Padmanabham busts popular myths surrounding South Indian cuisine by delving deep into each region it represents. By Adila Matra

 

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It is impossible to miss this new entrant when you pass by Janpath in New Delhi. In the lane opposite to the vibrant Tibetan handicrafts and jewellery stores, right next to the iconic Saravana Bhavan, is another South Indian restaurant by the name Padmanabham. And just like the Saravana Bhavan, the queue in front of Padmanabham too, is long and winding, irrespective of the time. That too, within a few months of its opening.

Helmed by chef Bakshish Dean (known for his innovations in Zambar), Padmanabham serves Andhra, Tamil, Karnataka, and Kerala-based cuisines — all vegetarian. The interiors, too, take inspiration from the art and architecture of these regions. There is Mandala art work inspired by Madurai’s Meenakshi temple, a majestic Balaji statue, Chettinad pillars, and motifs typical of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum from which the restaurant gets its name too.

 

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Apart from an extensive à la carte section, Padmanabham also offers a rotating menu called Bhojanam — from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka — served on banana leaves. It has also retained a few street dishes from Masala Trail, the restaurant that gave way to Padmanabham.

The Neer More—buttermilk spiced with ginger, green chilly, and curry leaves—is the perfect beverage to start off the meal, especially on a warm day. It cleanses your palate and readies it for the explosion of flavours that are to follow. The idlis (there are more than 10 varieties of it!) are spongy, maybe because the dal is sourced from the southern states themselves. Even the chutney is unlike any of its Delhi counterparts — the ratio of coconut to dal is just perfect, and it cools your tongue.

 

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The Cheese Paniyaram throws you off. The cheese is well-camouflaged with the melt-in-mouth paniyaram, yet makes its presence known subtly, leaving you wanting for more. Flavours are truly king at Padmanbaham.

Another notable quality is the minimal usage of oil. Even the Paruppu Vadai that could easily turn your hands greasy, surprises with the lack of it.

 

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The strands of Idiappam (steamed rice noodles) at Padmanabham are thicker compared to the ones served by its neighbour and a welcome change, as most homes in the South make it that way. Pair it with the creamy, thick Kadala curry for maximum flavour.

Every Bhojanam in Padmanabham has different versions of sambar — the Andhra one for instance has more dal than the Tamil one, in turn busting the popular myth that South Indian food is one. The dish is served with white or red rice along with rasam, and four varieties of vegetables (again, different for each region). The ginger pickle is especially good. Dean informs that he procures it all from a lady who runs a cottage business.

One thing that Padmanabham certainly does, apart from bringing you homely South Indian meals, is bring in the nuances from each state and shows you how vast and varied the flavours are.

Details

Address: Padmanabham, 52, Janpath Rd, Atul Grove Road, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Price for two: INR 600

Timings: 11 am to 11 pm

Contact: +91 88 82 30 0300

Related: Did You Know About These Indian Food Items That Are Not Actually Indian?