The American TexMex brand Chili’s finally makes it to the shores of Singara Chennai. After opening three outlets each in Mumbai and Bengaluru, two in Hyderabad and one in Pune, the lucky Chennai gets a branch for itself amidst a lot of expectations. Since they don’t have any branches in the UK, I wasn’t lucky enough to try them and neither was I much aware of this brand until recently. A point that got me really interested was the fact that they maintain about 80-90% of their original menu in all the countries with very little deviation. This is definitely a much needed change from MNCs who are rather going on their knees and end up serving silly ‘Indianized’ dishes.
Location & Parking
Chili’s in Chennai is located in the ever busy Express Avenue Mall. Nestled at the heart of the city, they couldn’t have found a better place. With multi level parking space, parking isn’t an issue at all. (Well, the parking charges could be).
Chili’s is right outside the Food court and isn’t easy to miss. There’s a reception desk outside and they’ve made it easy for us to get our tables right from the start.
From what my friends who’ve been to Chili’s in the States have told me, their ambience is very laid back and chill. I cannot disagree with them once when it comes to the Chennai branch either. Red and green striped board holds the brand name next to a metallic star studded wall hanging that looked like Capt. America’s shield. Once inside, the place reminded me of the various TexMex joints I’ve tried abroad. Couch and chair seating with their brand engraved on the tables. Rustic looking portraits adorn the walls. There’s also something similar to a bar counter with bar stools. But the max this counter can shell out at the moment are mocktails. Ambience on the whole is simple yet gets the point conveyed about what they are.
Food & Beverages
As always, I was a bit late to reach the spot and in the name of beating the heat, my foodie pal had already ordered her drink. Given below are the list of drinks we got to try.
- Mango Chile Margarita – Talk about playing with words. The Chile here means the chilli jalapeno slices mixed with mango syrup. A lovely concoction of tanginess with a spicy kick.
- Watermelon Margarita – This is what I ordered considering how hot the weather is. It was served on this humongous margarita glass with a salted rim. Though the extra scoop of ice cubes made it a drink that’ll chill anyone, the concentration of the syrup was a bit too much for my taste.
- Frozen Mochaccino – It’s rare that a place nails a perfect cold coffee. These guy’s have somehow mastered that art. Amazingly well made cold drink for those caffeine addicts.
- Cherry Coke – I was surprised to find this in the menu. As a fan of Cherry Coke, I must say that I’ve searched all over town for a can of this drink but it was in vain. I wasn’t sure if it was the actual drink itself till I took a sip of it and oh boy, it was the real deal. One of those rare times when I’ll be coming to a restaurant just for an aerated drink. Loved it.
SOUPS & STARTERS
- Cream of Chicken Soup – Ah, the good ol Chicken, a TexMex favourite. Chunks of chicken with mushrooms and other veggies. A feel good soup that tastes the way its meant to.
- Ultimate Dipper – An ultimate appetiser in all possible ways. Since we were lost for options on what to choose, we chose this one which had a bit of all the major starters we wanted to sink our teeth into. This mother of assortments is meant to have Chicken Crispers, Chicken Wings, Boneless Chicken Wings, Texas Cheese Poppers and Southwestern Rolls served with six different dipping sauces. We requested to get our Boneless Chicken Wings with a portion of Country Fried Calamari. Ironically, the stars of this dish are the dips which were brilliant. Calamari tasted fresh without the chewiness. Cheese poppers looked picture perfect with a oozy cheese filling. Super tangy Chicken Wings. Deep fried chicken fritters in the name of Crispers which was good. Southwestern Rolls are bite sized rolls that are filled with veggies.
- White Spinach Queso – Usually called as Chile Con Queso, it is traditionally prepared with chilli and cheese which gives it a fiery red colour. But what we got a toned down version with cheese, spinach, pico de gallo (salsa salad) along with chips. Nevertheless, the cheese overload is sure to be a cheese lover’s dream dish.
- Southern Smokehouse Burger – The words Apple wood smoked Bacon made me order the dish which also has cheese, dill pickles, onion rings, signature sauces and a well done beef patty. Visually appealing, the burger didn’t meet my expectations predominantly because of the thick burger buns.
- Santa Fe Quesadilla – Flour tortillas with fresh veggies and a liberal portion of cheese and salsa. Since it was a veg dish, I didn’t concentrate much on it but a bite proved how cheesy it is. Quite a bland dish but yet another cheese lovers must try.
- Philadelphia Melting Cheese Steak – Steak and cheese are a match made in heaven. Served with a healthy portion of steamed veggies and fries, this dish has a grilled tenderloin steak with melted cheese queso for topping.
- Baby Back Ribs (Half rack) – If there’s something that I would love to see more in Chennai’s top restaurants apart from the ones in star hotels are a couple of decent pork dishes and something as exotic as these back ribs. Slow cooked to perfection, the pecan wood used in smoking it gave it a smoky sweet flavour. Though I’ve tasted better ribs, this is definitely one of the best our city has to offer currently. They were served with corn on the cob and fries.
- Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie – A chewy pie made with chocolate chips and hazelnuts topped with ice cream, hot fudge and caramel. Nutty, soft and crunchy, this dessert gave us a plethora of textures and tastes which were good.
- Chocolate Cheesecake – Honestly speaking, this chocolate cheesecake is one of the disastrous dishes I’ve had and it was surprising to find such a dessert at Chili’s. It was served in a weird glass container and the cheesecake was rock solid that was capable of bending spoons.
- Molten Chocolate Cake – Yet another delicious dessert that tasted as good as it looked. Chocolate cake with chocolate fudge filling under a, you guessed it, chocolate shell. Fortunately they served vanilla ice cream on its side instead of chocolate ice cream in which case I’d have floated to a point of no return at chocolate island.
Chili’s Chennai, as I mentioned earlier, is a path breaker in a way thanks to not adding a bit of ‘masala’ to make it palatable to the Indian audience. The flavours are true and it can’t get more authentic than this. Quality seems to be their top priority and though this might mean customers shelling out a bit more than usual, they’re definitely in for a meal that would justify the price tag. Overall, Chili’s is a place that manages to live up to the hype and cater itself to a wide variety of audience that are sure to fall in love with their dishes.