A look at Black Orchid, Chennai’s new resto-bar

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The Black Orchid Tavern lends old Hollywood charm to RA Puram’s nightlife

“I want to know what love is,” sings 80s band Foreigner as I enter the newly opened Black Orchid. With a crowd of employees dancing, I’m about to find out.

Music bounces off its deep leather sofas, black walls, and orange lamps that give it the feel of an upscale tavern. He serenades the ladies lunching in front of the restaurant’s gaping, bright windows and the mosquitoes buzzing through the weather, uninvited.

Choose armchair-style seating on the first floor. It has a view of the thrill – an unusual bar with eclectic liquor bottles side by side – which has spawned a 10-page drinks menu co-created by its owner, banker-turned-restaurateur Sanjeev Verma.

The room has been reduced to a soothing green. Giant globes of light on the ceiling make the lower floor seem balanced and on point – much like the kitchen. Or the chef behind the perfectly prepared sushi, seafood, North Indian and Italian cuisine that Black Orchid serves. Like Sophia Loren in the eponymous film, everything is pretty with a mystical air.

The first to arrive are Makis rolls with a choice of vegetables and crispy Californian sushi with crabstick, carrot and avocado. It’s sushi with a western twist, but the touch of wasabi and the sweet crunch of the rice and seafood give it a strong Asian accent.

A mixed platter of cottage cheese tostadas and mushroom crostini appears next. Each slice of cottage cheese is velvety smooth with a little spice fire; the mushroom can be mistaken for coarse minced meat. Which isn’t a bad thing; my companion and I shovel these little bites straight from the tray.

Since there has been an overabundance of savory items, chef Fabian Ravi – who has built a career at the helm of Patio at the Taj Coromandel – suggests a Japanese-inspired salad. The lettuce is translucent and the flavor rich in umami, but I’m not one of those people who heats up easily with greens and doesn’t care.

We are saved by Jagan Jack, the mixologist, who serves cocktail glasses of Rooty Salty – a vetiver vodka served with chilled blood orange puree – and Zu Zu Li – a floral gin with jasmine vodka and lemon juice. Since these are infusions, there is the intoxication of alcohol without the burn.

Teriyaki beef has thin, plum-colored waves of fat and muscle. It is arranged like a fan, like a work of art in a gallery. A tough contender for the top spot this afternoon is the Garlic and Cheese Marinated Shrimp that has the comforts of home.

Next comes the beef with kaffir and lotus stem. The slices are nestled like commas, ready to fall apart with a flick of the fork. A distant last comes the sheep sukka tortilla — too spicy is the proverbial dish from hell. An attempt to fuse the flavors of India with Hispanic, the dish seems to have gone astray, although a less fiery version may have breathed it better.

Either way, it’s dessert time and the chef offers a serving of the signature Black Orchid Cheesecake and Chocolate Hazelnut Delight. The first is serious and dark; it has been worked on for hours but tastes too sophisticated.

black orchid

  • 105, Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Road, RA Puram
  • Shots: Teriyaki beef, salty rooty, chocolate and hazelnut delight
  • Miss: Mutton tortilla sukka, mushroom crostini, abundant mosquitoes
  • Meal for two: ₹3,200
  • 9176477647

As for the deliciousness? The chocolate is perfectly flavored, the avocados tickle the back of your throat, and suddenly you’re a kindred spirit with glamorous Sophia Loren under a Tuscan sun.

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