Review: Oh Calcutta! (Fine Dining-Bengali Cuisine)
GF, International Trade Tower, Nehru Place, New Delhi, Contact +91-11-3040 2415
At the onset itself I’d have to say that this swank restaurant is perhaps one of Delhi’s only good answers to Bengali inspirational cuisine, or at least the only one I know about. We’ve eaten here atleast 5 times already, not just because it’s only a walk away from my place but more because we love to eat here, for reasons you’ll soon know, and so it was an easy pick for our unplanned dine-out yesterday. Anyhow, while many would like to differ as I’ve long heard (or read) discussions about the lack of Bengali authenticity in their dishes, and that is precisely why I say “inspirational cuisine”. Though I am neither a Bengali myself nor a real expert on the cuisine, I’d like to rely on my palate conditioned over the years of growing up among Bengali friends with lucky dinners at their place, and insist that this place is a worthy byword for the gastronomic delights of the culture.
The First Sight:
Unlike most fine-dining eating joints of our times there’s nothing really fancy about the décor of the place, but is rather quite elegant and evocative with a style that must have been in vogue in Calcutta’s hedonist society of 70’s-80’s. The things that immediately comes to our notice are Victorian style lamp that stands tall right outside the entrance; the spaced out sitting arrangements, beautiful Chandeliers – very Victorian again; a wooden book-shelf lined with leather bound books – perhaps a depiction of the pride that most of my Bengali friends take as they boast about their well-read intellectual force; the colossal wall-arts of Calcutta’s proud Monument’s, especially the one with the Victoria memorial in the center and another with the Howrah Bridge; and immediately after we took our seat facing the fireplace I observed that the plates pre-set on our table also had a beautiful print of the monuments on them, but in no time a smiling attendant replaced them with plain-clean white ones, reminding me that most good things are for our eyes only.
The menu is diverse with inclusions ranging from Bangla Rana, Raj cusine to signature Muslim Dishes and hence quite carefully pulled up to even impress our North Indian taste buds. Like many non-fish eating North Indians my husband too loves to go there to enjoy their Luchis (Bengali fried breads) with a deliciously tender cooked Golibar Kosha Mangoosh portion (a traditional pot roasted Kosha style Mutton) or his all time favourite Chittagong Masala Murgi (Chicken in a thick garlic and chilli gravy, the Chittagong style). I do however advise you to not miss their Bhappa (steamed) varieties of Hilsa or Bekti, specially the Steamed Bekti in banana leaf that’s a real treat, with the fish steam cooked in traditional mustard sauce is also quite a catch for weight-watchers. Among other favourites are the fish fry or smoked Hilsa for starters; and for mains I do like to choose between Hilsa/Bekti or Prawn in a gravy of my choice the kalia (five spice), or shorsay bata (mustard) or tomater jhal (spicy Tomtoes) and plain steamed rice to go with it. While I don’t see any logic in why should a vegetarian eat here, the restaurant does have a wide variety of carefully picked vegetarian varieties on offer, like the Cottage Cheese and Green peas croquettes for starters that were good with no excess oil dripping, though I can’t recall anything quiet distinctively special about them, but the Green peas and Lentil cakes curry that my only veg -mate once ordered for mains was quite delicately and mildly spiced to team up in harmony with their specialty Luchis. The desserts are a must try, our all time favourite is the Malpua (the fenugreek flavoured Pancakes in sugar syrup) with Rabri (thick condensed milk) and the Bhappa Sondesh (date and Jaggery flavoured steamed Bengali sweet), yesterday however I on my attended’s recommendation tried their new coconut flavour Bhapa Sondesh and felt I’d better stick to the former as this one tasted more like a coconut flavoured caramel. Over a period of time they have re-revised their menu, both for food and rate, the latest one has a brief description of the recipe in subscript which does come quite handy in making our pick. There is definitely a bar that is adequately capable of quenching thirst and offering sips in between the food which anyway is at the highlight, but all of it comes for a cost. We were billed a total of Rs 2322.00 for an a-la-carte meal of two that included 1 mocktail, 1 cocktail, 2 portions of a Bhapa variety as starter, 1 portion of Mutton gravy and 1 ½ portion of Luchi for mains and 1 portion Bhapa Coconut Sondesh for dessert.
The Service and Presentation:
The presentation is not ostentatious, simple, yet clean and elegant. The mocktails nonetheless were served with a fancy straw, a citrus wedge and a spring of mint. The attendants are all quite friendly, prompt and well-informed about the food they serve , could not help but notice their new well acquired hospitality tip as they didn’t miss to introduce themselves while helping us take our seat. That’s a small yet a noteworthy gesture for I feel little things do matter when it comes to making any dining experience a memorable one.
The Last Word:
Go there, enjoy a traditional cuisine in its modern incarnation, although a tad bit expensive but worthy for the diversity it offers. A celebration of the quintessential Bengali cuisine and an impeccable service is what’s on my mind as I say with a sigh Oh Calcutta!.
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