Friday, December 2, 2011

By The Bay!

Madras during the Monsoon.

I apologise, in advance, if I take a detour from the grub-talk and wax eloquently on the sporadic-yet-bloody-gorgeous showers (replete with thunder and lightening, I kid you not), the cliched mugs of hot cocoa in front of the window (chai-and-pakoda, corn on the cob, pick your poison) and state-declared holidays.

Not to mention what happens to the beach. Besant Nagar, in this context, in all obviousness. It's desolate (compared to your regular Sunday-rush of families with screechy children, lovers perched under roomy umbrellas and a paraphernalia of vendors selling everything from plastic watches, bootha kannadi to molaga bajjis.)

And the food there. You want momos? Got it.

Sweet corn with a myriad of seasoning? Got it.

Gelato and Ice Gola? Check and Check.

Expensive coffee, beach-side burgers, Dindugal Thalapakkatu Biryani? Yes, yes and yes.

It never was complete, though. La Boulangerie's chocolate cake and FunkJazz's doughnuts should logically hit the spot for me. Still. There was a niggling hole in the picture.

I wanted something more. Something warm. Toasty. Spicy. Hearty. The rain awakens taste buds you didn't know existed.

The answer to that Sphinx-y question can only be ONE thing. A shawarma!

The shawarmas I've had in India are a disappointment and a half. Thin white quboos: Blahdom. Oily mayonnaise making the whole thing soggy: Instant turn-off. Chicken filling: Usually yum, but overwhelmed by the fatty mayo and the sad little shreds of cabbage.

That is not a shawarma, people. If you want a real shawarma as God intended to be, in all its goodness, go to By The Bay. A Lebanese restaurant right next to Mash and FunkJazz on Besant Nagar Beach Road. They make a mean shawarma, pretty damn close to the actual thing and quite frankly, the best I've had in Madras.

You'll have to wait 15 minutes for it to be done. Completely worth it. The proportions are such that you'll have to hold with two hands. Sold.

Notice the panini/sandwich maching thingy? That's to toast the whole thing.

Fat, warm quboos envelopes grilled chicken with the tastiest spice rub, potato wedges, red cabbage, flecks of parsley and a thoum (garlic cream) so delicious, I want to use it as Body Butter for the rest of my life.

The whole shawarma is toasted after being assembled, the grill marks showing up on the bread. It is an experience. My only grouse was the potato wedges weren't crisp enough, but they melded into a mashed-potato-y cream in the shawarma, so it wasn't that big of a deal. You'll also need to stuff in the pickled radishes and cucumber if you like your shawarmas salty.

Just make the perfect bite, look into the rain and indulge.

The chicken and beef Shawarma both cost around 100 bucks each.

The Chicken Laham pita-wich (sandwich, in a pita bread) consists of three sheek-type charcoal grilled kebabs on a decent-sized pita. The pita is strewed with crunchy, flavourful onions, parsley and more thoum, pickles and french fries. At 120 bucks, it's a steal.

The other thing we ordered was a stew-type thing. Charcoal grilled shammi-shaped chicken with a vinegary stew filled with hearty carrots, potatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers and middle eastern-spices.

Along with Qabsa (arabic biryani), fries, a bread-basket filled with warm pita, hummus, thoum, pickles. All this for Rs. 240. Hard to believe? And most of the components were well-executed and a delight to sample. The Arabic biryani alone was little too oily for me... it wasn't all yellow and fluffy and steamy the way I usually have Qabsa.

Two of us could not finish the whole thing, but it was one heck of a delicious try.

The one other thing you must sample are the Za'atyers. Reminiscent of a pizza, it consists of sauces and chicken and cheese (subbing Haloumi and Muhammara-ish sauce, of course) and it smelt amazing, coming fresh out of a real wood-fired oven; something I'm definitely going back for.

By The Bay is one of the newer additions to Madras's culinary scene that I'm in love with. I hope it stays this way..

Their tag line reads "Not Authentically Arabic", but at these prices? لذيذ جدا

One more thing that'll take me back is the desserts I didn't have room to sample! They have Mohalabbia on the menu and it has my name written all over it. Literally and figuratively.


  1. Speaking of shawarmas, I just got back from Dubai a couple of days ago where I had a shawarma almost every day! The smell of the meat sizzling drives me crazy!

    I must try this place, though. The kebab looks SO juicy!

  2. Why do you hate me? Shawarmas alone I could handle. But the build up was unnecessary! x-(

  3. Hey, what's the number for by the bay, im struggling to find it online...Thank you so mch

  4. Zarine: Dubai, undoubtedly, has one of the BEST halal food scenes in the world. Fullstop. And I envy you!!

    C: Come back for a proper, sabbatical-type vacation!

  5. Anonymous: Hey, these are the numbers for By The Bay. Hope it helps!


  6. you are tempting me to come to Chennai.....You know whats best abt the food in chennai, it has a chennai flavor, and by the bay is right, not authentically arabic....every food from pizzas to pastas, from quesadilla to tacos, everything has an authentic chennai it miss it

  7. Sithi machi: Come soon! Don't make excuses saying "for your wedding". I'll make your food-itinery for the trip! :)

  8. Hhaha, exactly what rabia said sithi aunty. And why do we never visit these places?? Brutal Rabia. Let's do this soon please.

  9. Thanks for the review. I ate at the restaurant last night and enjoyed the food.

  10. Safrina: come to Madras. We will get ourselves a shawarma and some happiness. Come now.

    OK, I just bombed my exam, so please make allowances for the weirdness.

  11. Nadeem: Glad to hear! I'm forever worried I might suggest a place and people will go spend a ton and not like it!