Most of us have our own set of comfort food, be it homemade khichri with a large dollop of ghee, pasta topped with extra cheese or maybe a big bowl of soupy Maggi noodles. Whether you’re cranky cause you’re on your period, or just need that solid pick-me-up after a tough day at work, each of us crave for certain things that bring back good memories, keep the tummy and soul happy.
I, for one, do not have one specific comfort food item. It’s a variety, ranging from spicy masala rice (also known as tehri) to maggi or even fried egg and maida parantha. And even when it comes to restaurants, I have a few pet favourites. And Zambar, with its heavenly southern fare, has soon become one of them.
Located on the third floor of Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, Zambar offers flavours of the south, from Konkan to Chettinad, specifically the cuisines of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala. The ambience has quite a colourful appeal to it. I sometimes tend to be iffy about restaurants in malls, but I’ve frequented this place almost four to five times since the past one year, and I don’t even stay in Gurgaon.
The restaurant has a lively and warm vibe to it. With earthy hues of brown, off white and lime green, the colour palette is juxtaposed with vibrant tiles and bright pops of blue. Along one side is the buffet table, with the other side with mock windows that frame pieces of art that showcase southern heritage and culture. There are even wooden swings doubling as seats.
If you’re like me, you would spend ample time going through the menu since it’s not just structured in a slightly different way, but is peppered with beautiful illustrations and quirky anecdotes. There are ample vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes to tickle one’s taste buds. I wish there were more seafood options though, but I guess it cannot be helped. Unfortunately, buff doesn’t find any mention here.
For drinks, I have mostly always opted for Zambar’s signature cocktails. I feel the south Indian fare and the ambience don’t call for your regular G&Ts or Cosmos. I’ve tried the Malabar Coast Love (INR 395) that’s made with gin, watermelon, ginger ale, homemade coconut syrup and fizz, and the Tamarind Margarita (INR 425) with tequila, triple sec, lime, tamarind pulp and rock salt. I certainly prefer the latter to the former, given its light sour punch to the sweet watermelon and ginger ale combination. Even though I love ginger and lime in my drink, it was much too sweet for my taste.
When it comes to Small Plates, do try the SriLankan Kotthu Roti. The typical flaky paratha stir fried with vegetables is a tad spicy for my taste but the gravy accompaniment helps temper the flames a bit.
Straddling the fine line between Small and Large Plates, or maybe it belongs to a league of its own, appams and their many accompaniments always find their way to my plate. I always loved a good crispy appam with a fluffy bottom, but here, they serve it with a fried egg smack sunny-side-up on its soft mound. Goodness! Perfect breakfast option for me. Pity not ever run-on-the-mill south Indian restaurant does not serve an appam. I could have this every day. There’s a special section called ‘Remya’s Fluffy Hop Hop Appam Bar’. While I haven’t ordered anything in particular from this section, I am intrigued at the term ‘hop hop’. There are a wide variety of appams such as coconut or butter roast, Madurai podi appam or Ragi appam, and served with toppings like Chicken sukka, Banana jaggery, or even Bacon egg curry leaf.
In Large Plates, while you can choose from your regular lineup of dosas, try the Mushroom peralan, a traditional Syrian Christian mushroom preparation, best had with hot appams or even the delectable flaky Malabar paratha or parotta. The Malabar vegetable stew is another sure delight. Another weak spot of mine would be the Goan Prawn Pulao. The rice is light and aromatic, and the prawns cooked well, with the spices not overpowering its flavour. The quantity served can be easily shared between two, and if sharing is not your cup of tea, get a doggy bag. There’s nothing like reliving a slice of this wonderful meal at home the next day.
Though I did not try any of the sweeter options on the menu, I would definitely like to try every type and combination listed under Remya’s Fluffy Hop Hop Appam Bar. Zambar has become quite close to my heart, and when in need of some warmth and love, I can come dip my sorrows in a bowl of hot, piping sambhar.