Go to Simar if you want to be overwhelmed by Punjabi hospitality, good food and a posh dining experience, says Sandhya Ramachandran

Are you craving generous hospitality and great Punjabi food in the heart of Chennai? Head to Simar on Khader Nawaz Khan Road and prepare to be pampered.

Simardeep Kaur, the brains behind this Punjabi fine-dining experience, tells us how the restaurant business runs in the family, and it was only a matter of time before she started her own restaurant venture. She has even played a large role in the interior design and décor of the place. This has resulted in classy inverted egg-shaped chandeliers, a predominantly white and black space and a Punjab-inspired mural that takes up an entire wall.

After taking in the ambience, we began with a welcome drink of refreshing jaljeera that geared up our appetite. However, the lassi that was served alongside was not as thick and hearty as we usually like it. The channa chatpata salad made from chickpeas and vegetables, and the onion rings tossed in chilli powder and drizzled with lime – would make juicy and unquestionably delectable side dishes for a game on television.

We were overwhelmed when platters of starters - one each for vegetarian and non-vegetarian – arrived at our table. Recovering from this pleasant surprise, we dug into the peshawari aloo. Cheese, paneer and cashew nut stuffed into a potato and baked together made it the clear winner of the vegetarian starters’ line up for us. The Iranian paneer tikka, grilled in a charcoal fire, has a beautifully smoky taste. The tandoori gobi and stuffed mushroom were also well made with flavours that came together well. The vegetable sheek kebab had an overdose of ginger that dominated any other taste the vegetables might have lent to the dish.

We loved the stuffed Thai chicken starter while the mahi fish tikka was also well prepared. While the tandoori prawns weren’t fantastic, the mutton sheek kebab was tough and chewy. We really had to battle every morsel before swallowing.

Just as the starters had us satiated, the main course arrived. The breadbasket had a series of naans and paranthas and there were bowls full of side dishes to dip every piece of roti in. What caught our fancy was the ajwain parantha (parantha made with carom seeds). Aromatic, tasty and just plain divine to eat, the ajwain parantha is a sure winner.

Amongst the side dishes, the baingan bartha -brinjal cooked until tender and submerged in the tasty gravy, when combined with the ajwain parantha and one couldn’t ask for anything better.

Maybe we said that too soon, as the combination of the makki ki roti (roti made from corn) and sarson ka saag was excellent too. The flavour, taste and texture were enough to immediately teleport us to the colourful plentiful land of Punjab. This is definitely the signature dish of Simar.

In the non-vegetarian curries, the mutton rogan ghosh was the one that gets out vote. Order this dish and get stunned by its tasty gravy and well-cooked mutton. Go for the prawn masala if you wish to taste a good and slightly sweet curry.

As women at a table nearby chatted effusively, enjoying a slow meal, the biryani arrived. While the mutton biryani was a tad, dry for our liking, the pea’s pulao compensated amply by being aromatic and delicious.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, give the rabdi, phirni and the gulab jamun a shot, but the one that won our taste buds over had to be the doodhi halwa. Grainy, semi-sweet and garnished with slivers of almonds, it was the perfect end to a rich meal.

Must have: makki ki roti, doodhi halwa, mutton rogan ghosh

Meal for two: Rs 600+taxes