. 

However, for every restaurant the food is the most important factor. Starting with the salad, it was Yuzen Ae Salada – fresh crunchy lettuce served with a miso dressing. This, I must say, is an absolute favourite. The freshness of the lettuce, the crunchy tempura pieces and the miso dressing is delightfully astonishing and it gives a very clean and mellow flavour to the taste buds which, almost always, tingles for more.
One important factor that I always consider before going to this restaurant is whether I like their sushi or not. However, in this case, I always turn to Hip Asia for Sushi. I prefer the makizushi or Uramaki more than Nigiri ( I am not very fond of raw fish) as I like the rolled form. Also, the use of toasted nori (another thing I like about sushis) is more in the case of uramaki or makizushi. I decided on – Ebi Tempura Maki - Prawns in Tempura batter, deep fried and rolled in a maki which was juicy and crunchy at the same time. It was effortlessly perfect and it was rolled just right. The Kaki Age Maki  - The Tuna felt as soft as velvet and as smooth as silk. With the wasabi and the dip, it was silky on the palate and even with the rice and nori, you could still taste the tuna. Then I had the California maki – Avocado, Crabsticks, cucumber and Tobigo (Flying fish roe) and little dash of Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie I think) which was a complete unadulterated pleasure. The cucumber was tenderly crisp that blended very handsomely with the crabstick and the mellow creaminess of the avocado. I was very uncertain of the Tobigo but it was an attractive match and it did not overpower the other ingredients. And last came the Yasai Moriwase Maki - a melange of vegetables were used and the crunchiness was evident with every bite. It was all served with their signature dip (generally soy), pickled ginger and wasabi paste.

Hip asia served the best Nasi goreng. It checked all boxes correctly - salty, Spicy, and sweet all at the same time.  It was like an elegant ensemble that was like wonderful music to the ears but in this case a melody for the mouth. The traditional sunny side up egg on the top looked beautifully presentable. While I found some Nasi Gorengs to be dry, this was moist, but still not sticky. I also felt that the sea food in the dish was flawlessly cooked, not overcooked and it was seasoned rightly.

The Yaki Udon that is the Japanese Buckwheat noodles was a visual delight with the vegetables and chicken 
in it. It had beautifully incorporated colors of the veggies and the chicken was moist and tender. The wafting smell of the noodles made me salivate and once in my mouth, it was an even better experience. The noodles were divine and the fragrance of the toasted sesame oil left me wanting for more.

We finished with traditional Malaysian custard which was the most delicate custard I ever had. It was velvety; absolutely right on sweetness and a mellow hint of coconut milk gave it a wonderful freshness. It held its triangular shape which means it was firm enough but not hard or eggy to be precise. However, the chocolate mousse was a letdown. The consistency was thick, heavy and jelly-like rather than smooth and light.

This meal was consumed over two nights by three people and everyone only had good things to talk about.
Coming to the service, it was prompt and rapid. We did not have to wait between the courses and they also have a good drinks menu. Also, they oblige to any concoction you would like. They do have a pre-set vegetarian and non vegetarian menu. Overall, service is good in this restaurant.

Also, the prices are reasonable for it being a five star hotel restaurant. I have seen insane prices for mediocre food so I again stress on this being a better restaurant than many in the market.

I have to emphasize that this restaurant is a must go-to place. Considering everything, the worth is more than the money spent!

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