Aroma of Indian Kitchen

After getting acquainted with South Indian cuisine, dining in Indian restaurants is a regular habit and I soon mastered the art of eating Indian breads and rice by hand. 

Facade of the Indian Kitchen at One Medini Hub
Now the lure of the aromas, the fun of eating food served on a banana leaf and asking the waiter to please add more to my portion of vegetables, are second nature to me. 

So when my friend, Muru, invited me to the Indian Kitchen, I sort of expected to experience this familiar routine but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Modern Café

The Indian Kitchen occupies two ground floor units of One Medini Hub and I can see colourful café furniture through the floor-to-ceiling glass paneled walls.  Metal chairs, painted in a variety of pastel colours, are grouped around square and rectangle tables.  The bare concrete floor and light bulbs suspended from the high ceiling gives the restaurant a rugged but clean and uncluttered ambience.

Diners helping themselves at the dinner buffet line;
Spot the skewers of juicy tandoori chicken [Left]
My attention is riveted to a glass window in the back wall, through which I see chefs working in the kitchen.  I’m distracted by the skewers of juicy-looking tandoori chicken hung up next to the window.  The restaurant serves mainly South Indian cuisine with popular North Indian specialties like tandoori chicken!

Muru is waiting for me and he hands me three single page menus for meals, drinks and Tiffin items.  A glance at the menus reveals how the restaurant tries to offer a balance of North and South Indian vegetarian dishes for diners to enjoy with white rice and a choice of breads like dosai, paratha, roti and naan.  While there is also a choice of briyani rice, tandoor items, kebab rolls and a range of non-vegetarian gravies to choose from.

Appetizers [Clockwise] Tandoori chicken with a side of
mint sauce, Crispy Ladies Fingers and Malabar Prawns
My eyes zero in on the appam choices and I’m feeling quite keen on the Tiffin items but Muru insists I start with popular appetizers like Tandoori Chicken (RM16.99) served with a side of mint dip, Crispy Ladies Fingers (RM11.99) and Malabar Prawns (RM34.99). 

So I take my time to nibble the thinly sliced ladies fingers and whole prawns that are coated in different types of flavoured batter.  And the tandoori chicken is so tasty and tender that I almost forget the dip because it tastes so good on its own!

Buffet Meals

Its lunch time and a steady stream of diners are arriving at the café.  I can tell they are regulars because they are heading to the wash basin for a quick hand-wash before joining the buffet line.  They each pick up a stainless steel plate, lined with a round-cut piece of banana leaf – in the tradition of banana leaf restaurants – and start picking their choices of food from the buffet.  I imagine how the hot food on the banana leaf will still elicit that familiar fragrance.

Chef G.K. Samy, preparing egg apam at the live cooking
station next to the buffet line in the Indian Kitchen
Then Muru introduces me to Executive Chef G.K. Samy who is responsible for designing the daily menus, served on rotation, to please the palates of discerning diners in Iskandar Puteri.  When Chef Samy invites me to have a look at the buffet spread, I do not hesitate to join him. 

The freshly prepared food is neatly cordoned off by an acrylic sheet on the side which faces the dining hall.  Pointing to the various mouth-watering gravies, the chef tells me that the lunch buffet (RM18++) comprises a range of 25 items with two types of rice, eight vegetarian dishes plus another ten meat dishes and three desserts. 



A serving of the vadai set
As I’m mentally making space in my stomach to enjoy the sumptuous spread, Chef Samy explains that in the dinner buffet (RM25++), diners will enjoy the buffet spread and may also order their choice of freshly-made breads from the Tiffin menu.  

I may have heard him wrongly so I ask the chef to repeat what he said, and he reiterates that the dinner buffet includes Tiffin items like dosai and chapatti.  This certainly promises a satisfying dining experience at a value-for-money price and such a generous spread is exactly what fans of South Indian food want!

Tiffin Time

A serving of freshly made puri
The Indian Kitchen takes Tiffin quite seriously.  It’s interesting how they are keeping this Indian custom of eating a light meal instead of afternoon tea.  Tiffin, for me, is the ultimate Indian comfort food and the range of dosai alone, hints that I have to come back often to enjoy each type listed in the menu. 

Besides soft plain dosai (RM3.50), there are eleven other choices including paper (RM5), onion (RM4), cheese (RM6), egg onion (RM6), rava (RM4.50) and rava onion dosai (RM5).  The Indian breads are served, freshly-made with side dishes of coconut chutney, chili chutney and sambhar gravy. 

Rava dosai with condiments
The vadai set (RM4) are two pieces of vadai served with a side of coconut chutney while the vadai sambhar set (RM5) are two pieces of vadai served in sambhar gravy.  Upon request, diners can have the sambhar served on the side rather than with the vadai dunked in.  Chapatti and puri also come in two-piece sets (RM5 each) with a side of gravies.

I’m delighted to discover that there’s also appam.  Chef Samy assures me that appam (RM5) also comes in sets of two pieces with a side of fresh coconut milk and palm sugar.  He goes to the live cooking station and deftly demonstrates how the batter is swirled around in a little wok to create appam with crispy sides and a soft centre.  He drops a bull’s eye in its centre and serves me egg appam (RM7) – not just one but two – in the set!

Ala Carte

Hydrabadi Lamb Briyani with a side of
plain raita and lamb gravy
Muru is reminding me to savour some food while it is still warm and I’m simply spoilt for choice.  So I quickly taste fragrant basmati rice in the Hydrabadi Lamb Briyani (RM23.99) with plain raita and lamb gravy, and peel off some appam, dosai, puri and vadai to enjoy with their gravies.

Chef Samy who comes from Chennai, roasts and grinds the curry spices himself and also uses local and imported ingredients in his cooking.  Apart from the exciting range of dishes for daily lunch and dinner buffets, there is also an ala carte menu.  This offers an alternative to diners who may prefer to pick their meal from a range of starters, gravies, desserts and drinks.

To end my meal sweetly, I can consider dessert choices like kasseri, payasam, gulab jamun, and melt-in-your-mouth South Indian lentil sweets but I think a delicious mango lassi drink should do.  I sip my lassi while Muru enjoys his masala tea, served in a traditional Dabarah cup – metal tumbler within a wide metal saucer with lipped walls.  This typically South Indian serving of hot beverages is yet another way the Indian Kitchen is keeping traditions alive as diners enjoy their hot meals in the air-conditioned comfort of this modern café.

WHERE
Indian Kitchen (Halal-sourced ingredients)
G3 & G3A, Ground Floor, No. 2 Persiaran Medini Utara 3
One Medini Hub
79000 Iskandar Puteri, Johor
Tel: +607 – 533 9987
Website: www.indiankitchen.my

OPENING HOURS
Daily 11.30am to 10pm

GETTING THERE
Take the Sultan Iskandar Coastal Highway to Iskandar Puteri and head towards Legoland Malaysia; Drive on the main highway, passing Legoland on your left, and then filter left to exit left at the oval roundabout.  Take first exit to Kota Iskandar Highway towards One Medini Hub at left.  Follow sign into the carpark but drive around the building to park in front of restaurant.

WHAT’S COOKING
Authentic South Indian cuisine

MUST TRY
South Indian specialties and traditional Tiffin items

YOU’LL PAY
Corkage RM35/bottle, service charge and GST charges apply

ATMOSPHERE
A modern Indian cafe

FACILITIES
Disabled-friendly
Child’s high chair
No Smoking
No Pets
Credit card facilities

THE LOO
Common toilet for the building just a short walk away

SERVICE
English-speaking staff

OVERALL VERDICT
Go give it a try

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on June 10, 2016

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