Nasi and Mee
Take the dim sum out of the steamer. Dunk it in your mouth. Realise it is super hot and struggle to eat it. Then enjoy the second dim sum when it cools a bit! Right? Maybe, but when you have a curried dim sum, then it is a whole new ball game.
Nasi and Mee has been making waves in Chennai and I can see why. Promising Malaysian and Singaporean street food, the place itself is set up like a pub and the ambiance is inviting and laid back. With quirky stuff all over the walls and an almost Singapore hawker stall like feel albeit in a posh, up market set up, the place seems to have ticked all the boxes.
We were invited for the evening and were welcomed with a trio of welcome drinks, but nothing screams Malaysia more than Milo. Having a cult status in Malaysia and in parts of Singapore, the humble Milo maybe a health drink (a failed one at that) in India, but it is revered there. The Milo here was as good as the ones you get in Malaysia, chocolaty, a little dilute (since it is a thirst quencher and not a health drink) and chilled. The warm winter melon soup kicked off the proceedings and was a beautiful comforting soup, with large winter melons in a familiar Asian broth that my Indian palate was extremely comfortable with.
Then came the dim sum in question. I don't remember having it before and so when the waiter said that the dim sum had soup in it, I was more than intrigued. I was asked to place the dim sum on a spoon, poke a hole, let the steam out and slowly drink up the soup off the spoon and then dunk the whole dim sum in my mouth. There is a certain novelty value to the experience which over shadows the flavour of the craby soup, (yes, this is a crab soup in the dim sum).
The Nasi Lemak was the first main course to arrive. It looked very similar to the original Malaysian version, with the rice, peanuts and anchovies, but with an omelette instead of a boiled egg. The rice had the coconutty flavour while the anchovies were surprisingly and (for most of us, pleasantly) non-stinky, but the strong Belacan flavour of Malaysia was clearly missing in the entire meal. Now, this is not something that may go well with the crowd as the Belacan (shrimp paste) is what gives Malaysian food its strong pungent flavour, but there was almost no whiff of it anywhere in the meal. So this is a highly Indianised version of the Lemak. The Char Keow Teow is where I realised that Nasi and Mee is street food inspired at best and is not here to give you those flavours. A Char Keow Teow in the streets of Singapore will be a dark stir fried noodles and here it was no where close. The slightly burnt flavour that gives Char Keow Teow its distinct taste (with soy/fish sauce I think that is used by hawkers) was missing in its entirety. The Laksa arrived to much dismay as that wasn't any Laksa curry that I've had. Not that I've had too many variations, but I simply didn't know what it was. The main course in general tasted excellent, but I felt like I ordered chilli chicken and was served an excellent butter chicken instead!
Dessert was definitely closer. I resisted from ordering a Chendol as I didn't want to be served some payasam! Ice Kacang it was for me, while my friend ordered a fried ice cream. The Ice Kacang was excellent. It looked like the original and tasted very close to the ones you get in Singapore and Malaysia. It had the beans, the corn, peanuts, the green noodles and multiple flavours of ice. I should have ordered Chendol, I guess. The fried ice cream though is one of the best that I've in Chennai, with a crisp flavoured shell oozing out a nice vanilla ice cream. I believe they have multiple flavours for the fried ice cream.
The price point is killer. While I won't be surprised if you asked to pay an entry fee to KNK Road in Nungambakkam, Nasi and Mee is priced extremely competitively. With most dishes priced around mid three hundred mark, a good meal for two at Rs. 1000 is doable with ease. With a nice ambiance and a street food inspired cuisine at a killer price point, Nasi and Mee should do well in Chennai. I understand that the restaurant needs to survive and do well more than making sure there was Belacan in your food, but I only wish that there were at least a few dishes (OK, at least 2 or 3) that could have retained the essence of the wonderful street food culture in those countries.