The waitress at Anjappar Chettinad, a month-and-a-half-old restaurant in Curry Hill, might pooh-pooh your decision when you pick some of the more adventurous dishes on the pages-long menu.
But carry on: You deserve to taste the authentic food of Chennai.
Anjappar Chettinad opened in India in 1964, and now the powerful effect of its spices stretches from locations in Abu Dhabi to Malaysia.
At the mention of poondu kolambu ($11), a dish packed with heaps of whole garlic cloves swimming in a richly spiced tomato-tamarind sauce, our waitress raised her eyebrows for the first--and not last--time. We ordered it anyway.
All that gloriously garlicky sauce demands something to sop it up with. Continue your order with egg appam ($14)--a flying saucer of a rice-flour pancake with a fried egg touched down in its center. The ghee-slicked dosai ($8.95), a crispy crepe, is spun into a tepee shape that we unfurled bit by bit as we ventured through the manifold bowls of peas, lentils and pickles that come with the traditional Chettinad set meal of vegetarian thali ($14).
And tell your server you want the house-made lemon soda ($5) both sweet and salty, despite any protests. By meal's end, you will have earned her respect for venturing far from the comforts of chicken tikka masala.
Anjappar Chettinad, 116 Lexington Ave. (between E. 27th and E. 28th sts.); 212-265-3663 or anjapparusa.com
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