Casino Hotel, K.P.K. Menon Road, Willingdon Island
Considered one of the state's best seafood restaurants, this casual catch-of-the-day semi-alfresco pad -- located in the otherwise unprepossessing Casino Hotel -- is something of a Kerala institution. The atmosphere is rustic: Tables are set around a huge banyan tree and the menu is scrawled on a blackboard. Choose from a range of freshly caught seafood displayed on a cart that makes its way from table to table, and decide how you would like it prepared -- grilled whole with heaps of spices, or delicately sliced with subtle herbs; the obliging maitre d' will help you make up your mind. Seafood is prepared at an open grill adjacent to a large waist-level fish tank filled with Chinese carp. Note: If you'd prefer a more fine-dining atmosphere, the Rice Boat (tel. 0484/266-6811) is the gorgeous seafood restaurant at the Taj Malabar, a small specialty restaurant with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a curved cane ceiling, located right on the water's edge. It's an excellent place to indulge in some fusion dishes, like rice hoppers (traditional rice "pasta cakes") served with smoked salmon, tropical fruit, and coconut chutney, or cubes of seerfish cooked with ground coconut and raw mango, and served with idlyappams. It's not cheap by Kerala standards, and seafood is not as good as the more simple fare served up at Fort Cochin, but it's still darn good!