Monday, May 20, 2024

Sip cocktails with a view from the 20th floor at Sky in Chennai’s Residency Towers

When I steps out of the elevator onto the 20th floor of the Residency Towers into Sky, their latest pan-Asian restaurant and bar, my eyes first dart towards a massive dome at the centre.

“If you stand at an exact position under the dome near the bar, the whole place can hear you,” says Ajeeth Janardhanan, the culinary director of The Residency Towers. But before I take advantage of this, Ajeeth promises something more splendid.

Sky, which accommodates about 70 people in a hybrid indoor and outdoor seating area, sits daintily above most of central and South Chennai. During the day, diners seated outside can see bits of the coastline, the cross of the St Thomas English Church, other tall buildings and vehicles crawling like ants. Gentle breeze blows here through the day and at night, the lights of the city come alive against a black canvas. There is pleasant music and a well-stocked bar in the air-conditioned indoor space under the dome, which also houses what looks like a retro conversation pit from the 1970s.

Blue orchid and asparagus tempura maki

Blue orchid and asparagus tempura maki

The restaurant, open between 12 p.m. and 11 p.m. everyday, aims to serve staples like dimsums, sushi and fried rice. However, chef Ajeeth almost sounds adamant about using local ingredients in most dishes. “If we are not paying homage to the city through our food, then what is the point,” he asks, sitting with me over dinner.

Hence my meal is punctuated with quirky finds from the local market, like bright pink lotus petals in a shiitake mushroom and pickled lotus stem salad. There are mildly spiced green peppercorns in my appetisers and bits of coconut shoot in the dimsums. The coconut shoot and tender coconut water – a homage to Ajeeth’s Malayali roots – also find their way into a cocktail made with Japanese whiskey. “It is an acquired taste though,” he admits.

Going Local

Before Sky came into being, the 20th floor of the building was reserved for The Crown, a well-known restaurant focussing on cooking from the north-west frontier for 22 years. “It was time that the restaurant retired though. Everyone in the city was doing pretty much the same thing,” Ajeeth says.

The interiors of Sky

The interiors of Sky

It took seven months to redo the interiors. “The outdoor space at the Crown was not as big. The section which now has a view of the beach was a large and unutilised terrace. We redid the paint on the inside and changed the look of the place,” Ajeeth says. The newly rebranded restaurant is looking to capitalise on the growing interest towards Asian cuisine, trying to add a significant number of vegetarian and vegan options to the menu.

There are blue orchids atop their asparagus maki, lotus petals in the salad and banana flowers in a tempura starter. “I love flowers and like to add them when possible. They look nice on the plate,” he says. Though the pink lotus petals do not really taste of anything, they act like spoons to scoop up astringent lotus stems and spicy shiitake. The blue orchids add drama to the sushi roll.

Lotus petal and pickled shitake salad 

Lotus petal and pickled shitake salad 

Each plate also comes with small portions of salads inspired by Asian flavours like a birds eye chilli and papaya salad accompanying their heavy Kunafah Paneer appetiser.

The highlight though, remains a simple yellow pumpkin dish simmered in mirin, a sweet rice wine with a light soy, bringing salt to the palate. The pea shoot garnish provides a bite and bits of ginger and garlic soaked in mirin almost taste like candy. It is the dish Ajeeth is most proud of, he says.  

While talking about his experience as a chef, he mentions a solid chunk of nine years spent cooking on cruise ships sailing the Atlantic ocean. Here, he says that his French colleague made black garlic on the ship and often used them to whip up exquisite dishes. “Ever since, I have wanted to use the ingredient too,” he says. We are hence served a well-charred black garlic chicken tikka that bursts with subtle flavour of black garlic, woven into the yoghurt marinade.

There are six specially designed cocktails blending bits of Central Asia and Tamil Nadu and mocktails including a version of a chilled masala chai. Although the gin-based Pho Basil smash is a tad bit too sweet, the coconut-whiskey drink Kokanattsu made with Toki whisky and sochu and fresh tender coconut water hits the spot.

The outdoor seating area at Sky

The outdoor seating area at Sky

Although the kitchen is still tinkering with dishes, the chef says that they are looking forward to ensuring that Sky becomes a nice spot to enjoy good food and conversation over a drink. Nothing too overpowering— the flavours, music or setting.

A meal for two costs approximately ₹4,000. The Sky is at The Residency Towers, 115, Sir Thyagaraya Rd, Parthasarathi Puram, T. Nagar. Tel: +91 70101 23000.

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