It's not often that one walks into a much hyped about restaurant to be greeted by an apologetic manager.
At around 8 p.m. on a Saturday earlier this month, my husband and I saunter into the Grandmaster’s Kitchen in Thiruvananthapuram for a quiet dinner.
“We’re sorry the tables are all full and there is a queue of reservations as well. We suggest you try the buffet. It has a much better spread than the temporary menu we’ve set up for the crowds,” said Vipin, the manager.
“Temporary menu?” we wonder aloud.
“You see, this restaurant is meant for a niche crowd, the kind who come to dine at a fine restaurant discussing movies, art or literature. It’s for their tastes that our menu has been structured. But being the first film-themed restaurant here, we have a lot of people coming in just to see the place. We’ve developed a basic menu for them,” he said.
“So when will this place be in full swing?” I ask, staring at the sepia tinted photographs of cinema greats plastered all over the walls in the foyer.
“It will take another week ma’am. Tonight our Saturday Special Grandmaster’s Buffet is the highlight,” he says escorting us up a flight of stairs.
The deco and ambience wins us over whetting our appetites. Designed in black and white, the central themes here are chess and cinema, the passions of the owner B. Unnikrishnan, a filmmaker. The photographs of film posters and actors from world cinema, great chess players, dialogues from popular Malayalam films and film songs playing in the background jostle for our attention.
The deco is neat and uncluttered albeit crowded. The tables are spaced a tad bit too close to each other for comfort.
The Grandmaster’s Buffet, priced at 599 rupees per head, was quite a basic spread.
We started with the Hot and Sour Chicken Soup. Even I who don’t usually like soups as they are often bland with too much corn flour actually liked this one. The flavors and spice were just right.
The Shrimp Salad that followed was a tad bit disappointing and uninteresting.
The Saffron Chicken Kebab as starter made up for the earlier disappointment with its balance of coriander, garlic and onion. The meat was succulent and had fully absorbed the subtle flavors of its marinade.
The rice and breads offered for main course were the usual spread of Tandoor Roti, Kerala Paratha, Steamed rice and Cashew Pulao. The accompaniments included Chicken in Chilly Oyster Sauce, Grandmaster’s Chicken, Beef Ularthiyathu and Fish Mango curry for the non-vegetarians and Baby Corn Mushroom Masala and Veg Kolhapuri.
Not exactly spoilt for choice, we decided to mix and match. My husband chose to have Kappa from among the starters with Beef Ularthiyathu and Chicken in Oyster Sauce while I chose Cashew Pulao with the Grandmaster’s Chicken.
The kappa, well cooked, paired well with both the Beef Ularthiyathu and the Chicken. While the Beef did justice to the traditional recipe, the Chicken in Chili Oyster Sauce was an explosion of flavors. The Grandmaster’s Chicken lived up to its name and was an ideal accompaniment to the Cashew pulao. The Gajar Ka Halwa for desert was a perfect end to the meal.
As for the service, well, there was some confusion in the air among the staff. But I guess they are just finding their feet in the initial days. We definitely will make another visit to Grandmaster’s Kitchen because it wasn’t as damp squib as some of the recent Malayalam flicks!
(Grandmaster’s Kitchen is located behind the Saphalyam Complex at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram.)