Kokum: A tribute to the Cuisine and Culture of Kerala

kokum-71

Kokum is located at 106 Lexington Avenue, 212-684-6842, www.kokumny.com.

Officially opening on October 9, 2013.  Kokum is open for lunch every day from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with Lunch Box specials available daily. Dinner Sun.-Thurs. 5 to 10 p.m., Fri & Sat. 5-10:30 p.m.


A South Indian Thrill Spices Up Curry Hill

Ask any well-seasoned New Yorker where to go for the best bite of any regional cuisine and she is likely to steer you away from any of the city’s popular “food districts.” For it would be a foodie offense of the highest order to venture to Chinatown, Indian Row or Little Italy for their respective fare (or, God forbid, a slice of NYC pizza!)  Despite having once been considered “safe bets” for visitors, locals have often regarded these areas as unsavory, offering diners sub-standard cuisine lacking in authenticity.

The one exception to the rule is the ever-evolving Curry Hill, due largely in part to the trendsetting palate revelations of restaurateur Shiva Natarajan (of Chote Nawab, Malai Marke, Dhaba, and Chola fame). Natarajan has repeatedly reinvented Indian cuisine with a simple yet effective formula: keep it authentic. And while it may seem to purists that tradition and creativity can be at odds when it comes to food preparation, he has consistently debunked this theory by combining unrelenting authenticity with enough inventive flair to excite the most sophisticated palate. His latest creation, Kokum, is a solid testament to that precision. Unlike the standard fare of dosas and daals found in many of the area’s other restaurants, Kokum is a tribute to the genuine, enchanting offerings of exclusively South Indian cuisine, with a menu unlike any other.

kokum Eggplant Chennai Curry

Credit Protech NYC All photos.  Eggplant Curry Above

Kokum (which is a souring agent native to South India, similar to Tamarind) is a tribute to the cuisine and culture of Kerala, a state in Southern India known for its lush vegetation, crustaceans, coconuts and exotic spices; all of which account for it’s coveted cuisine. The simple, casual yet stylish décor is modeled after the interior of the “Snake Boats” used in the boat races that are also popular in the region. A prominent spice exporter since as early as 3000 BCE, Kerala is also famous for its Ayurvedic practices, and so it would follow that an outstanding feature of the Kokum menu is a distinct attention to spice and flavor-combinations that manages to both soothe and excite, but not overwhelm, the palate.

For instance, the Veg Upma appetizer (steamed cream of wheat implanted with tender veggies) is almost a comfort food—until the exotic flavors kick in to excite. The Kumily Chicken, tender chunks of perfectly (but not overly) spiced chicken with green chilies and curry leaves, is a divine starter for those who may want to venture into the taste sensations gradually, while the Lamb Oolarthiyathu—succulent pieces of meat sautéed with coconut peppercorns and shallots—will satisfy even the most demanding spice aficionados. For a dose of the proprietary spice, try the Shrimp Kokum which is marinated and sautéed with shallots.

Kokum - Meen Pollichathu

The entrees feature a variety of mains from every category, from poultry dishes to seafood to the lamb and goat delicacies more traditional throughout the country.  The Kerala Chicken Stew is a creamy concoction of coconut, veggies, and whole masalas. The Meen Pollichathu (Above), flaky fragrant fish roasted in a plantain leaf and gorgeously presented, is almost a holistic experience—pleasurable to four of the five senses; or the absolutely trance-inducing Crab Ullarthu, cooked in coconut, garlic, and coriander, and whose texture satisfies almost as much as its flavor.  The Soft Shell Crab roast, cooked to medium-spicy perfection black pepper and shallots, is also sure to wow the taste buds.

There’s an extensive selection of vegetarian entrees on the menu, most of which are also vegan. Quite a few are prepared with healthy root vegetables, and some with veggies that are delightfully unexpected, such as the Jackfruit Thoran, which features the exotic and tender Jackfruit, stir-fried in coconut and has a consistency and flavor similar to chicken. The Avial Malabar is an eclectic mixed vegetable dish with yogurt, coconut, and curry leaves, and the Erissery is a delicious combination of red pumpkin and black-eyed beans with southern spices. Pair any of these a side of the several specialty rices (tamarind, coconut, and lemon infusions, among others) and you have a meal that would satisfy even a stout religious carnivore. 

Kokum - Dosa

One notable feature of the Kokum menu is the substantial dosa and Indian “street food” selection that includes a Dosa Stall (Above), Uttapam (Indian pancake) Stall, andMuniyandi Dosa Villas featuring the most addictive, gigantic dosas this side of the Ganges served with six dipping sauces ranging in flavors from sweet and spicy to tangy and thick.  The dosas come with a variety of fillings, like spiced potatoes and onions in the Masala Dosa or spicy Chettinad pepper chicken in the Pepper Chicken Dosa.  Or there’s the Onion Chili Uttapam, studded with onions and green chilies.

Just when you think the meal can’t get any more exciting, there’s an otherworldly cocktail list that truly takes Kokum’s fabulous flavor-combinations to level next. TheTadi Fling mixes light and dark rum with sweet vermouth, lime, and pineapple juices, and the Tropical Kerala is a surprisingly light concoction with gin, Saint Germain, lemon juice, triple sec, and mint. The Kokum, featuring its namesake along with cardamom-infused vodka, lime juice, honey, green tea, and a splash of tamarind water, should probably not be missed.  There is also an extensive beer and wine menu, with offerings by the bottle or by the glass and outstanding cocktails. Service is warm, efficient and helpful.

Copyright 2013 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure

Sample Menu

LUNCH THALI
MONDAY – SUNDAY 11:30AM – 3PM
SOUTHERN VEG THALI 10
2 VEGETABLES, KOZHAMBHU, SAMBHAR, RASAM, APPALAM, PARATHA, RICE AND DESSERT
NON VEG THALI 12
CHICKEN, FISH, VEGETABLE, KOZHAMBU, SAMBHAR, RASAM, APPALAM, PARATHA, RICE AND DESSERT


STARTERS
PARUPPU 5
Lentil coconut soup
RASAM 5
Tamarind lentil soup
ALOO BONDA 6
Batter fried potato balls served with chutneys
ONION BHAJI 6
Onion fritters served with chutneys
MEDHU VADAI 6
Lentil donuts served with sambhar & chutneys
IDLI 6
Steamed rice cakes served with sambhar and chutneys
IDLI VADAI 6
Steamed rice cake and lentil donut
SAMBHAR VADAI 6
Lentil donuts in a light tamarind lentil soup
PARIPPU VADAI 6
Chana dal based fried vada
MASALA KADALA 7
Black chick peas tossed with coconut & curry leaves
THAIR VADAI (Cold) 7
Lentil donuts soaked in spiced yogurt
PONGAL 8
Rice cooked with black peppercorns, lentils & ghee
VEG UPMA 8
Steamed cream of wheat tossed with vegetables
KUMILY CHICKEN FRY spicy 10
Chicken sautéed with green chilis and curry leaves
LAMB OOLARTHIYATHU spicy 11
Lamb sautéed with coconut, peppercorns & shallots
KOCHI FISH FRY spicy 12
Pan fried fish in red masala
KOKUM KONJU VARUVAL 12
Shrimp marinated in kokum and sautéed with shallots
SHRIMP / CRAB
CHEMEEN THEEYAL 20
Shrimp curry with shallots & fried coconut
KONJU MAPPAS 20
Shrimp cooked with tomatoes,coconut & kokum
CRAB ULLARTHU (No Shell) 20
Crab cooked with coconut, garlic & coriander
SOFT SHELL CRAB ROAST (Med Spicy) 22
Kerala style crab roast with black pepper & shallots
VEGETABLES
(Most of our dishes are vegan)
MAMBAZHA CURRY (Has Dairy) 12
Sweet mango curry with coconut & yogurt
PARIPU CHEERA 12
Lentils sauteed with garden herbs
IDICHAKKA THORAN 12
Stir fried tender Jackfruit sauteed with coconut
CABBAGE VARUTHA CURRY 12
Cabbage sauteed with southern spices
KOVAKA PODI 13
Gherkins sautéed with lentil powder & fresh coriander
KERALA KOOTU 13
Mixed vegetables in a lentil gravy
ANNA OKRA FRY 13
Okra sauteed with lentils & garden herbs
KATRIKA CURRY 13
Eggplant sautéed with onions,tomatoes & coriander
KOCHI CAULIFLOWER Stir fried cauliflower
with mustard seeds & curry leaves
RED PUMPKIN THORAN Red Pumpkin
sautéed with jaggery,green chilies & mustard seeds
KEERAI MASIYAL 13
Spinach cooked with coconut & lentils
VATHA KULAMBU Spicy 13
Tamarind based gravy with vatana & okra
MORU PULISSERY (Has dairy) Buttermilk 13
cooked with coconut,white pumpkin & curry leaves
THEEYAL 13
Yam & green banana with fried coconut
ERISSERY 13
Red pumpkin & black eye beans with southern spices
AVIAL (Has yogurt) 13
Eclectic vegetables with coconut,yogurt & curry leaves
RICE ON THE SIDE
PLAIN WHITE RICE 3
Steamed white rice from Southern India
BISI BELA HOULIANA 8
Rice cooked with vegetables & lentils
TOMATO RICE 8
Rice cooked with lentils,tomatoes & curry leaves
COCONUT RICE 8
Rice cooked with appalam & coconut
TAMARIND RICE 8
Rice cooked with puli,peanuts & split chana dal
LEMON RICE 8
Rice tempered with mustard seeds,curry leaves & peanuts
THAIR SADAM 8
Yogurt rice cooked with dry red chilies
CHICKEN
VARUTHARACHA CHICKEN CURRY 15
A popular chicken curry with curry leaves
CHICKEN MASALA KULAMBU spicy 15
Chicken cooked in a tomato tangy gravy
CHICKEN PEPPER VARUVAL spicy 15
Chicken sauteed with peppercorns,fennel and shallots
KERALA CHICKEN STEW Chicken and 15
vegetables in a coconut stew with whole masalas
CHICKEN CHETTINAD spicy 15
Pepper chicken curry from the house of Chettiyars
CHICKEN GHEE ROAST 15
A Manglorean specialty simmered in clarified butter
LAMB /GOAT
LAMB KUNDAPUR 17
Coconut lamb curry with potatoes
LAMB MADRAS spicy 17
Lamb tossed with fresh coconut and dry red chilies
ATTIRACHI CHUVANNA ULLI MASALA 17
Lamb cooked with a shallots & carom seed powder
KOCHI GOAT CURRY 19
Curried goat on the bone tossed with curry leaves
CHETTIYAR’S LAMB CHOPS 22
Lamb chops cooked in a peppercorn infused masala
FISH
SALMON KARAKARA 19
Pan grilled fish with southern spices
MEEN MOILEE 19
Fish cooked in a turmeric infused coconut sauce with lemon
MEEN PEERA 19
Flaky fish tossed with coconut & garden herbs
MEEN POLLICHATHU 19
Fish roasted in a plantain leaf
KOCHI FISH FRY spicy 19
Pan fried fish in red masala
KOKUM KONJU VARUVAL 19
Shrimp marinated in kokum and sautéed with shallots
ALLEPY MEEN CURRY 19
Fish cooked with green raw mangoes
NADAN MEEN CURRY 19
Country style red fish curry with kokum
MALABAR BIRYANI
(Basmati rice cooked with whole masalas & garden herbs)
EGG BIRYANI 12
CHICKEN BIRYANI 13
LAMB BIRYANI 14
GOAT BIRIYANI 15
SHRIMP BIRYANI 16

BREADS
CHAPATI 3
Whole wheat bread cooked on open fire
KERALA PARATHA 4
Multi layered pan bread
SOUTHERN TROLLEY
ADD
Aloo masala 2
Chicken Stew 3
Lamb Keema 3
Avial 3
Fish Curry 5

VEGETABLE UTTAPPAM 9
Rice and lentil pancake with vegetables
DOSA 10
Rice crepe served with sambhar & chutney
APPAM 11
Fermented rice crepe with coconut
IDIAPPAM 11
Steamed rice string hoppers
PUTTU 11
Steamed rice flour with coconut & kadala on the side
ONION CHILI RAVA DOSA 11
Crisp Semolina and rice flour crepe topped with onions and chili
SIDES
KACHIAMORU 5
Spiced buttermilk with coconut
THAIR PACHADI 5
Refreshing yogurt with coconut,carrots and garden herbs
EGG ROAST 5
Spiced boiled eggs with onions and coriander
SAMBHAR 5
Yellow lentils cooked with shallots

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