Zaica, Cathedral Road, Chennai
I am not sure how popular Zaica is, considering it is next to a Chennai favourite – Copper Chimney – but it is certainly a value for money offering for North Indian (Punjabi / Muslim) food. Considering there are so few of them in Chennai meeting basic thresholds (Simar, Copper Chimney, Kipling Masala are some others), Zaica is certainly worth a try.
The kabab with chicken marinated in cream was the best. Fortunately, their tandoori chicken isn’t served bright red in color, another problem I have with some of the restaurants in the city. I liked the paneer tikka as well which was soft and mildly spiced. I wish other restaurants in Chennai make their paneer in-house as commercially available paneer in city is just too tough. Veg tikki was tasty so was the veg seekh kabab which due to use of paneer in it did not taste as dry in the mouth as many veg seekh kababs do. Fish fry was simple batter fried fish, something the kids loved. Galauati kabab had a lot more chili and pepper than I would prefer but it’s texture was right and the flavours, besides the chili heat, perfectly balanced. Ulte tawe ka paratha was flakier than supple – something of a cross between ulte tawe ka paratha and Lucknowi kulcha (which is flaky, more like a mille-feuille than a naan)
During one of my visits, as part of a festival, they had a live chaat counter. Pani for pani poori reminded me of gol gappe from my native place. So, a thumbs-up for the cook at the counter.
Other than the biriyani, mains didn’t meet the standards of the kababs. Do-pyaaza is something most restaurants that assemble a sauce and meat shouldn’t try and certainly not with prawns which would cook too quickly for onions to be caramalised and come to the consistency of a sauce. I don’t think any of the vegetarian or non-vegetarian curries were such that I would include them in my ‘to eat’ list. They weren’t a letdown either, other than the methi chicken that can be included in the ‘letdown’ category as I couldn’t taste the methi (fenugreek) at all which is surprising considering how strong the flavor of fenugreek is. But the dum biriyani was superb; delicately flavoured and aromatic, smelling of saffron with some visible strands on top.
I ate jalebi during one of my visits and it was crisp, appropriately sweetened but with a slightly sour after taste. The kheer needed the milk to have been cooked slightly longer so the thickening wasn’t because of the starch in the rice but due to condensation of milk. If you have to have a dessert, I would recommend the gulab jamun.
Zaica has a reasonably priced buffet for lunch from Monday through Saturday too.
Ed: Cover photo is not from Zaica, Chennai.