WHEN on vacation to a foreign country for a substantial period, my craving for Indian food somehow intensifies.
Unconsciously, I start looking if there are Indian restaurants in that particular place just in case I need a fix.
But if I were an expat working in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle, or a tourist wanting to try northern and southern Indian food in one sitting, I could just make my way to Cholas Spice Kitchen at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel.
Located on the second floor of the hotel, this stand-alone restaurant is named after the Chola dynasty, the longest-running dynasty in the country’s history that left a mark in south India until the 13th century.
As you are ushered in through the glass doors to the main dining room, the intense and grandiose decor of gold floor-to-ceiling wall columns, red and black wallpaper, gold chairs and bright orange place mats screams “posh”.
“We want to project it as a five-star restaurant named after the famous kingdom,” said owner Datuk Thirumoorthy Nadesan.
Based on observation, it is a conducive restaurant to host a power lunch or corporate dinner, what with it being in the vicinity of offices along Jalan Sultan Ismail.
Thirumoorthy said a speciality chef was hired to cook north and south Indian dishes as both cuisines differ greatly in ingredients and techniques.
The open concept kitchen is manned by chef Chinmaya Parichha from Mumbai, who whipped up some of his recommendations for us to try.
There are vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali meals starting from RM22.50, and the menu has a range of Cholas Special Biryani with chicken, mutton, crab, fish and vegetarian versions as well as soups, starters, mains and desserts.
Our meal consisted of garlic and cheese naan, nandu rasam (RM14.50), chicken tikka kebab (RM34.50), Mahi Ajwaini Tikka (fish), chicken chettinad (RM32.50), bhendakaya pachidi (RM24.50), avial (RM24.50), and Awadhi Mutton Briyani (RM34.50).
If your threshold for spiciness is high, the nandu (crab) rasam that has a flower crab claw floating on the surface of the hot, flavourful soup is what you need to whet your appetite.
Sounds of sizzle on a hot place had our ears and palate burning as the smokey aroma permeated through the restaurant.
We loved the chicken kebab as the meat was tender and marinade of spices had just the right amount of heat.
Cooking fish tikka is tricky and can often lead to it being overcooked, unless you use a sturdier fish that can absorb all the flavours of the marinade.
Here, the dory fish did not quite take to the marinade of yoghurt, spinach, onion seed, garam masala, black salt and lemon.
The chicken chettinad, however, was a favourite at the table as well as the avial, which is a sought-after vegetarian dish from Kerala in which the vegetables are cooked in grated coconut and curry leaves.
“Traditionally, avial uses toddy water but ours has coconut, cream, yoghurt and spices to coat seasonal vegetables like young banana and murungakai,” said Chinmaya.
The spicy stir-fry ladies’ fingers done Andhra-style was a bit fibrous but we loved the mutton briyani as it was nicely done.
If tandoori is your go-to dish, the restaurant’s range comprises chicken and seafood options.
Dessert had us trying gulab jamun, paruppu payasam (RM15), creme caramel (RM15) and semiya payasam (RM15).
CHOLAS SPICE KITCHEN, Second Floor, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03- 2602 2736). Business hours: 11am to 10pm, daily. Pork-free.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.