Dakshin at ITC Hotels has a New Menu

Dakshin at ITC Kakatiya is the best South Indian restaurant in Hyderabad possibly by miles. The restaurant incorporates the best dishes from the entire region, with diverse signature concepts like Iyer’s Trolley items, Banana Dosa and Meen Moilee. Being a favourite of a large number of diners, an expectant buzz is guaranteed when the 28-year old national chain Dakshin comes out with a new menu.

Executive Chef Praveen Anand, Brand Custodian of Dakshin was in Hyderabad to launch the new menu. It was a pleasure interacting with Chef Praveen who is extremely knowledgeable about the diverse history of South Indian food. Chef Praveen iterated that Dakshin incorporates the best recipes from Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The menu has about 28 new items whereas the popular old items have been retained. In each location a few home state dishes have been added too, for example, the outlet in ITC Kakatiya has more menu items from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

As always, all the new items have been thoroughly researched before they are put on the menu. ITC uses a technique called menu engineering which studies the popular dishes of the outlet in a particular city. The taste profile of the customers is understood from that, and this profile is mapped when the menu is reworked. That said, some of the popular dishes have seen no change over the last 28 years – banana dosa, ginger chutney, and coconut chutney were some of the examples given.

Chef Praveen went ahead and shared quite a bit of interesting information about South Indian food. He talked at length about the long Maratha rule in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu and the effect it had on the local cuisine.  Sarvendra, a Maratha King of Thanjavur had recorded some of the recipes of the eighteenth century. It seems Sambha, a Maratha nobleman created sambar when he used tamarind instead of lemon juice in an Amti recipe, and it turned out a completely different dish which got its name from him.

Chef Praveen Anand with Chef Sakala Sankara of ITC Kakatiya

Also, he emphasized how the French rule in Pondicherry had a distinct effect on the flavours there.  As per Chef Praveen, the Andhra and Telangana food uses a lot of chillis because the smoking a lot of tobacco takes the taste out of the tongue of rural folk. So they need a lot of chillies to get it back to life.

The menu unfolds into different sections, and also incorporates chef curated set menus. Sarvottamam has the most popular dishes from all the states. In this section, there are four menus, vegetarian (Saivam) and non-vegetarian (Asaivam), a seafood variant (Matsyam) and finally, for the gourmand, there is a set menu Sampurnam incorporating the best dishes into a set menu.

During this discussion, we had started delving into some of the new items.  Aatukari Chops was a Chettinad special, where braised mutton chops are dipped in egg and fried to make it delicious.  Another starter worth ordering is Karivaepila Yera or fried prawns in curry leaves laden masala. Mokkajana Vada, a vada made from corn was the pick of vegetarian starters. Vazhai Shunti from Thanjavur a spiced raw banana dumpling with many other ingredients like cashew and chana was another starter of note.

Meen Pollichathu is a popular dish from Kerala. Here at Dakshin, it was a boneless fish fillet grilled wrapped inside a banana leaf. Used in the dish are traditional Kerala spices enhancing the taste further. The banana wrapped fish dishes take in various masalas in different parts of India ranging from the Patrani Machhi to the Bengali Paturi. The polichathu holds its place proudly in that list.

We tried rice with a few vegetarian dishes. Annanas Mensakai is a Dakshin Kannada dish made with pineapples, Byadgi chillies of Karnataka and coconut.  This was for me the pick of the main courses.  Beerkaya Paal Koora, a coconut milk based dish of turai gave it stiff competition. Even the Chinna Vengaya Patchi Milagai Mandi, the long-named mixed vegetable dish was super. The Tomato Pappu was simple and sublime. In fact, a hardcore non-vegetarian like me enjoyed the vegetarian dishes more today.

As far as the non-vegetarian main courses were concerned, I loved both the Uragai Mamsam (a local pickled mutton dish from Andhra Pradesh) and Thengenkai Kodi (a coconut based mild chicken curry).  The Telugu style Kodi Pulav also tasted very traditional and good.

There were two desserts served. Aadikumayam, a ghee-laden halwa of rice and lentil was par for the course. But, I went overboard with Kadal Patchee, a chilled dessert of milk, khoya, nuts and China grass. The taste of the melt-in-the-mouth dish from Kilakarai in Tamil Nadu was very special, and this is definitely a gem from the new menu.

Dakshin is one of the very few restaurants in Hyderabad which has never disappointed me in spite of my numerous visits. It is a favourite for a lot of my friends who turn up there with their families on every festive occasion.  I am sure they will also love the new dishes on the revamped menu. As I said, except for some regional delicacies the menu is same across Dakshin outlets in the country.

ITC Kakatiya
Telephone 23400132

Disclaimer: The review is based on an invite from the restaurant

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