Since TJ Restaurant opened shop near the Malayala Manorama press at Kodimatha in Kottayam a couple of weeks ago, all people who run to every new opening in town have been telling us they want to eat the appams for breakfast there; they want the fish curry meals for lunch; they want to wind down at the end of the day with an Ocean Blue mock tail and try out the biriyani and other Indian bread.
And we had to check it out too. So, one fine evening, we went looking for the place. Situated on the main road from Kottayam to Changanassery, it is hard to miss. This new eatout is near the ICICI Bank's Kodimatha Branch. There is a coffee shop downstairs and the friendly staff will guide you up the flight of stairs, past the glass walled kitchen to a tastefully done restaurant. If you are early, you will get one of the seats overlooking the main road – but trust us, the view won’t make much of a difference once you have had a glance of the menu and placed your order.
The fusion menu will spike your curiosity. It was the first time that we had come across Pandanas Chicken, a Chicken Screwdriver or Pazhassi Salad. Curiosity got the better of us and before long, the dishes appeared in front of us. The first to arrive was the Pazhassi Salad. And it arrived like royalty. An ornate box was placed on a movable table next to ours. They opened it and in it was a colorful spread. It reminded us of the traditional vettila chellam (betel leaf box) our grandparents used to have.
Like the betel leaf in a traditional paan, the base is Pechay leaf, also known as the Chinese Cabbage leaf. A syrup of jaggery is spread on it and then ginger, red chillies, fried coconut, onions, and peanuts are placed on the leaf and rolled up. As you bite into it, the flavor of ginger and the taste of fried coconut and peanuts linger on your palate. Try it for the novelty factor and it is very healthy too. Pechay leaf, they say, is fibrous and is the best friend for the figure conscious. But, then, a small helping will not fill your tummy.
That was when we moved on to a starter dish, the Pandanas Chicken. Simply put, it is chicken rolled up in Pandan leaf (Screwpine). The leaf is not edible, but it adds a unique flavor to the chicken. "We get these leaves from Ooty," says the friendly manager Biju. If you enjoy finger food and conversation you should check out the ‘Kanthari fish’ and the ‘Chicken Screwdriver.' “We are still refining our menu", he adds.
For the main course, you can pick from appam, rotis and porotta or go in for the rice dishes. We picked the soft and fluffy appams and a rich, creamy vegetable stew to go with it. We also tried the chicken curry. And we had no reasons to regret. Since we were already full, we decided to try the rice dishes some other day.
For dessert, you can try the tender coconut pudding or a fruit bowl.
A meal at TJ Restaurant is slightly expensive compared to other restaurants in Kottayam. But the food, the experience are definitely worth every paisa you pay.
We leave you with this small video of how the Pazhassi Salad is made.