Monthly Archives: January 2012

Forklore

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Note: this isnt exactly a restaurant review. Forklore (look them up on facebook!) is a self-described ‘base kitchen’ providing sit-down meals, lazy brunches, cold suppers high tea and home orders. They provide corporate lunches in Gurgaon too! We are told that a full fledged restaurant is in the offing soon. They did a one off special dinner recently and since they’re not regulars, this is not your regular reveiw

Its surprising that Bengali cuisine (something very very close to my heart) hasnt really taken off. While there are countless restaurants in Delhi, and pretty much all over the world specialising in Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American, Mediterranean and even some regional cuisines, we Bongs seem to have been left far behind. While almost every restaurant in Delhi and every Indian restaurant outside India would serve your staple tikka kebabs and butter chickens, the shorshes and the paturis arent that common. So, what does one do to get good bong food in Delhi?

Please do note. Bengali food isn’t for the faint-hearted. There’s loads of mustard, cream, chili and in some cases asafoetida- not to mention the bhajas (the sinfully deep fried stuff)! And while steaming rice and fish is the staple diet of most Bengalis (wives often complain that their husbands leave for work without having their daal-bhaat-maach), it doesnt end there- as the following review will tell you.

We had been informed by dear friend Ritika of a special menu at Chonas in Khan Market consisting of hard-core Bong food- courtesy who runs Forklore. So, at the first chance we get, we break out of the Bong cuisine prison that happens to be Oh Calcutta and headed to Chona’s last weekend.

The restaurant itself, on the middle lane, next to Oz Cafe in Khan Market, isnt much to write home about. The place is clearly in the middle of being renovated- with loose wires sticking out of the wall and the false ceiling yet to be put up. Of all things, there’s a DJ! Which in a restaurant that can barely seat 20, might not be such a good idea. Anyway, since we weren’t having the regular fare, lets keep the full review of Chona’s for another day.

There was a bewildering array of starters, main courses and desserts, but Saumi expertly guided us through it. Thankfully, there was a platter/ thali system by which one could order one starter, three main courses and two desserts- which we thought would be enough for 2 people in any case. We ended up ordering a veg platter and two non-veg platters, along with an extra plate of deemer devil (devilled eggs for the uninitiated)- there were six of us after all. The Bengali version of devilled eggs is pretty much the same as the rest of the world- except that the boiled egg halve is covered on one side with spiced mincemeat and then coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried.

While we found the lack of mincemeat to be surprising, I suppose it had to do with a number of people who dont have red meat. Still, the deemer devil was wonderfully crispy on the outside and the eggs were thankfully, not overdone.

This was followed by a variety of main courses- all served with a polau (rice pilaf flavoured with dry fruits, cardamom, cloves and saffron) and luchi (deep-fried, puffed pancakes made from refined flour). The main courses included a doi maach (rohu fish marinated and cooked in yoghurt), a chingri malai curry (prawns cooked in cream), kosha mangsho (a dry lamb preparation) and chicken kosha (the same dry curry with chicken). On the vegetarian side, we had a chhana malai curry (cottage cheese cooked in cream) and a shorshe phulkopi (cauliflower cooked in a mustard paste).

Much to our delight (and most of the diners were hard-core bongs), the food was genuine and authentic. The doi maach was almost falling apart (note – almost) and the yoghurt made itself present all the way through. The chingri malai curry was light and not in the least heavy. But we seriously couldn’t get enough of the chicken and mangsho kosha. The meats were succulent- completely melt-in-your-mouth types and the masalas blended perfectly with the polau. Keeping all this in mind, the vegetarian fare was sort of sidelined. But the shorshe phulkopi clearly stood out as a champ. I have a inherent weakness for mustard and had never had a mustard flavoured cauliflower before. Needless to say, I’d like to have it again.

For the dessert we had patishapta (rice flour crepes with a coconut and jaggery filling) and chal’er paayesh (rice pudding). Unfortunately, the coconut used was dried (and not dessicated as it should be)- therefore, the filling itself didn’t quite work out. It was far too crumbly for our taste and the crepes were far too thick. On the other hand, the paayesh was perfect. So perfect that a second helping wasn’t possible. It turned out that the kitchen staff had finished the rest off- leaving just a couple of servings.

What did we learn from this? That Bengali cuisine is very much alive and kicking- not just in Bengali households, but through the efforts of restaurants like companies like Forklore, it is being brought slowly to the masses. Unfortunately, it remains a niche cuisine and I dont see it gaining popularity in the mainstream anytime soon. Primarily because of the bong pre-occupation with fish and the purported laziness of Bengalis in general.

What I’d like to see from Forklore is this- more variety in the starters, the veggie fare and the desserts. Also, to ensure that the desserts actually reach the customers- no matter how awesome the kitchen staff thinks it is! But all in all, I think Forklore produces wholesome, authentic Bengali food- a shade ahead of Oh Calcutta. I do believe that food in Oh Calcutta is slightly modified from original Bengali food to suit the myriad of tastes that India, and indeed the world has.

I’d also like more Bengali restaurants, obviously. And here’s hoping that Forklore does open its own doors sometime soon!

56 Ristorante Italiano (Gurgaon) 7/10

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A chilly wintry afternoon in Gurgaon, a quick meeting with a client and Italian food in a well-lit, airy restaurant- what else does one want? Upon returning from a meeting somewhere on Golf Course Road, fellow foodie Raghav spotted this little gem of a place tucked away in the midst of the offices.

The entire restaurant is built into this atrium, offering plenty of light and space. As we walked in, the place was deserted. One can only assume one of three reasons why a restaurant would be deserted at lunchtime- one, its newly opened; two, the food is terrible; or three, the food is overpriced. Surprisingly, this was none of the three.

The place serves alcohol, as will be evidenced by the huge bar at the far end of the restaurant. Of course, being in the middle of a workday, its best to stay away from alcohol. As we settled in, we were informed of a set menu for Rs 499 in which we could choose a starter, a main course and a beverage. Not being that hungry, we decided upon main courses only.

Raghav’s prawn risotto was wonderfully light and garnished with a largish prawn sitting right on top. None of that nasty seafood pungency, yet the flavours of the prawn came through strongly. However, I thought it could do with some more salt. Mine was slightly heavier- having ordered the tenderloin pasta. The beef was well cooked and blended nicely with the tomato- mushroom sauce. But really, the high point was the toasted garlic bread. Perhaps we were really hungry, but we seriously could NOT get enough of that bread. Freshly toasted, warm, with just the right amount of garlic and topped off with their olive paste- we would have had that all day long.

Top Tips

  • The chef looks Italian- always a good sign
  • The service is fairly quick, even taking into account that fact that the restaurant was practically empty
  • Portions are HUGE!
Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 8
Ease of access 4
Service 7
Quality of food 8
Value for money 7
Would I go back there? Totally! I need to go meet that client more often!
Meal for two Rs 1000 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Swagath (Noida) 2.8/10

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What does one do for good south-Indian seafood in Delhi? Well, there is Gunpowder- but who wants to climb 8 flights of stairs on an empty stomach and then down again on a full one? Enter Swagath- a well established chain, supposedly renowned for their seafood. Having dined at the Swagath at the Park Hotel, we had certain expectations from the Noida branch. Sadly, the Noida branch fell far short of these expectations.

Bang in the middle of the Sector 18 market in Noida, under Centrestage Mall, getting in and out, and what is infinitely worse- parking, is a nightmare. Perhaps a valet system should be in the offing for the premium rates that the Swagath menu commands.

There’s also the issue of the ambience and decor. Nothing that stands out really- pretty much a bland, run-of the-mill stuff that most other restaurants you would go to. Unless of course you’re in their basement (which I suppose has been pressed into service primarily because the main restaurant is too small). There’s hardly any daylight entering the basement and the staff make it a point to keep the lights low- adding to an already depressing and dingy atmosphere.

We started with the Fish Amritsari, which I will admit, is more than acceptable. The kebab would not be out of place in a top class buffet. The portion was enough for two people and it did match up to our expectations. Unfortunately, we were greatly let down by the Chettinad Pepper Chicken. The tamarind didnt come through, the pepper was overpowering and where the hell is the boiled egg? The chicken itself was dry and stringy, having been overcooked. By the end of it, we were more congenial to the Malabar Paranthas that we’d ordered to accompany the chettinad.

Top Tips:

  • Park in the Centrestage Mall and walk there, if you must go at all
  • Ridiculously expensive for the quality of food and service
  • Speaking of service, expect nothing
Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 3
Ease of access 4
Service 2
Quality of food 3
Value for money 2
Would I go back there? Burn it down. Now.
Meal for two Rs 3000 (with alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted