I was excited when Hilton came to Chennai. Though I have never visited any of their properties world wide nor dined in them, I had very high expectations. So for a special occasion, we visited their roof top and came back amazed by the ambiance but disappointed with the food. The very next week, I got a call from Hilton to check out their world buffet and I went, ate and wrote a not so nice review. I had said that this was purely a business buffet and I would not spend 3k for a meal for two here. And when people invite you and you don't give a nice review after eating their food, they won't invite you ever again, and that is why I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when Hilton called me last week to try out their latest Indian restaurant, Ayna.
So we went there last Sunday and as we entered the restaurant, the interiors and the ambiance impressed us. Easily the best decor in all of Chennai and that includes most of the five star hotels too. It had a palace feel to it and as we sat down in a nice corner, you cannot but help notice the quality of the cutlery and the table cloth. Top notch.
The waiter recommended a Gulkand mohito and we went with that and it was one wonderfully refreshing drink. The menu is simple, but the waiters make you feel like, just tell us what you want and we will make it for you, don't worry about the menu. We saw many kebabs on the menu and asked if they serve a platter and the quick response was 'Absolutely sir. In fact most of our guest like a platter'. So we got both a veg platter and a non veg one. I took the panner tikka and did not like it at all. I was thinking, 'Oh, yet another Hilton restaurant with awesome ambiance and average food' and tasted the Murgh malai kebab and everything I was thinking left my mind. This was an awesome kebab. I immediately pounced on the Achari prawns and this was magic too, superbly done jumbo Prawns, (which is a personal favorite). The raan (lamb) that was served was slightly underspiced for my liking, but it was so well cooked that it just melted. Or maybe it melted before I could taste the spices. Among the vegetarian dishes, I enjoyed the veg Shami kebab and a tikki like dish that was mouth watering.
And then came the main course, small portions of Chemeen curry which was a prawn gravy, an Amaravati chicken gravy and Khosha mangsho which is a lamb semi gravy. We had them with a zafrani paronthi naan which is a milk paratha with sesame seeds and I thoroughly enjoyed the dishes. The garlic naan and the kulcha were very nice too,but next time I am here, I will just get the zafrani naan with a gravy and be happy. We had the hyderabadi biriyani, which is the three coloured biriyani, and though for me the Muslim Marriage biriyani is the one, but I am slowly beginning to appreciate this variety too. The desserts come as a platter anyway and since they are priced similarly, you can mix and match them. The malpoa, the pal appam and the basunthi were all really nice.
I saw a special vegetarian section on the menu with no onion and no garlic, and that came as a surprise as I have not seen those in five star restaurants. Most good indian restaurants focus on a particular area but Ayna, seems to have got the mix right with a perfect blend of north south east and west Indian foods.
Service was impeccable and though I was invited, I could see how well they attended to the other guests, and the restaurant was packed by the way, impressive for a restaurant that is new and not advertised yet. I was told that they serve different portions when you come in a large group and you can have a little bit of everything or if you are a single diner, they give you two dishes in smaller portions for the price of one, so all you need to do is ask. And to make it even better they have a nice private dining area like a board room that can seat 15. I had a chance to speak to the Chef (and I have met quite a few courtesy, Chennai Foodie), and this chef was extremely down to earth and let his food do all the talking.
If there is a special occasion that warrants pan Indian food, I will not have any doubts in recommending Ayna. Then again, if you are the type who eats out at Five star hotels more often than not, then this is a must try. With Ayna, I believe Hilton has got it bang on with the consumer dining and has stepped out of its business dining mentality.
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