With the iftar offerings going from bad to worse, and haleem and nombu kanji competing for the worst dish awards, I almost forgot about a dish that won me over last year. Served at the ITC Grand Chola, the Nihari was new introduction to the city's iftar palate, but one that was poorly advertised. I checked with ITC and it was available this year too, so come Sunday, the family iftar eat out happened at Cafe Mercara.
It was as set menu. We were offered a choice between haleem and nihari for one dish and choice of breads for the second main course. A platter of fruits, dates and a rose sherbet arrived first to help the stomach ease into the next course.
There was no next course. All three courses arrived together in a neat set menu, similar to the Welcome meals served at ITC hotels. Since we were four adults (and two kids, their drinks came free), we were able to sample both the haleem and the nihari (and four different breads in each of our plates). Biriyani and Dhal Makhni completed the well plated platter.
The Nihari, a slow cooked broth with lamb marrow, had meat falling off the bone with ease, with some saltiness of the broth adding a nice flavour tone and the pink meat giving out all the flavour notes of a beautifully cooked lamb. Dhal Makhni at ITC hotels are usually spot on and today was no different. Four pieces of naan and butter naan and garlic naan and roti simply eased into the tummy.
The biriyani was all meat with a little rice here and there. Seriously! Every plate had good portions of succulent meat that the kids also enjoyed as there was so much to share. I also gulped down some haleem from my sister's plate (and sneaked it into the photo)! Thankfully, the haleem was good as I had given up on haleem in Chennai. Thankfully!
A saffron phirni in a mud pot served chilled and thick with saffron dominating the plate completed an excellent iftar meal for the first time this Ramadan. We paid Rs. 6004 including all taxes for four adults with enough food to share with the two kids. This is probably the only place in Chennai serving a sit down iftar meal, appropriately priced!