Chennai’s uber cool love thayir sadam, vathal

It’s past 1 am on a Saturday night, and a long line of youngsters, boys sporting spiked hair and tight jeans, and girls in skirts and sequined tops queue up at the lobby, shifting their weight from one painful, stilletoed foot to the other.

Inside the packed restaurant, uber cool youngsters gorge on steaming, ghee soaked dollops of pongal and slurp from bowls of rasam vada.

The venue is Mathsya in Egmore, a late dinner hotspot for Chennai’s partygoers who swear that the Udipi food here is so addictive it forces you to come back.

“After a long night of clubbing, nothing can beat a ghee dosa or bisibella bath at 2 am,” says 27-year-old Ashwin Skaria.

“Chennai today has a variety of global cuisine—we can choose between sushi and tempura at a Japanese restaurant, an assortment of pastas and wood-fire pizzas made with ingredients flown in from Italy, steaks, sausages, caviar and champagne—you name it, our hotels have it. But South Indian fare is always comfort food for the soul,” he says.

Ram Bhat, who owns Mathsya, moves from table to table, chatting with doctors and DJs with equal ease.

The Udipi Home was opened by Ram’s grandfather before Independence. The government approached the family to run the restaurant till 2 am.

For hungry passengers stranded at the Egmore junction at odd hours, this food joint was the only respite, reminisces Mr Bhat.

The city has witnessed lots of changes from an uber-conservative city of early-to-bedders, jasmine-flower and lungi stereotypes of the past.

Five star nightclubs and watering holes stay open 24X7, other bars serve food and liquor till the zero hour.

On weekends, we have club-hoppers from Bengaluru and New Delhi visiting to check out Chennai’s party scene.

And after a night of dancing, countless vodka shots and sampling exotic cuisine, a Chennaiite would still reach out for that bowl of thayir sadam with crispy vathals.

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