An Evening, On The Rocks!

Vidya Singh joined danseuse Anita Ratnam, her daughter Arya Rajam and sister Pritha Ratnam for an interesting evening of witty conversations and great food at On The Rocks, Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, Chennai

It was a very special evening when we were at one of Chennai’s most stylish bar and restaurants ‘On the Rocks’ at the Park Sheraton Hotel. My dinner guests for the evening were very special too, as was the simply outstanding food, which made for a very fun experience. On The Rocks is a stylish grill, with an internationally inspired cuisine, where Chef Rohit and his grill brigade have created an unforgettable gastronomic experience for guests with an eclectic grill ethos, hot volcanic rock cooking and flambéed desserts. Sommelier Kathir puts together wine pairing menus that showcase a great range of dishes. The Lounge Bar and the Wine Vertical give On the Rocks an uber cool look as does the Desert wine bar. A food experience has to be on three levels of sensations, the visual , the aromas and only then the taste and as we realised On The Rocks definitely gives you this in full.

Anita Ratnam, danseuse extraordinaire, is an accomplished Indian classical and contemporary dancer and choreographer whose career has spanned over four decades. Having received formal training in Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, and Mohiniattam as well as T’ai chi and Kalarippayattu, she has created a unique dance style which she has coined ‘Neo Bharatanatyam’. This talented lady is the founder-director of Arangham Trust and Arangham Dance Theatre. She has received several awards and recognition for her work in performing arts, in India and overseas.

My other guest for the evening is Pritha Ratnam, who serves as Joint Managing Director of Sundaram Industries. A wonderfully accomplished dancer herself, she prefers to dedicate herself to the corporate world, managing the family companies. Stunningly beautiful, Pritha has performed over the years in several dance productions, often times on stage with her sister Anita.

Arya Rajam, debutante author of ‘Blood Sweat and Tears’, is in the limelight for her brilliantly written book and has already begun work on her next. Young Arya has already been featured in several publications and has been at book readings of her book in Chennai, ever since its publication. My young guest is the daughter of Anita Ratnam and I am so happy to have these three lovely ladies with me to dinner at On the Rocks.

Chef Rohit welcomed us into On The Rocks and got us settled in before giving us a brief about the restaurant and the food concepts that are the ethos of the restaurant.  Sommelier Kathir chatted with us about his wines and Anita discussed with him about which wines would be suitable for the evening. Sommelier Kathir is a wine professional who brings with him years of tasting and purchasing experience. He has added a wide range of wine styles from all over the world, with a focus on quality to the Wine Library of On The Rocks. Anita, Pritha, Arya and I got chatting as we waited for Chef Rohit to send out the selection of food to us.  It was certainly a challenge for Chef as we each had very specific food choices! Anita and Pritha wanted only fish, I was a vegetarian and Arya was the easygoing one who chose what she was going to eat out right out of the menu!

Our first course was a Roasted butter nut squash puree, with fontal and vermouth served with corn bread crumbs, a perfect blend of the various ingredients that went into it. It was simple yet outstanding. A great start to a super food experience. We also got some warm Focaccia bread with wonderful herb butter and a paté to go with it. The next course was a very succulent Lobster that was tossed in a citrus ginger dressing served on a bed of five beans Salsa, which the ladies all said was totally flavourful and superb. I got the Tofu rondels, stuffed with potatoes, jalapenos and nuts, a superbly blended mouthful, which was served with the house salad that had a great warm shallot vinaigrette dressing, and confit tomatoes. As we sipped our wine and waited for the next course, we were beginning to enjoy the experience of being looked after and pampered. Chef Rohit then sent to us our third course, which was a platter of a fine selection of cheeses, that was artistically presented and accompanied with onion relish, piri piri olives and a walnut baguette, that was chewy and superb.

Our mains were brought out to us; Anita and Pritha had the Halibut and John Dory prepared with confit garlic, served with wilted spinach, pine nuts and an interesting Mojo sauce. Both the ladies pronounced it excellent and had tender mouthfuls. Arya got the herb-encrusted Mulwarra lamb racks that was accompanied by merlot spaghetti, a garlic basil mash and caper jus, she said that it was perfect and proceeded to clean up the platter, showing us that the proof of the pudding is indeed in the eating! The vegetarian choice for me was the Semolina Gnocchi, tossed with a mélange of wild mushrooms, baby spinach, local greens, confit garlic and pine nuts. If there was one reason to keep me coming back to On The Rocks, over and over, it would be this one dish! I ate every morsel on the platter; it was so perfectly made and had an outstanding blend of flavours. Chef Rohit said that the desserts would be coming out next and at our protests that it would be impossible to eat any more, he compromised by sending us one portion of dessert with four spoons! We were so happy that he did, as the choice was excellent; it was a Callebaut chocolate torte, served with maraschino luxardo cherry compote and crème fraiche. A lovely evening, in charming company, very special for me as Anita and Pritha are my childhood friends, all of us having grown up together in what was Madras, and with Arya, Anita’s daughter, we are all Chennaivasis now! This was a restaurant that was a total experience for us; a long lingering evening, with great food, fine wines, great music with the flautist performing downstairs and of course, the absolutely impeccable service.