Friday, July 23, 2010

Biriyani Binge - Chasing Chennai's best biriyani

Hello me hearties. Firstly, many thanks on the positive feedback and constructive criticism to my last top 5  story on the best Sambar in Chennai. I am glad you acknowledge that my lists are nothing but personal opinion coated with a layer of generalization to serve as nothing more than a guide to your gastronomic experiences.

One of the outlets we tried on
Kutchery Road, Mylapore!

Even as I was reaching the tail end of my Sambar trail, I had already decided my next top 5 list – Biriyani! Undoubtedly one of the finest representatives of Indian cooking, the biriyani occupies a special place in almost every person’s heart as a defacto selection when eating out or on a Sunday afternoon at home.

In sync with the diverse nature of our great country comes a host of schools of this iconic rice delicacy. The most popular school in Chennai is the (comparatively) light, mildly spiced Ambur variety which finds its place in street-side outlets to the fancy five-stars of the city, followed by the “real, original” Hyderabadi  Biriyani.
During this trail, I was joined by my comrades – Rohit Koliyot and Videep Vijay Kumar – both great friends and with well trained taste buds. We covered no less than 14 different options including Ajmal Biriyani, Mughal Zaikaa, Velu Military, Buhari, Dindigul Thalappakkati, Amaravathi, Sanabel, Kalyani, Anjappar, The Park’s 601, Ponnusamy, Paramount, Cosmo Club, Samco, House of Biriyani, Asif & Bros and Taj Coromandel’s Anise. The final cut presented here is a summation of our experiences weighted the closest we could come to agree upon. There was never a clear majority and that, we hope, will create a pleasant problem of plenty for all of you.

Chennai’s top 5 Biriyanis, in no particular order:

Mughal Zaikaa – Most of you must be wondering where the hell this is. But our wonderful adventure seeking the epitome of biriyani greatness culminated in this quaint little joint located behind Ega theatre, just off Vasu Street. Serving biriyani of the Ambur style, Mughal Zaikaa’s biriyani was amongst the best all-round preparations we tasted. The fragrance of each spice with the zest of saffron and perfectly cooked mutton came together to give us one of Chennai’s best biriyanis.
    o Try with: Chicken masala, Phirni (dessert)
    o Call: 28588902
    o Comments: No air-conditioning, No home-delivery

601 @ The Park – It’s rare for any top 5 list to include outlets from five-star hotels. Among many reasons, the food’s never really uber authentic, the price is prohibitive and at some other times, it’s just the most obvious choice. But all of that changed with the Lucknow Mutton Biriyani (LMB) at The Park’s coffee shop – 601. Easily Chennai’s best dhum biriyani, the LMB stays true to its traditional Awadhi roots and the layered style of the preparation is unmistakable, with the meat layer sandwiched between two thick layers of fine, long grain basmati rice of the highest quality. A must try when you feel like eating out towards the start of the month!

    o Try with: the Raita – its special! Carrot Halwa for afterwards.
    o Call: 42676000

Dindigul Thalappakatti Biriyani – Yes you’ve seen this place while commuting to work or during your weekend shopping. But trust us when we say that their vulgar red branding is no reflection of the Biriyani they are so famous for. Intent on creating a new school of biriyani, the Dindigul biriyani is a unique combination of fabulously cooked meat made using Seeraga Samba rice instead of the usual basmati rice. This rice is generally of shorter grain size and is just as aromatic as basmati and popular throughout Tamil Nadu.  A lot of people, including yours truly have been highly disappointed on our first visits to this outlet. I have learnt to attribute this to the hype and expectation associated with this well done up joint chain. However, with time, you realize that the mutton biriyani is addictive for its consistency in flavour and the tenderness of its meat. At Rs. 112 a portion, its definitely not for regular consumption – but then again, biriyani never really is. Save it for that special occasion, especially when with friends after a drink or two and head to their outlets at Anna Nagar (Behind Kandasamy Naidu College), T Nagar or Nungambakkam High Road (Opp The Park).

    o Try with: Chicken 65 (amongst the top 5 in the city!), Chicken Kothu Parotta (one of the best portions tasted at any restaurant in a while)
    o Call: 66321411 (Annanagar), 45506263 (T Nagar), 43090684 (Nungambakkam)

Velu Military Hotel – Yes, that little hole in the wall off Valluvar Kottam High Road. Recently redone, the iconic “Velu Military” still serves one of the best biriyanis in town. A cross between the Ambur and Hyderabadi schools, the biriyani is long grain basmati with a faint smatter of spices served at a particularly delectable temperature makes this a must-try for everyone. A must try is the King Prawn biriyani which, unlike other attempts at sea food biriyani, is actually very desirable. Pricey at Rs. 250, you get a healthy offering of 8 to 10 fairly large prawns per portion. The mutton preparation is more usually priced at Rs. 105 and is also recommended.

    o Try with: Fish Fry
    o Call: Don’t bother, just land up!
    o Comments: One of the few outlets to still retain ‘family rooms’.

Sanabel – a decrepit outlet along Annanagar’s ultra wide third avenue main road between the roundtana and the K-4 Annanagar Police Station, Sanabel has been around for over 10 years, serving the finest quality muslim biriyani in both chicken and mutton varieties. Not recommended for dine-in, a parcel is accompanied  by brinjal salna which is very well done and goes perfectly with the biriyani.
    o Try with: The brinjal salna it comes with
    o Call: 42057107

Special mentions –

Paramount Hotel, Kilpauk & Annanagar – For over 15 years now, they have been consistent in producing the best fish biriyani this city has to offer.

Anise, Taj Coromandel – Was hard leaving this out of the top 5 but the fact that it makes a very unique variety of biriyani – Ghilli Biriyani – is the reason it had to be left out as well as why it makes the cut! The name originates actually from a very literal hindi transliteration of “Geeli” biriyani to depict it’s molten and liquid state. With fine mutton pieces in rice soaked in a gravy of mutton stock and spices, this biriyani is definitely a must-have.

A side note to mention my childhood friend and school mate J. Giridharan who took the effort to respond to a Facebook message of mine about this artice. He sent through a good list of 10-12 places by email – thanks mate, nice touch.


Gopinath Nayakar said...

did u check out the mutton dum biryani at copper chimney ? (cathedral rd)
and the biryani at new andhra meals hotel (pondy bazaar, t.nagar)

and personally i think the cosmo club biryani is also awesome.

nice effort man, looking forward to more reviews.

santosh said...

hi tat's a good choice .but for best biryani karreem mess periamet and kurinchi by central station .try out the unique mutton biryani at pandya's in tondiarpet and the muton biryani in green park .harish i think u forgot about the special chicken birayani @ zum zum

Anonymous said...

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is the sharck on diet?

malika said...

I'm a cooking instructor in Brussels (Belgium). I'll be travelling from Nov. 9th until 21th in South India, landing in Chennai. I'd very like to take professional Indiancookery classes. Would you have any recommendation?
Thanks in advance

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Abinash said...

Wow! for a biryani buff I totally loved this blog on the best biryanis in Chennai. Being a Hyderabadi Dum-Biryani is my favourite and I've never found a place in Chennai that serves this type of biryani that can closely match the Hyderbadi version. However off late the biryani at 4 Seasons (Anna Nagar)seem to match the authentic taste of the same. I've been recommending this place to other fellow biryani lovers and have gotten equally good reviews. Would love to hear from you about this place?

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I do know few good biriyani centres in chennai, Ya Mohideen in pallavaram, Kalyana biriyani in second lane beach road, Ghousiya biriyani thousand lights, famous ambur star biriyani opp to vadapalani temple, I have given the shops which were missed out here - Mahesh

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