Paragon in Lulu Mall, Kochi is a restaurant steeped in family heritage, history and famous cuisine. Having heard many rave reviews about Paragon, I ventured out to try it myself.
Known for its sumptuous Malabar food, Paragon was founded in 1939 by Govindan Panhikeyil. 'Panhikeyil Govindan was a railway employee in Kozhikode in the 1930's. At that time only first class passengers had catered food in their compartments so when he retired, Govindan opened a small bakehouse that served tea, bread and biscuits. This soon expanded into 'Railway Mutton Chops' or 'chaps' as it is lovingly pronounced in North Kerala and Malabar chicken curry which became a hit. This was the humble beginings of the Paragon Restaurant you see today,' says the manager of the Kochi Branch, Mr Sandeep.
'The restaurant passed through generations and is now run by Mr Sumesh Govind. He took over in the year 2000 and expanded Paragon across Kerala and UAE. There are 2 branches in Kerala, one in Kozhikode and the other in Kochi, while the UAE has 8 branches. They have also opened restaurants 'Salkara' , 'MGrill' and a bakery called 'Brown Town''
At 1 pm on a weekday, the restaurant is busy but not too crowded. We ensconced ourselves at a large table and were promptly presented with glasses of complimentary grape lime juice which was refreshing and sweet, exactly what you need to cool off on a hot day.
The Spicy Raw Mango Carrot salad will have novices in spice gasping for breath, so be warned. Coupled with the complimentary Honey Mint Winter Salad ( reviewing a restaurant has its perks) is when one achieves the right balance of sugar and spice. We took to having alternate bites of each of the salads, both of which were delicious.
The chemeen porichathu has a heavy dusting of crunchy, fried masala podi coating succulent, perfectly cooked prawns. No wonder it is a Paragon speciality. The Kanthari Tawa Fish, though made with the slightly suspicious yet delicious Basa fish, is light and tasty, each bite almost melting in the mouth. The Koonthal dry fry is a thatukadda style squid fry with a similar masala as the prawns. Well balanced and not too spicy, it makes for a nice appetizer.
For the main course we opted for Alleppey Chicken Curry and Paragon's most famous dish, Fish Mango curry. A basket of wheat paratha accompanied the curries. The fish curry had the distinct sweet mango flavour in its vivid orange depths that adds the unique quality to the dish and makes it one of a kind.
Though we were stuffed to the core, we had been instructed by various sources to try the elaneer payasam, a tender coconut and condensed milk concoction that is served icy cold. Another complimentary pudding we received was the 'Chatta Mary pudding' which consists of a block of flavourless semiya custard on a bed of sharkara flavoured banana, that somehow goes well together.
Rarely do you find a restaurant in this day and age where you have simply nothing to be critical about. Paragon has achieved this rarity. With a pleasant ambience, swift delivery and of course, truly outstanding food, Paragon restaurant is indeed a paragon of all things gastronomically pleasing.