When I step out of the elevator from the 20th floor of the Residency Towers into SKY, their newest pan-Asian restaurant and bar, my eyes first go to a huge dome in the center.
“If you stand in a perfect position under the dome near the bar, the whole place can hear you,” says Ajit Janardhan, culinary director at Residency Towers. But before I take advantage of that, Ajith promises something more spectacular.
Sky, which accommodates around 70 people in a hybrid indoor and outdoor seating area, sits well in most parts of central and south Chennai. During the day, people sitting outside can see fragments of the beach, the cross of St. Thomas English Church, other tall buildings, and vehicles crawling like ants. There is a gentle breeze during the day and at night, the city lights come alive on a black canvas. The air-conditioned indoor space under the dome plays pleasant music and a well-stocked bar, which also houses what looks like a 1970s retro conversation pit.
Blue Orchid and Asparagus Tempura Maki
The restaurant is open daily between 12 noon and 11 pm, aiming to serve staples such as dimsum, sushi and fried rice. However, Chef Ajit is adamant about using local ingredients in most of the dishes. “If we’re not paying tribute to the city through our food, what’s the point,” he asks as he sits down to dinner with me.
So my meals are punctuated with quirky finds from the local market, like bright pink lotus petals in shiitake mushrooms and pickled lotus stem salad. My appetizers are mildly spicy green chilies and coconut flakes in dimsum. Coconut shoots and tender coconut water – a tribute to Ajith’s Malayalam roots – also find their way into cocktails made with Japanese whiskies. “It’s an acquired taste,” he admits.
Before Skye came into being, the 20th floor of the building was reserved for The Crown, a renowned restaurant focused on cooking from the North-West Frontier for 22 years. “It was about time the restaurant retired though. Everyone in town was doing almost the same thing,” says Ajit.
It took seven months to remodel the interiors. “The outdoor space at The Crown was not that big. The section that now overlooks the beach was a large and useless terrace. We repainted the inside and changed the look of the place,” says Ajit. New The rebranded restaurant is trying to capitalize on the growing interest in Asian cuisine by trying to add a significant number of vegetarian and vegan options to the menu.
There are blue orchids on top of the asparagus maki, lotus petals in the salad and banana flowers in the tempura starter. “I love flowers and love to add them when possible. They look nice on the plate,” he says. Although the pink lotus petals don’t actually taste like anything, they act like spoons to scoop out the astringent lotus stems and spicy shiitake. Blue orchids add drama to sushi rolls.
Lotus Petal and Spicy Shiitake Salad
Each plate also comes with small portions of salads inspired by Asian flavors such as the Bird’s Eye Chili and Papaya Salad with their hefty Kunafa Cheese appetizer.
The highlight, however, is a simple yellow pumpkin dish dipped in mirin, a sweet rice wine flavored with mild soy, which brings saltiness to the palate. The pea shoot garnish features pieces of ginger and garlic soaked in mirin and imparting an almost candy-like flavor. He says that Ajit is most proud of this dish.
Talking about his experience as a chef, he mentioned a solid nine years spent cooking on cruise ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean. Here, they say that their French colleague made black garlic on the ship and often used them to make exquisite dishes. “Ever since, I’ve wanted to use the ingredient as well,” he says. Hence we are served a well-burnt black garlic chicken tikka, bursting with the subtle flavor of black garlic woven into a curd marinade.
The mocktails feature six specially designed cocktails, including mixed bits from Central Asia and Tamil Nadu, and a version of the Chilled Masala Chai. Although the gin-based pho basil smash is a bit sweet, Koknatsu, a coconut-whisky drink made with Tokyo whiskey and sochu and fresh tender coconut water, hits the spot.
outdoor seating area at Sky
Although the kitchen is still tinkering with the recipes, the chefs say they are keen to ensure that The Sky becomes a great place to enjoy conversation over good food and drink. Nothing is more impressive – the taste, the music or the setting.
A meal for two costs around ₹4,000. The Sky The Residency Towers is at 115, Sir Thyagaraya Road, Parthasarathy Puram, T. Nagar. Tel: +91 70101 23000.