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!