Earlier this month, the famous American chain Chili’s launched its second outlet in Hyderabad. The new Chili’s is on Road Number 1, Banjara Hills, and is much more spacious than the InOrbit outlet, but it has lost a lot of the rustic charm of the latter. I was invited for a tasting session last week and got an opportunity to taste a fair number of dishes.
I started off with Minty Melon, an amazingly refreshing mocktail that’s sweet but with a hint of acidity (citrus) and mint. There were complimentary chips on the table. However, some of them had a stench that I’m used to getting in street food places where the oil is reused a lot. It was definitely surprising to find the same in an upscale restaurant.
Thankfully, the ultimate dipper, which is a platter of five starters, arrived soon and helped me bury the taste of the chips. Our platter had South Western Rolls, Fried Quesadilla Bites, Chicken Crispers, Boneless Chicken Wings, and Chicken Wings. I didn’t like the South Western Rolls, but the other stuff were good. My favourite were the boneless chicken wings. Compared to the normal chicken wings, the flavour profile of the boneless ones were amped up, and gave a nice kick. There was an assortment of dips, but none of them were memorable. We also served Nachos in two variants – Classic and Bold. Now, even the classic nachos here are nothing like typical nachos. Instead of throwing a bunch of cheese and other stuff into a bowlful of nachos, Chili’s layers each of their nachos to ensure consistency. These nachos are less messy, have a consistent flavour, and don’t get soggy. The bolder variant makes the nachos a bit more spicy with chipotle cheese and jalapenos. I loved both, but my preference would definitely be the Classic Nachos. The final starter that I had were Country Fried Calamari, and these were a beauty. The calamari was cooked just right – neither were they rubbery, nor were they fried to the point of becoming tasteless.
First to arrive in the mains were Original BBQ Ribs and Honey Chipotle Ribs. Both of these dishes were spectacular. I felt the original style was marginally better as it had a more pronounced smokey flavour. I wish that the sides included something more exciting than corn on the cob. Next up were Classic Tenderloin and Philadelphia Melting Cheese Steaks. We had asked them to be medium and medium-rare respectively. I was shocked to see that both pieces of meat had been cooked well beyond medium! Forget about a red centre, there wasn’t even any pink in the Philly Steak. As expected the meat had lost all the flavour, and while the Classic Tenderloin was marginally better, both of the steaks were bad. And that’s a real downer from a place like Chili’s that takes a lot of pride in its meat.
While I was still sulking over the steaks, the Mushroom and Chicken Fajita arrived. I relished the citrus notes in the chicken, which had been marinated long enough to soak in all the flavours. The dish worked well as an ensemble and is a must order for any fan of Tex-Mex cuisine. I had to wait another fifteen minutes for my order of Chipotle Salmon. Chef Abhijeet apologised for the delay and promised to deliver a perfectly grilled fish. Unfortunately, when it did arrive, after a total of forty-five minutes, I couldn’t but help feel disappointed. The fish that was served to me perfectly grilled, but had none of the amazing sear pictured on the menu. A fish that’s pan seared, and one that isn’t are completely different dishes and markedly different flavour profiles.
In desserts, we were served Molten Chocolate Cake, Cinnamon Molten Cake, and Carrot Cake. The Molten Chocolate cake here looked like an actual volcano oozing out chocolate. It tasted pretty good, but you’ve gotta be amazing to make an impression with Molten Chocolate Cake. The dish I found more interesting was the Cinnamon Molten Cake. It’s essentially Molten Cake for people who are not very fond of chocolates. It has vanilla ice cream with ample amount of caramel sauce and a drizzling of cinnamon. The cinnamon really adds to the charm of the dish and makes it notable. The carrot cake was a rich, gooey, sinful indulgence that I would love to have a couple of bites of but would want someone else to finish up.
Chili’s nailed the starters, got the desserts right, and made me happy with the wonderful racks of ribs in the main course. But, they made a mess of the Tenderloin, and served me fish that wasn’t quite what was on the menu. I’d expect an American restaurant to get the done-ness of my meat right. Nevertheless, there were quite a few positives, and I’m definitely looking forward to going back to try more dishes. A meal for two at Chili’s would normally cost around Rs. 2000 without any drinks. But, they do have some decent combos that are easier on the pocket.