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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Sudarshan Varadhan
First Published : 22 Jun 2010 11:59:00 PM IST
Last Updated :

A door decked with bells, a stunning sculpture of the legendary Mathsya Avatar and Ilayaraja’s lilting tunes from his days of yore welcome you to Mathsya, situated in the heart of the city at Egmore. This hotel boasts of a unique amalgamation of home and temple style cooking, enjoys an iconic and legendary status among pure vegetarian establishments and is known for its authentic and traditional Udipi Brahmin cuisine.

Excerpts from an interview with Mathsya Ram, the owner:

How would you like to be known?

I want to be known as a person who’s running a very fine restaurant and as an advocate of vegetarianism.


We serve only vegetarian food, which is clean, healthy and traditional. We make our own ghee, buy fresh vegetables and rely heavily on three characteristics that are instrumental to the success of any hotel — quality, quality and quality. We are one of the few restaurants that are open even at 2 am — something that we started as a service to cater to the hungry refugees who used to come to Chennai during odd hours in the sixties and the tradition continues, even today.

The chefs and the cuisines

My dad was a perfectionist who would not settle for anything but the best. He handpicked the chefs. Specialists from Delhi and Amritsar prepare our Punjabi and tandoori items and we have hired professionals from Kolkata and Mumbai for the Chinese and chat items respectively. We strictly adhere to the age-old techniques that have stood the test of time but are also open to new technologies and improvisations. Our cooking methodologies are heavily inspired by the native Udipi style.

Innovations and inventions

We introduced the banana-leaf-on-the-plate system that’s being followed by hotels all over Tamil Nadu. We also invented the rasam vada and the sambhar vada, inspired by the bajjau vada, an evergreen delicacy in the Udipi cuisine. We invented the Jain sambhar — sambhar without onion and garlic.

What does the hotel mean to you?

It’s like my second home. I’m one of the few hotel owners who eats everyday at his own restaurant. My uncle used to say, “If you think can give your food to your children, only then sell it.” I abide by that principle. I strongly believe that there’s a bit of Mathsya in every Indian restaurant.

Biggest compliment

A famous Belgian diamond merchant invited me for an exclusive lunch at his home and leapt in joy after hearing the fact that I’m the owner of Mathsya. I also did the wedding catering for Mr Praveen, Executive Chef, Sheraton Park.

Mathsya top 6

Rasam vada, Mangalore bonda, chilli cheese toast, methi dosa, filter coffee and apple bajji.


I spend a lot of time and money on books, music and travel. I’m a big fan of flautist Mali, Ilayaraja, GN Balasubramaniam, Eric Dolphy and a band called The Grateful Dead. I play basketball, soccer and also practice Kalaripayattu.

Plans for the future

New outlets at Adyar and Anna Nagar are being planned.

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