Origins of the kabab often trace back to Persian soldiers grilling sword-skewered meat on an open flame in the midst of battle camps; however, the golden age of kababs really arrived with Mughal conquest of the Indian subcontinent. Exotic spices worked their magic on the meat, bewitching taste buds across street-shacks and royal courts alike. India’s greatest kababs come from the regions directly controlled by the Mughal Empire or its regents and galauti kababs of Lucknow, burrah kababs from the streets of Shahjahanabad and seekh kababs in Agra can rival the best meat dishes, anywhere in the world. While there is little, to nothing known of kababs developed in Tamil Nadu, Chennai’s restaurants bring some of India’s best to the city. Here are my picks for the best kabab restaurants in Chennai:
Peshawri, ITC Grand Chola & Earthen Oven, Fortune Select
India’s most feted exponent of kababs – ITC’s Peshawari brand is synonymous with the rustic, char grilled meats of the North West Frontier. Our lead critic Vir Sanghvi once remarked that the Chennai outpost might possibly be better than its mother-brand Bukhara at the ITC Maurya in New Delhi! It is absolutely impossible to go wrong with Peshawari’s menu – whether you go for their signature Burrah Kababs or the moreish kadak seekh. Not cheap though.
I will take you on a delicious little secret – If you want to enjoy the same Peshawri kababs at a fraction of the prices – go to the old Peshawri, now Earthen Oven Fortune Select (the old Chola Sheraton) and check for their unlimited kabab platters. Same menu, same recipes and kababs are just as good! They are rebranding the restaurant soon, so go before you regret it.
The Great Indian Kabab Factory, Radisson Blu Hotels
A birdie once told me that a few years ago, Radisson stole a prolific Kababchi from kitchens to create the Great Kabab Indian Factory. While the story might be bogus, meat of the matter is that kababs at TGIKF are pretty good. Radisson’s most successful dining brand in Chennai, patrons love their prix-fixe menu with a free flowing selection of kababs.
Al Maza, Anna Nagar East
A lamentable void in Chennai’s restaurant circuit has always been a dearth of Awadhi restaurants, and while Al Maza is not an out-an-out champion of Lucknow’s famed delicacies, it does come pretty close. Try the subtle kakori kababs or the Peshawar-specialty Chapli Kabab. It would be foolish to go all the way to Anna Nagar and not order Al Maza’s fragrant Awadhi dum biryani.
Kabab Corner, Greams Road
Chennai’s best homegrown kabab joint, Kabab Corner is little more than a cubbyhole on Greams Road. While the kababs lack nuanced flavors of the heavyweights from North India, they are grilled just right for your carnal pleasure. A mix of Bengaluru and Malaysian influences, try the dahi seekh kababs, veal kababs and murtabak.
A self proclaimed food geek and coffee nerd, Amit Patnaik enjoys his time in the kitchen as much as he loves dining out. He runs the food blog Pursuit of Yummyness and contributes to The Hindu in Chennai.