Such a heartwarming and soul stirring experience it was at Pakwan Chennai. What makes it stand out? The well designed, pleasing interiors and the AMAZING food consistently spread across various cuisines! That’s the crux of our experience at this relatively new pure vegetarian spot at T.Nagar. This should be enough for you to know that that’s where you are to be headed for your next celebratory meal!
The location is one of it’s biggest positives as this locale has quite the deficiency of fine dining pure vegetarian restaurants. While the building it’s situated at is only half done, the entrance of the restaurant is BRILLIANT! Done up with eye-catching hues of red, the majestic seats are indicative of what awaits inside. This place is bound to get filled during the weekends so make sure to reserve your table! The interiors are simple yet have this luxurious subtleness in every element. The decor screams Indian with the Mandalas and the Jharokhas while the whole setup is simple contemporary interior work. Cushioned armchairs, well-coordinated colours of grey, red and gold and dim lights with the well-spaced seating gives you absolute comfort and privacy while dining. This is the main dining hall which could house about 150 diners. They also have a couple of banquet halls for private parties or get together.
Other than these, on Dhanteras (two days before Diwali) they plan on launching an ultra elite, private dining room for up to 15 diners at a time where it’s mainly going to be an experience-oriented dining. The splendid interiors, plush chairs, name tags for each diner, specially pre-plated food on golden platters and extremely diligent service are the highlights of this dining service. Luckily, that afternoon, we were seated here for the lunch meet we were invited to and had a glimpse (not in its entirety) into what this experience would actually be like. This type of dining is pre-ordered where each diner chooses their preference of dishes in each category ultimately ending up with a 5-course meal!
Their menu is very detailed with descriptions and options of a wide variety of dishes spread mainly across 4 cuisines; Indian, Chinese, Italian and Mexican. What was really impressive was that their dishes across all these cuisines consistently remained delicious and hearty! The options are also wide with respect to the ingredients used (being purely vegetarian) not just sticking with the regular Paneer and Aloo dishes.
Kicking off the colourful journey (metaphorically and literally) were a range of mocktails. The menu has quite many to choose from and we had a sample of the best of these. While each of these were fresh and true to its flavours, 4 mocktails became instant favourites; Pollution Chennai (a sweet and sour mix with raw mango, lime and sprite, this was my personal favourite), Sunrise in Marina (this was a bit on the sweeter side but I liked the overall taste of the medley), Orange Chaska (spicy and sweet this was another blockbuster. The layers of orange and spicy tabasco were blended really well and with the salt on the rim, the combination was deadly!) and the Blue Ocean. Other mocktails we had were Pink Hot Lips, Party Tonight, Pink Lady and Wish your Birthday (this was the most colourful drink and had a little candle on top with layers of flavour beneath. It was too sweet for me though). We were also served a thick, sweet Lassi during the course of our meal, on point and well complementing the North Indian fare.
Starting our first course, we had the soup. We were served 4 types of soups that afternoon. Hands down, Zuppa di Asparagi, one of their specialities, was the BEST from these. Creamy, subtle and rich with asparagus, this soup is one of their most unique dishes. Second best was the Veg Clear Soup which was crystal clear and flavour packed! It was higher in sour notes but the flavour of the vegetables in it was punchy and warm. We also tried the Tamater Dhaniya Shorba, a slightly thick soup with deep flavours of coriander and tomato. It was quite mild and crunchy bits in it was wonderful. Veg Manchow Soup was also spot on Chinese with crunchy, finely diced vegetables.
As we had settled into our comfortable chairs in the luxurious surrounding of the private dining, they had a pre-plated platter of starters that came in next. The plethora of starters presented was just yum. Paneer Dum Anari and Cheese Kurkure got the maximum votes for being the best appetisers. Both, a must-try! The paneer was chunky and soft and the filling was deliciously unique. The cheese fingers, on the other hand were slightly greasy, but it was oh-SO-cheesy that no one could stop with just one bite. The salty cheese hit was all that elevated the dish. Presentation of the Cajun Spiced Cheese Fingers was way more alluring than any of the other starters, but the taste wasn’t as great. The crispy outer layer didn’t have enough punchy flavours while the cheese inside wasn’t adequate. The sauce it was served with was cool and refreshing though I didn’t think it was the apt dip for it. Mexican Bean Quesadilla was as described and quite delicious but it was too greasy and made it too heavy an appetiser. I loved how cheesy it was. Sweet Chilly Potato was the latest addition to the menu. Extremely crispy sticks of potato (french fry style) drenched in a sweet and spicy sauce was one of those appetisers kids would surely love.
From their Chaats, we got to try the Palak Kurkure Chaat and it was a sweet medley of thick curds, crispy spinach, sev and tamarind and mint chutney. It was a refreshing mix amongst the other appetisers. We also had two Salads; Caesar Salad and Nutri Salad. Caesar was really well prepared with depths of richness and creaminess and perfectly crunchy croutons. Nutri Salad was fun though healthy with it’s colourful display of veggies. The acidity in the dressing was what made it delightful and not-so-boring.
Progressing to the mains, the exposure to fresh, authentic and unique dishes kept us engaged and eager for the many more to come and gratefully there wasn’t any disappointment! First came the colourful plate of breads with Red Chilli Paratha, Tandoori Roti and Olive Naan. The Red Chilli Paratha was my favourite as the spice made it flavourful without it being even a bit overpowering! The Olive Naan wasn’t up to the mark as the flavour of the olive was to subtle to even be noticed being too finely diced. It would’ve done justice to the name if it was just a bit chunkier.
For the gravies, we had Kadai Paneer Panjabi, Kekhsan (Chef’s speciality from his hometown) and Tadkewali Dal Palak. Loved the simplicity and taste of the homely Dal with the right levels of flavours of the garlic and spinach. Kekhsan was really unique in taste and texture. Each vegetable in it was fried and then added to the really piquant gravy. The sharp, spicy flavour was well balanced with the fresh pomegranate in it! Kadai Paneer stuck to the description and was well prepared. From the rice section, we had the Firangi Subzi Sizzler Biryani. The theatrics were brilliant, the dish not so much. It was subtle and had a good blend of spices and vegetables but overall, it was just about alright.
From the continental section of mains, we had the amazing Mushroom Stroganoff. The herbed rice was perfectly cooked and aromatic and with the creamy white sauce with soft and chunky button mushrooms, this was one of the best dishes that afternoon. Definitely another one of their other must-try dishes. We also go to their the Pakwan Delight Pizza which was more of a home-style pizza with fresh crunchy toppings and ample cheese.
Filled to our heart’s content, the last course was even more so and perfectly ended the wonderful time we had there. The dessert platter consisted of Shahi Tukda, Litchi ke Rabdi, Mirchi ka Halwa, Rasmalai, Chum-Chum, Strawberry Pastry Fried Ice Cream and Litchi ke Rabdi. Brilliant ones from these were the Shahi Tukda and the Litchi ke Rabdi. Shai Tukda had a not too sweet rabdi covering a PERFECTLY crisp piece of fried bread which didn’t have cloying amounts of ghee. Loved this version! Litchi ke Rabdi was another piece of art. The cool bits of litchi in the rabdi was a match made in heaven. Again, this dessert wasn’t too sweet and suited our palates well. The strawberry pastry was really creamy, fresh and soft and apparently, a pastry chef is specially assigned to bake them fresh, in-house. The Rasmalai and Fried Ice Cream was only mediocre compared to these desserts. Mirchi ka Halwa was extremely innovative and a spirited twist between all this. The capsicum in it was subtle and with the sweetness didn’t overpower it’s flavour. It did take some getting used to, nevertheless it was something very different to the regular Indian sweets we’ve tried. Anyway, with just the first two desserts, our day was made!
This is definitely one of those restaurants I would visit many times to enjoy the food wholly, especially those few dishes that still tantalise my taste buds. Pricing is nominal and perfectly in line with the quality, quantity of the food and the fine dining vibe of the restaurant. It’s one of the don’t-miss-it spots, even more so for ‘em vegetarians.
WTF METER FOR PAKWAN Chennai:
Ambience – 9/10
Service – 8/10
Quality & Taste – 9/10
Quantity – 8/10
Beverages – 8/10
VFM – 8/10
Overall – 8/10
Reservations – Recommended