When was the last time you said this to your buddies; “Maplai, va da nalla poi kattu kattalam” (roughly translates to “bro let’s go and hog). The city continues to be laden with the usual (read as boring/monotonous) meals and Andhra meals joints for such cravings. Hold up! That’s until now. Maplai has come up with their ‘Virundhu’ concept, a brilliantly curated feast by Mad Chef Koushik. “What’s special? How’s it different?” Wait up! Let’s go through this journey (yes, “journey”, you’ll know why) and understand the ‘maplai’ of all feasts in detail. To stun you at the very beginning, this is ELABORATE, consisting of 54 dishes. Oh yes, you read that right! 50+ dishes, if you are a non vegetarian and roughly about 40 dishes if you are a vegetarian! It did seem like a massive task especially when I got to thinking as to how/what in a 50+ course meal would keep me engaged throughout, without it getting over-the-top/monotonous. Delightfully, I was mistaken.
Quite a big property in a central locality of the city, Maplai is easily locatable thanks to it’s bright lighting on the outside that’s near impossible to miss. As you walk in, the place is done up minimalistically; warm, cozy and neatly arranged all over. Smooth music, effective air conditioning and perfectly lit, it’s a great place to have a happy, soulful meal with friends and family. Service is another interesting facet here where the staff have been assigned interesting character names. Enthusiastic and attentive they ensure we are well fed.
Having been introduced to the energetic staff that evening, we were all set to begin the curated South Indian culinary journey. Kicking it off were 3 beverages;
- Kuluki Sharbath a very refreshing blend of ingredients that ultimately made it resemble sugarcane!
- Fruit Mix as typical and nutritious as the Madurai drink could get, perfect especially for kids
- Rose Milk OHSOGOOD. Had about 6 refills of this throughout the course of the meal. Too good to be true!
As we were chugging all of these down, a plate of light and crispy, onion rings shaped Vadams came along. With about 5 different dips, this was delightful to munch on, mixing and matching between the Avakkai Mayo, Pineapple Chutney, Chili Onion Marmalade, Mint Mayo and Curried Mayo. With each having its distinct flavour, the Avakkai and Mint were instant hits. The Coriander Pepper Soup was hearty, appetising and perfectly spiced and the Vadams swimming in them gave the perfectly necessary crunch.
The list of appetisers was overwhelming but every dish was as good as the next and it paved the perfect way to the main course. Another impressive feature of the Virundhu was that dishes were equal in number and method of preparation in vegetarian and non vegetarian sections, ensuring that everyone could taste that particular style of cooking.
From the vegetarian side we had:
- Karukke Murukke Vendakkai or Crispy Fried Okra, crunchy and not even a bit greasy with occasional salt hits that was super appetising.
- Curried Paneer Tikka was a South Indian spin on a regular paneer tikka, heavy on curry leaves and slightly spicy aftertaste. Loved the curry leaf hit on it.
- Urulai Kabab was one of our favourites, a South Indian Tandoori Potato preparation. Paired best with the pineapple and mint mayo.
- Gobi 65 was a vegetarian twist to the Chicken 65, wasn’t as appreciative as the rest on the menu.
- Podi Paniyaram were soft, perfectly spiced with hints of Paruppu Podi and Gunpowder on the top. Loved it especially because of it’s true South Indian-ness.
- Veg Kola Urundai was made with mashed Vazhapoo (Banana Flowers). For people who aren’t a fan of the main ingredient, this is an absolute treat for there was no hint of Vazhapoo at all! The masala rich Tanjavur dish was quite the stand out as it’s non vegetarian counterpart and went amazingly well with Rasam Rice.
- Paneer Ka Thakali, a dish inspired by the Chef’s Atkins Diet, was another one of our faourites! This lip smacker was tangy and low on spices but the delightful combo of Paneer and Tomato was epic and is still fresh in my mind.
- Paneer Pepper Fry was another close replication of a non vegetarian dish, the Brain Fry. Mildly peppery, soft chunks of smoky paneer, this also was an instant hit.
Non-vegetarian appetisers were mostly the same and these we were what we had that night:
- Nethili Fry was traditional and delicious. Was great with Rasam Rice and the anchovies were fresh as ever.
- Chicken ka Thakali, the non vegetarian counterpart of the original dish, this was not as appealing as the Paneer dish. The meat was soft but the softness of the Paneer was way better than the meat’s texture.
- Mutton Pepper Fry was lovely! Soft mutton that was perfectly spicy and peppery.
- Nattu Kozhi Fry was yummy with it’s South Indian panache. Absolutely loved the Namma Ooru style Fried Chicken.
- Tandoori Fish Tikka, spicy tandoor grilled Seer fish. Loved it to bits.
- Maplai Chicken Tikka was another delicious appetiser. The absolutely soft chunks of Chicken were just about rightly spiced and between all the overload of spicy appetisers, this mildly spiced dish was so good.
- Chicken 65 was on point, slightly crunch, soft and spiced. Nothing to rave about here.
- Mutton Kola Urundai, a must have at Maplai, Virundhu or not. Carefully prepared, this was as good as the vegetarian dish and went so so well with the Rasam rice. We saved this up just for that. Must try.
We weren’t too filled at any point in time only because of the freshness and care put into the detailed preparation of each dish. Chef ensures that only Organic Ghee and Cold Pressed Gingelly Oil is used in the preparation of all dishes. So after a little walk, we were all set to get on to the main course of this elaborate meal. A wide assortment of Breads, Rice and Gravies followed the delicious appetisers. The usual Breads like Malabar, Veechu and Coin Barotta, Idiyappam, Appam, Kal Dosai and Egg Appam were on point, fresh and hot. Chettinad Naan and Karaikudi Lachcha were the twists in this category that was again, brilliant with curry leaves, garlic and sesame seeds.
The gravies that came along were:
- Maplai Paneer Butter Masala
- Mushroom Chettinad
- Mangalore Mix Veg Curry
- Chicken Chettinad
- Nadan Mutton Curry
- Fish Moilee
Each as distinct as the next, The Chettinad Gravies were my absolute favourites. These went very well with the Breads and the Ghee Rice! There was also the good ol’ Curd Rice of course, to finish off the South Indian meal.
The other dishes on the Rice list were even more enticing;
- Thalassery Veg Biryani
- Maplai Chicken Biryani (Ambur Style)
- Mutton Biryani (Dindigul Style)
The fresh, succulent, chunky bits of meat with well soaked through spices and masala were what made us keep going back for the biryanis. One of the best biryanis we’ve had! Surprisingly, the Thalassery Biryani was also just as amazing; rich and hearty masala with ample vegetables. Loved all 3 equally!
Filled up to the brim, there were portions of some delicious desserts in chai glasses. It was a sweet finish to the wonderful journey, of course. Who’d say no to Desserts!?
- Lychee Payasam
- Brownie with Ice Cream
- Carrot Kheer
- Mango Cheesecake
This was the lovely spread of desserts that we got to enjoy. Each of it was unique, it’s identity shining bright through whatever little we managed to eat. The best part was that we then got to taste their Karupattimisu, a piece of fine art by the BRILLIANT Mad Chef.
Made with Palm Sugar, this is a South Indian twist on the world famous Italian dessert, Tiramisu. The best part was that it had no espresso in it, but the dessert tasted SO SO SO(…) GOOD! Good for health, good for the tastebuds and so soulfully good. YUM. This was not a part of the virundhu and we tried this separately just having heard it’s praise.
Their Thalis are unlimited and this particular Virundhu at Rs. 699++ is an awesome deal for the unlimited yummies curated as a journey that every hardcore South Indian cuisine lover is bound to enjoy. Happiness is good food, clearly.
WTF METER FOR MAPLAI VIRUNDHU:
Ambience – 9/10
Service – 7/10
Taste – 8/10
Beverages – 8/10
VFM – 9/10
Overall – 8/10
Wifi – Yes
Parking – Valet