The dish is straight out of the Indo Chinese playbook, but it's better that most versions. And vegetarians can experience similar flavors by ordering cauliflower fritters from the same side of the menu.

In fact, vegetarians have it easy here. Come at lunch and the thali offers one of the best dining values on the menu. The name refers to the style of dining and presents a round metal tray with a massive bowl of rice in the center. Surrounding the rice on the same tray, you'll find bowls of lentil stew, bottle gourd curry, beet curry, vegetable salads, yogurt, a sweet runny custard and a gulab jamun, which is a cloying, tan-colored, light and fluffy pingpong ball, flavored with rosewater and cardamom. You'll only need one for dessert, but you should indulge more anyway.

Try the rasmalai, which pairs light cheese dumplings with a cream sauce that's generous with saffron, or the kulfi, which is also made in house and comes in pistachio, rosewater and other flavors. The chai is bitter enough to make you pucker, but it's served with sugar, and in two cups so you can pour it back and forth and mix it together. You might be tempted to throw the tea in massive arcs, as it's done in South India to mix and aerate the liquid. Don't.

Catherine Downes

Details

Chennai Cafe

5024 Tennyson Parkway, Suite 200, Plano, 972-378-1300, chennaicafeusa.com. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday; noon-3 p.m., 6-10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon-3 p.m., 6-9:30 p.m. Sunday. $$

Naatu kozhi varuval $14.99

Vegetarian thali lunch $8.49-$11.99

Masala dosa $7.99

Thalapakattu-style biriyani $12.99

Chile chicken $7.99

Instead sip your tea, and look around the dining room at the endless array of dishes on the tables around you. A basket of fried crunchy round tubes lands on one table, and it doesn't seem to match anything on the menu. When asked, the diners who received the snack have absolutely no clue what it is, even though they've been eating here a long time. A manager calls them fryums and says they're based on similar dough used to make a crisp savory wafer called a papadum. But that's beside the point. If Chennai can confuse its regular customers, it's almost certain to surprise you.

Web head: At Plano's Chennai, a Magical Trip Down the Indian-Food Rabbit Hole

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5 comments
jusfood123
jusfood123

Yes chennai has good food somebody missed this.Jusfood provides online food ordering service.Order food online and get home delivery in chennai.

Lochwoodian
Lochwoodian

If there's young goat in the mutton biryani, then they need to rename it. Mutton is sheep.

Naz Munir
Naz Munir

Chennai has good food but this review can totally qualify as an appetizer. :-)

 
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