After the meteoric fall of Minerva in Fairfax, the market for Indian food in our house was wide open. Ok, ok – maybe not. After all, my mother was coming down more frequently – hello grandmotherhood – and so with it came the goodies. But what happens when she is gone and the frozen reminders are consumed? Cook it yourself?? Well, there IS that – and for genuinely good South Indian cooking that is usually the best option. That said, whenever we try South Indian – it comes out good, but like listening to a cover band, it is hard not to dream about the real thing. According to Tyler Cowen, Karaikudi in Chantilly IS that real thing, and so when I read that – I go with interest.
Sometimes, when I go to places with this kind of buildup, it’s hard not to actually be a gross disappointment. Furthermore, we went for the lunch buffet – which is usually not the best test for a restaurant. But somehow, it worked. My knowledge of Chettinad cooking is limited, but I know the spices and heat are a big part of it. The rasam and the goat bone soup were both very fiery but had depth – it is not just an endurance test for my esophagus. The okra poriyal was different than what I was used to, with more sesame seeds – but still excellent flavor. The curd rice was well done, even if a bit more yogurty than I am used to.
Of course, this being a buffet, you also get the normal Indian restaurant staples – but these were done remarkably well. The Malabar Fish Curry was outstanding – where the sauce had the creaminess without being heavy or cloying, with perfectly cooked fish. The Chicken Vindaloo was solid as was the Egg Curry. The goat biryani was also a welcome change. Let’s put it this way, for a $9 buffet meal, there is more than enough here to inspire me to try more.