The newly-opened Desi Di is certainly a pot-breaking joint while trying to be a path breaker.So, what's a pot-breaker? Country matka chicken is one of the dishes on the menu and it is served in style. An aluminium tray holding rice bowls, a sealed mud pot, an onion plate, dal and other items is brought to the diner's table.Chef Aaron Coutinho taps hard around the pot till it develops cracks and removes the top quarter portion to reveal the country chicken inside.Curious diners start clicking pictures of the pot-breaking ritual with their smartphones.At Rs 1,599, the dish is one of the costliest at Desi Di. And it tastes good, with the portion size enough for four. It's a meal in itself."This is one of the four dishes that needs to be ordered 24 hours ahead. The country chicken has to be marinated for several hours before it can be cooked," Coutinho explained.A daring experiment indeed in these days when the urge is for instant gratification.
Desi Di is conceptualised as a restaurant reminding people of a bygone era. Outside the restaurant door is the wheel of a cart-turned-reception table with sharbet bottles and a "Welcum" board on it.The word welcome has been deliberately misspelt to remind one of what is normally seen outside some rural shops, said a staffer.The interiors also offer some nostalgia. There is an old payphone instrument that was ubiquitous in the 1980s, a hand-wound gramophone, the front portion of a Tata truck, vintage tables and steel chairs.One of the wall paintings is that of an attractive Rajput princess wearing shades and holding a smartphone.Soon after taking a seat, mocktails -- lemon barley shikanji and red hibiscus iced tea -- were offered. Served in a tall beaker with a long straw, the red hibiscus tea was refreshing."The drink is made with dried leaves of hibiscus and flowers," Coutinho said.The lemon barley shikanji had a mild jaljeera taste.By this time, the starters -- vada bao (open-faced steamed bun), arbi (colocasia) pakoda, tandoored phool gobi (cauliflower) and mirch pakoda -- had arrived at the table.
The arbi pakoda was served in an aluminium tumbler while the mirch pakoda came in a tiffin box that children used to take to schools in the 1970s."I used to take my lunch to school in a box like that," a middle-aged female guest in the next table was heard commenting.The vada bao and arbi pakoda were divine. "Instead of finger chips made with potato we decided on arbi," Coutinho said.Non-vegetarians can bet on country chicken Afghani kebab.Similarly, the spicy mushroom khakra ya papad was nice and crispy and did not get soggy."As for dips, we decided to go for locally available veggies like makkai (corn), radish, ridge gourd or pumpkin," Coutinho explained. The restaurant's radish chutney was good and could go with all the dishes.Desi Di offers various items for light and heavy meals. Sea food lovers can choose prawn balchao stuffed calamari on a bed of lapsi/broken wheat.
When bitten, the prawn and squid give out a nice flavour.Vegetarians can try out Gujarat's stuffed panki with varied stuffings.It was time to go for kala-khatta soda to ease the tummy for other dishes.Coutinho came to the table carrying a charcoal burnt unshaved coconut. On opening the coconut top, the smell of cooked prawn and mustard oil wafted out.The dish was good with rice, but a dash of additional chilli is needed for the southern palate.The spicy Goan fish curry with brown rice (or if you wish, basmati or ponni rice) was also good.On the other hand, the vegetarian paneer kurchan accompanied with dal tadka went well with rice and roti. The masala millet kichadi with Gujarati kadi was also good.For dessert, the gulam jamum cheesecake, gajar ka halwa somasa, falooda and kulfi were on offer.
What: Desi Di
Where: Integral Club, Pilkington Road, Ayanavaram, Chennai
Cost for two: Rs 800 plus taxes/Rs 1,599 if ordering the speciality, but remember, this is ideal for a group of four