Tovo is a fairly new restaurant in Chennai on RK Salai just opposite the Woodlands and Savera hotels. I had the opportunity to check it out one Sunday evening with my wife and our friends. I didn’t read any reviews about the place before hand, I just knew that it was vaguely related to fusion food – whatever that means.
Having dined there, I can tell you that what it actually offers is chicken and it’s basically Indian version of Nandos.
Plenty of effort has gone in to branding and outfitting the restaurant. When you walk in you get the feeling that it’s a quality establishment with a serious amount of capital injected to make it work. Surprisingly then, the food costs were quite a lot lower than I was expecting.
The menu isn’t extensive by any means and this is probably a good thing because at first we were all quite confused by what we should be ordering. As it turns out you’ve got 4 main options:
1. A quarter, half or whole chicken
2. A regular chicken wrap or a spicy chicken wrap
3. A chicken burger
4. A couple of south Indian dishes like Dosa
To add to the confusion, Tovo calls wraps as ‘flaps’ (which just sounds oh so wrong) and burgers as ‘buns’. It feels like it’s trying so hard to be different and elevate its brand but the reality is that it falls short as it hasn’t quite nailed it.
With your main dish selected, you then add additional toppings (which are spices, not actually toppings), sauces and seasonings (which adds to the confusion because they don’t mean salt and pepper but how spicy you want it to be).
To begin with we ordered the chicken kebab starter along with the veggie kebab. Originally we were told that no oil was used in the cooking of the chicken but it was clear when the starters came that they were bathed in oil. Upon questioning it the waiter admitted that actually oil is used for the starters.
The chicken really was tasty with all the herbs, spices and marinades doing their job perfectly. However, in a sign of things to come, the veggies kebabs we ordered at the same time took another 5 minutes to arrive. The veggie kebabs were on the spicy side and not everyone in the group could eat them, including my vegetarian wife who was waiting while the rest of us carnivores devoured the chicken.
The waiter then came back to the table to take the main course order. This is where we realized why the menu was kept simple. It took forever for the waiter to take everyone’s order because there were so many combinations of main dish, toppings, spices and seasonings. It then takes 25 minutes to prepare the main dishes.
Twenty minutes later two chicken burgers arrived on the table with a promise from the waiter that the others were getting ready. Another 5 minutes later two wraps (or flaps as Tovo has named them) turned up. Another 5 minutes went by and the veggie wrap arrived while the people who were served first were now finishing their meal and there were still two people left to serve.
As we waited for the last people to be served, the veggie in the group (my wife) had discovered that the filling in the wrap was the same as the veggie kebab starter she had ordered earlier. This led to some smart ass (it may have been me) pointing out that the chicken burgers everyone was eating also had the same filling as the chicken kebab starter. Anyway, it turned out that even on Tovo’s low spice setting (which they call seasoning) it was too spicy for her so she gave up and ordered the chocolate pudding surprise to try and salvage what had so far been a disastrous meal out.
Eventually, after the others had finished their wraps and burgers the final two plates came. I had opted for the burger with a low spice setting yet it still brought me out in the sweats. No doubt it was tasty, but given the amount of mayonnaise, it made a mockery of the idea that no oil was used. The burgers and wraps don’t come with any sides but unless you have a huge appetite this shouldn’t be a problem as the main dishes are very filling.
When the chocolate pudding surprise did finally arrive it was certainly a surprise to everyone. Expecting some sponge cake or choco lava type thing, it was actually four scoops of ice cream and some crunchy nut sauce – costing the same as a chicken wrap.
For seven people the bill came to Rs 3,650 which worked out to Rs 550 each which I think was very reasonable – I was expecting it to be a lot more. As mentioned the main dishes are very well priced at around 280 rupees, but the sides and starter are also around 250 while the four scoops of ice cream dessert was 220, so you know where Tovo is making the money.
Tovo is clearly a restaurant for meat eaters and spice lovers. Vegetarians like my wife will probably be thoroughly miserable eating here as will people with a low tolerance for spice.
The setting and ambiance of the restaurant is fantastic, the prices of the main dishes are very good and the food is also very good if you can handle the spice. On the flip side, there are a few things that definitely need to be improved on. More veggie options is one, less spicy options is a second, some way to stream line the order process, especially for larger groups, is a third, and bringing the meals together would be helpful.
There are also small things, like it seems they are trying too hard to be cool and unique on the menu. When the restaurant has paid so much attention to the food and decor, the menu (and their Facebook page) seems like an after thought as it’s riddled with spelling errors, sentence case errors and in some cases getting the names of dishes completely wrong, it’s a small thing of course but as a restaurant that wants to project an upmarket, foodie image, why open yourself to ridicule?
Would we go back? I think my wife would say absolutely not due to the spice and lack of veggie options. Would I go back? Well the spice level, even on the low setting, was on my threshold of tolerance, so if someone was organizing to go there as a group I wouldn’t protest but I probably wouldn’t suggest it as an option if it was down to me or if I was to meet a friend somewhere for dinner. This is personal preference of course and while some people in our group were equally annoyed at the order process and time it took for the food to arrive, they really liked the spicy food.