There is something about the warmth oozed by a chayakada that is unparalleled and unseen in the modern-day cafes and teahouses. The word ‘chayakada’ in itself is a huge emotion for a Malayali. A quaint space lit by a dim oil lamp with a bunch of lungi-clad people gathering for their evening tea ritual, sitting on wooden benches and idling away time – this is the picture that comes to my mind as soon as I hear chayakada. They are catching up on the hottest news in town through newspapers or gossip sessions, which is all the more spiced up by the thani naadan delicacies and a steaming cup of chaya served by the chayakadakaran.
Spotting a chayakada amidst the hustle of a city brings to a Dubai Malayali not just a twinge of nostalgia but a sense of rootedness, serving as a reminder of the culture we belong to. While there are a huge number of Kerala restaurants in Dubai (I believe they are proliferating even as I write this article), Adaminte Chayakada is one name that enjoys a top-of-mind recall. It could also be because of the love this restaurant garnered when it opened in Beach Road, Kozhikode around a decade ago. Named after the owner’s grandfather, CP Adam, the restaurant came into being when Aneez (the owner) envisioned serving up plates of his ummumma’s traditional delicacies to the younger population. In no time, Adaminte Chayakada became a household name in Kozhikode followed by the brand’s entry into the Dubai Malayali food scene.
Adaminte Chayakada in Al Qusais, Dubai is a culinary house exuding old-world charm with a dash of modern occasionally drizzling down its walls. You get the feeling of being pushed back in time as you behold the interiors but your palate stays in the present with some of the contemporary fusion cuisines that you gobble down like the Malabar Caesar Salad or the Keralan Chicken Skewer. But quintessentially, the Adaminte Chayakada cuisine brings to you Malayali dishes that have stood the test of time and are a family favourite like Chatti Choru, Erachi Choru, Pothi Biryani, Pothi Porotta and a wide range of Kozhikodan style curries to pair your staples with.
If you’re hungry reading this already, for the sake of your rumbling tummies, let me draw your attention to the timeless ambience of this restaurant. As you enter, you will be greeted by a hanging board that says “Vannolee, Thinnolee, Thannolee” with a display cabinet that holds neatly labelled glass jars of Thenga Mittai, Inji Mittai, Pullu Mittai and Naranga Mittai. You will embark on a time travel to the humble beginnings of the Kozhikodan life through décor items such as antique utensils, retro-style radio and rotary dial telephones.
One of my favourite wall adornments on their wall is the vintage electric switchboard – the kind which you toggle up and down to switch the lights on and off. This is one item that unlocks a trove of memories of my grandparents’ home, the place where I spent the majority of my toddlerhood. Seeing it after ages instantly brought a smile to my face. A lot of these wall décor were flown in from Kozhikode and are said to be almost 125 years old. Amusing, ain’t it?
Equally amusement worthy is the Adaminte Chayakada menu card which throws around dish names like Chicken Vadivelu, Mollychechi’s Mathanga Soup, Veerappan Chicken Fry, Thatti Kootiya Thakkali Curry and (wait for it) Chicken Pottitherichathu. If you’re not thinking of the episode PK from Karikku at this very moment, then sorry we can’t be friends!
I began my meal with the Natinpuram Koyi Soup which is priced at AED 16.5. This is a hearty flash-fire herb-infused soup of an overnight spiced chicken stock. I wouldn’t say the portion is very filling but, my goodness, it provides instant comfort to your soul.
I didn’t think twice before ordering Chicken Pottitherichathu and I would say it was the best decision I made in terms of appetizers. As the name suggests, this dish guarantees an explosion of flavours in your mouth. I had half a mind to ask the waiter if they had “Chicken Ikkilittu Chirichathu”, but my non-quirky side hushed those thoughts away. So I just sat back on my painted sack of a seat (yes they have their chairs enveloped in sacks) and savoured the crunchiness of my starter, occasionally sipping from my bowl of soup.
Alright, time to introduce the king of all dishes! Kothi oorum Pothi Porotta – no, that’s not what it’s called; but Adaminte Chayakda peeps, do consider this as an official petition to rechristen this dish! – arrived as soon as we polished Chicken Pottitherichathu off and oh my god, what do I tell you? Porotta was, is and will always be one of my vices and this spicy and succulent beef curry plopped on layers of flaky porottas blew my mind. Oh, and did I tell you it was topped off with an omelette? Priced at AED 21.5, all of this was neatly rolled and served wrapped in vazhayila.
They say save the best till the last and what awaited us totally lived up to this saying. When I ordered Chakka Bellam, I had no idea that it was a drink that was gonna take Kerala molecular gastronomy one level up. Leveraging the techniques of contemporary cooking, this dry ice-infused Chakka Bellam is attractively presented in a bed of smoke. My partner opted for the Passion Fruit Sarbath which was also served in a smoke-flanked bowl thus converting our table into a complete smokehouse. Except that this wasn’t caused by a disaster but two masterpieces of drinks. The Passion Fruit Sarbath gives you refreshment in every sip and is priced at AED 17.5.
If you happen to be jaunting along the streets of Al Qusais, be sure to pop into Adaminte Chayakada for a wholesome Kozhikodan-style meal and to revisit your Malayali roots.
Location: Nabooda Building – Damascus Street – Al Qusais – Al Qusais 1 – Dubai
PS: There are other joints operating under the same name in various parts of the UAE, but they do not come under the OG Adaminte Chayakada in Kozhikode. The only branch they own is the one in Al Qusais in Dubai!