TO say that fate had its hand in connecting four men, with a dream of owning a restaurant, is not far-fetched when listening to the story behind Junior Chellapa.
The family-styled restaurant makes quite a first impression, enveloping visitors with its warm lighting; its vibrant walls filled with splashes of colour and light-hearted cartoon illustrations with beautiful embroidered umbrellas from Jaipur adorning the ceiling.
Occupying a cosy spot among some swanky names at the colonial-styled building in Lorong Raja Chulan, its niche as the only Indian restaurant adds diversity to Old Malaya’s potpourri of cuisines.
Having opened its doors as Chettiar Tiffin Cafe in October last year, a name change was necessary when new partners came on board this Indian enterprise.
Behind its name lies a fictional tale of Chellapa senior and his son Junior Chellapa who indulged in a culinary adventure in their travels from Karaikudi to Kashmir, India.
Partners SP Selva, Rahul Dhir Bhutani, Siva Sachi and Manoraj Krishnasamy have a connection with food.
The most experienced are Selva – for his well-established Passage Thru India restaurants – and Rahul, a food and beverage consultant.
Siva and Manoraj, fast friends for 28 years, connect to food through their shared love for eating and their recent discovery that their grandparents owned Indian restaurants once-upon-a-time in Segamat, Johor.
Owning a restaurant was on their bucket list and the boys from Bukit Bintang Boys School, Petaling Jaya, have this ticked off.
With no idea where to begin, Siva and Manoraj went to Selva for advice on how to get started in the food and beverage business but did not find what they were looking for. “When we first met and told him our intention, he said ‘you guys are not ready’,” said Manoraj with a chuckle.
Undeterred, the determined duo returned for yet another consultation with Selva one-and-a-half years later.
“He remembered us and invited us to join him as business partners as Selva and Rahul had opened a restaurant in Old Malaya.
“They were looking to revamp the restaurant and Junior Chellapa was born earlier this year,” quipped Siva.
Not only did they realise their dream but the chance of learning the ropes alongside Selva and Rahul proved invaluable.
On the upper floor walls, Selva’s artistic talent is seen with strokes, depicting a scenic and vibrant village that he had passed through in India.
With cooks from India, the partners sat through several food tastings and tweaked recipes to suit the Malaysian palate and came up with a 60% south Indian and 40% north Indian menu.
So what about the food?
An uncomplicated menu listing appetisers, soups, seafood, chicken, mutton, vegetarian, house specials and tandoor specialities makes it easy for diners to find what they are looking for.
There are also lunch specials here priced from RM15 for a thali set to RM25 for meat options.
Since it was our first time here, we sought help from Rahul, Siva and Manoraj on what to order.
There was some muffled talk among them and orders for crab rasam was placed. It did not take too long for a heavy stainless steel vessel with spicy crab rasam (RM10) to be presented.
Aromatic and strong in spices, rasam is soup for the soul and this version awakens one’s taste buds.
With a menancing claw making a statement, the rasam was a tad spicy. Personally, I would have preferred more crab flavour in the soup.
Bhutani suggested the Exotic Tandoor and Hot Platter (RM80), ideal for trying a little bit of this and that.
A platter, abundant with a mixture of chicken tikka, murgh malai kebab, fish tikka, mutton seekh kebab, grilled prawns and grilled squid is just the kind of thing for picky gourmets.
Wearing happy smiles after wiping the platter clean, we relished the sumptuous fall-off-the-bone tender New Zealand lamb ribs (RM36) cooked in tasty savoury tomato masala gravy.
The gravy can be lapped up with naan or alternatively, eaten with briyani or white rice.
Another reddish hued dish that deserves mention is Chellapa’s Pomfret (RM48).
A handsome sized pomfret is deep-fried and slathered with a spice-filled sauce paying homage to the south Indian cooking style.
The Sultani Grilled Prawns (RM36) features Sabah fresh water king prawns in skewers, cooked on a hot plate.
Taking on a lighter shade of pale is the 1/2 Chicken Pasanda (RM33), a luscious offering with almonds and cashew nut paste in its creation.
These dishes are from the restaurant’s house specials.
The kitchen also served a chilli Crab Masala that requires one to roll up their sleeves to dig into this seafood treat.
A trip to an Indian restaurant is incomplete without desserts and our choice of gulab jamun, payasam, carrot halwa and rasgulla helped seal in the sweet memories.
The restaurant also has cold and hot drinks and even alcoholic beverages to complement your meal.
JUNIOR CHELLAPA, Old Malaya, 4, Lorong Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2020 1020) Business hours: 11am to 2.30pm, 4pm to 6pm and 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.