Fusion of Chettinad spices and Italian recipes at Karaikudi restaurant

Tucked away on a side street inside Ashok Nagar in Karaikudi, this is one of the most unlikely addresses for fusion dining. When you pull into the parking lot outside the 40-seat restaurant, the courteous staff rush in with folded hands and ‘namaste’ on their lips and you instantly sense there’s something different about the place; No wonder Fusion Bistro has become a hotspot for diners in a short time.

Step into Fusion Bistro and owner-chef David Amirtharaj is all too eager to recount his gastronomic adventures. It’s adventure, for two reasons. He was home on vacation from Australia where he worked when COVID-19 hit and soon his father succumbed to the pandemic. “I couldn’t leave my mother alone and go back to my job,” David says. Embarking on a new adventure seemed the best option.

Recipe Fusion augratin with vegetables in the oven
| Photo credit: special arrangement

Combining knowledge of Chettinad’s local flavorful masalas with his years of training and experience abroad – mostly in Italian cuisine and a few others – David has dared to come up with recipe variations that are both unique and familiar to his home town. “In Karaikudi, locals and tourists seek out the indigenous, spicy, non-vegetarian dishes, biriyanis and kozhambus. I chose to experiment,” he says.

Seating comfy and neat over the next hour with starters and mains presented in front of me was all a fresh and fun fusion. The Japanese shrimp with dynamite marinated in an 11-ingredient sauce (chef’s secret) gave a unique taste even if the shrimp remained crunchy. Alongside, a hot bowl of Thai curry prawn soup with lemongrass and coconut was soft and delicious.

Fusion food Roasted lobster in the spicy tandoori oven
| Photo credit: special arrangement

The Chettinad Chicken Ravioli was a master blaster of a fusion with a fantastic taste combination. Flavors of fennel seeds and local peppercorns pounded and cooked to make Chicken Chettinad were stuffed inside smooth ravioli pasta mixed with spicy cream cheese. In the land of the mutton biryani, I felt how David’s lightly smoked Hyderabadi dum chicken biryani became a rage, as much as the lobsters and salmon, lal maas and kebabs. Each item is a treat. In the desserts, the Coconut Bavarois, a creamy coconut custard with infused kaffir lime leaves was simply melt-in-your-mouth.

Delicious Bavarian coconut dessert at Fusion Bistro

Delicious Bavarian coconut dessert at Fusion Bistro
| Photo credit: Soma Basu

David charms diners by tending each table with care explaining the effort that has gone into each dish. The symphony of spice and texture will delight you, especially since you wouldn’t expect such things in the region. Walking on a narrow footprint, David introduced a decent number of items from the cuisines of two worlds in which he has expertise. And it successfully proves that when you have passion, nothing limits the quality or imagination that food preparation and presentation can achieve.

How to reach

Travel time from Madurai to Fusion Bistro on Alagappan Ambalam, Second Street, Ashok Nagar, Karaikudi is approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. Open every day, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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