Cars honking, hawkers calling out on top of their voices to sell their ware, auto rickshaws vying with bikers to get ahead, pedestrians diving to safety away from the huge tyres of buses and lorries - this is a familiar scene at the heart of Velachery, the happening Chennai suburb. In the middle of the chaos yet tucked away in a small, quiet lane is Pind.
The vegetarian restaurant specializing in Punjabi food is just over a month old and is already teeming with regulars. The sixty-eight-seater is a dapper, dhaba-style eatery; and, thankfully, minus the reeking smell of moldy carpet that usually assaults you at such places.
Divya Parwani, who runs the place, is deftly overseeing her staff as they arrange for the guests to be seated without much trouble, revealing inherent traits of hospitality (they are part of the renowned Bombay Halwa House group). The menu displays an awe-inspiring list of 46 sabzis to go with tawa and tandoori breads, pulav and rice. The Patiala tandoori bread has 11 varieties of flat-breads, says a visibly proud waiter.
My friend insists we start with the tandoori platter which comes in laden with a variety of starters: Paneer tikka - the homemade paneer is soft with a crisp exterior; paneer triangles - creamy white slices layered with sweet date and mint chutneys; cauliflower crisp from the tandoor; a crunchy, spicy vegetable kebab and well-browned, succulent mushroom kebabs.
We order a hardy hot and sour soup to go with the starters. It`s got a strong whiff of chilli and garlic and a good dose of pepper - enough to set your gastric juices flowing.
Main course is a difficult choice but we make a beginning.
The rajma is a must-try - the slow cooking has allowed the spices to permeate the beans. The aloo jeera sabzi is a cumin flavoured curry distinct with the earthy flavour of boiled potatoes. The paneer tikka masala is a luscious, creamy affair of fried, grainy paneer in tomato gravy laced with fresh cream. The paneer jalfrezi is a wholesome combination of juicy sweet corn, fresh green peas, springy beans and tender paneer cubes in a delicately spicy base.
Pind, true to its name - which means village in Punjabi - serves traditional, rustic food which is undoubtedly its USP.
The side dishes are served with paneer kulcha - tandoori bread stuffed with coriander, green chillies and crumbled paneer and drooling in ghee.
We also order tawa mooli paratha - the well-browned, radish-stuffed bread is a tad bitter for my liking.
The roomali roti is an exception to the rule of roomalis in Chennai - it is soft, wafer-thin and well-cooked!
The service is quick and our appetite is satiated in no time leaving us wondering why we have no room for dessert. But, who can deny the tall glass of creamy rabri served with frothy, beaten sweet lassi - the perfect way to finish a Punjabi meal!
The restaurant serves Punjabi thali for lunch and offers door delivery as well. If you`re heading to the place for dinner, make sure you get there pretty early to beat the mulling crowd of eager diners.