Tag Archives: traditional

Oh! Calcutta (Nehru Place) 9.5/10

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Note: this is a review by good friend and fellow foodie Paroma Ray who like me, is also a bong. I have added certain highlights of my experiences there to this post. Please note, we bongs are fond of our food. You should be too!

If you are a Bengali and swear by Bengali food, then please close your eyes and walk in. If you are not a Bengali but like Bengali food, then please feel free to waltz in. If you have never tried Bengali food, then immediately please drop everything and get there. If you are a vegetarian, then this place will redefine vegetarianism for you. And if you’re non-vegetarian, welcome to heaven.

We went to Oh! Calcutta for a hearty dinner. In the course of the same, I think we made a trip to food heaven and back.

For starters, we ordered the Mochar chop (a cutlet made of unripe banana flowers), the Chingri machher cutlet (prawn cutlet), the Murshidabadi chicken fry, the Kankra Chingri Bhapa (mustard flavoured crab and prawn steamed cakes) and the  Dhakai Fish Tikka. The chicken lived upto its expectations. The spices were subtle and chicken perfectly shallow fried without batter. The prawn cutlet was to kill for. The flavors burst in our mouths and left us craving for much more. The mochar chop was par excellence too, with just the right amount of sweetness and the lack of oiliness inspite of it being deep fried. The bhapa was piquant and offered just the right amount of resistance before melting in your mouth.

For the main course, we ordered the daab chingri which is a unique dish where the prawns are cooked and served inside a tender green coconut. The curry of this dish is made of coconut milk and mustard. It has a subtle taste and goes best with steamed white rice. We would have to say, this pretty much is their signature dish and is a must-try. Along with the daab chingri came the mutton rezala (a fragrant mutton stew). This curry was light and flavorsome and the meat cooked just right. We also had the luchi (refined flour deep fried pancakes- the Bengali version of puris and much lighter), aloo fulkopir torakri (a sabzi made out of potatoes, cauliflower and green peas),bhaja mooger daal (dry roasted and cooked moong daal) and jhuri aloo bhaja (finely chopped crispy fried potato). We went on to order the kosha mangsho (mutton in a dry gravy) which can only be had with luchis. All of them exceeded expectations.

Dessert was nolen gurer ice cream (jaggery flavored ice cream) which I thought was a little too sweet. And no Bengali meal can be complete without the mishiti doi (yoghurt with caramelised sugar) and bhapa shondesh (steamed cottage cheese cakes).  But we also had the superbly made gurer payesh  (rice pudding with jaggery) courtesy Chef Bhaskar Dasgupta (a most wonderful man) who sent it to us with his compliments.

Now the portion sizes. There were six of us. Yes. And two starters and two mains with an order of steamed rice is just right for four people. And we ordered a bit much. Because we are food loving Bongs. We overate. Our tummies begged for mercy. But really. No regrets. Not one.

So yes. This place is a hidden jewel. Apart from the traditional Bengali cuisine, they are trying out terrific innovations as well. For example, they are making Hilsa sheekh kebabs, five orders of which, takes about seven to eight hours to prepare and it comes as a work of art. They are also giving their own spin to the concept of sushi by using spinach leaves and gourd leaves to roll cooked fish in spices. Their version of canopies include bite size luchis topped with aloo posto (potato cooked in poppy seeds). Their Hilsa festival begins from June and lasts three months! But why wait till June really? Go tomorrow if you can!

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 9
Ease of access 9
Service 9
Quality of food 10 (just because I cannot score any higher)
Value for money 10
Would I go back there? Without a doubt- everytime
Meal for two Rs 1500 – 2000 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

 

Top Tips:

  • If you fancy a tipple, try the kaal boishakhi. This is vodka based drink with aam pora shorbot (burnt green mango sherbet).
  • Valet parking available
  • Reservations are usually not required on weekdays

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Gunpowder (Hauz Khas village) 6.2/10

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One flight of stairs is fine. But four stories? You’ve got to be kidding me! The food better be worth it. These are are thoughts that would undoubtedly cross your mind on your way to Gunpowder. But more on the stairs later. Getting to the entrance itself is a bit of a problem. Hauz Khas village is a maze of tiny alleys and lanes that twist and turn all over the place and will, more often than not, lead you on a wild goose chase that’ll get you back to where you started. But here’s (hopefully) a helpful way to get to Gunpowder.

Start with the main entrance- leading to Naivedyam. Go past Naivedyam on your left and continue down the alley. You should pass a newish-looking Mediterranean place on your left and the lane curves to the left. Take the first right again and follow the curves of the lane. This should lead you down very close to the boundary wall between the village and the Hauz Khas lake. Follow the boundary wall until you see a sign for Gunpowder- its a fairly nondescript door, so keep a look out.  Then come the stairs. All eight flights, four stories of them- a tough climb for many. But purgatory is worth it. The balcony gives you a panoramic view of the Hauz Khas lake and the surrounding woods, which on a winter afternoon is a most pleasurable sight.

Onto the food then! Gunpowder has firmly established itself as a fantastic place to get Malabar/ Konkani/ Hyderabadi food and more. And the best part is- its not just vegetarian. For from it in fact. For starters we ordered the Buff Fry (buffalo), the Mutton Fry, the Aila Fry (mackerel) and the Koothu Parantha with chicken. The Buff Fry was an instant hit- except for the fact that it might come across as a little too spicy. The Koothu Parantha was bland in comparison, but just as awesome. What blew us away though, was the mackerel and the mutton fry. The mackerel was firm, smoky and came off the bone like butter. The mutton on the other hand was soft, succulent and easier on the spicy scale.

Between the five of us, four starters were enough to put a massive dent in our appetites- the portions are that huge. So it was onto a very small order of the mains- Chicken Gassala and the Iddukki Pork. The Gassala is refreshingly light, tangy and zesty- we just couldnt get enough of it. However, the flavours didnt seep into the chicken much- rendering it slightly insipid. On the other hand, the pork was unacceptable. Not marinated enough, overcooked, dry and fibrous. To top it off, the four out of the five that had the pork all have upset tummys today. Not recommended.

However, you can usually count on the backwater prawn or a malabar curry. Plus, given the portions and the overall quality of food, I’d say Gunpowder, minus the odd hiccup like the pork, is still a first choice at Hauz Khas Village.

Top Tips:

  • Get reservations. Seriously.
  • The climb up does work on your appetite.
  • Lunch on the balcony on a winter afternoon- few others beat that
  • If you get lost, dont check your gmaps. Ask.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 5
Ease of access 5
Service 6
Quality of food 8
Value for money 8
Would I go back there? Without a doubt- everytime
Meal for two Rs 1000 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes (just beer though)
Credit cards Accepted

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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!

Paranthe Wali Gali (Chandni Chowk) 5/10

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Yet another sojourn into the Old City brought me to what could be one of the most difficult places to find. Its a tiny lane- three people would have trouble walking abreast, not marked by any signage and it leads out of a cacophony of cars, buses, carts, trucks and the occasional cow. This is Paranthe Wali Gali. After a look around the fairly well maintained (atleast in part) Red Fort at the beginning of Chandni Chowk, fellow foodie Rukmini and me jostled our way past Dariba Kalan and the Sisganj Gurudwara to come to a nondescript entrance to this lane (on the left).

The name says it all, of course. But while I was expecting a never-ending line of parantha shops on either side (ala the sweet shops on the lane from Vishnu Ghat to Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar), there are just a bunch of 4-5 shops making and selling paranthas. We tried to get a place in the first few and managed a couple of seats only after some waiting. Dont be fooled, there’s no maitre d, and tables are shared. While there’s no menu, the prices are displayed prominently in the restaurant. Parantha prices range from about Rs 20 (for a plate of plain paranthas) upto Rs 75 for the exotic banana and chocolate flavours. Two paranthas make a plate. We stuck to old favourites aloo (potato) and gobi (cauliflower). Here’s where it gets interesting. For what is a very reasonable price- you get a plate, some daal (lentil soup), subzi (mixed veggies) and achar (pickles) over and above the parantha. These add ons are refilled by the usual chhotu and are included in the price of the paranthas. Plus, you get as many refills as you like (much like a thali). We also ordered a bowl of curd to go with the paranthas.

The paranthas themselves were excellent. It easy to see why this place has established itself on the Delhi food circuit (and therefore earned a place on this blog!). Best of all, they lack the usual dollop of ghee or butter that is the hallmark of highway paranthas (an urban diet perhaps), making them relatively light, yet filling. We werent able to have more than a couple- which means that our total bill for lunch came to about a hundred bucks.

Here’s the downside. Hygiene is non-existent- this is street food after all. On a weekend, getting a place to sit can be an issue and its usually a free for all when it comes to seating- expect to share your table with strangers. A full complement of guests means that your order will take a while (upto 15 minutes)- which, on an empty stomach, will feel forever.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 2
Ease of access 1
Service 6
Quality of food 8
Value for money 9
Would I go back there? Not on a regular basis- but if I were in the area, why not?
Meal for two Rs 100!
Serves alcohol Are you kidding me?
Credit cards Again, joking or serious?


Top Tips:

  • The closest metro station is Chandni Chowk. This is important since you’d be mad to take a car/cab in that mess.
  • The walk from Chandni Chowk metro station to Paranthe Wali Gali is confusing and not for the faint hearted/ people with personal space issues
  • Do drop in at the shop selling fresh jalebis on Chandni Chowk at the entrance to Dariba Kalan on the left.
  • Speaking of Dariba Kalan, where else do you buy silver in Delhi?
  • Keep some tissue paper handy- you’ll need it- I promise


Chor Bizzare (Noida) 6.8/10

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Having originally dined at the Hotel Broadway long long ago and later at their newer outlet in Noida, I am happy to note that neither the decor, nor the quality of food have changed. Because those two things really, are what make this chain of restaurants an absolute stand out for me. In common Indian parlance, a ‘chor bazzar’ is a thieves market- where anything and everything under the sun might be available. Now, dont get me wrong, this place is known only for its Kashmiri food. But do take a moment for the decor to sink in. Nothing matches. The plates, glasses, tables, chairs and even the cutlery are all a hodgepodge from different sets. If you get lucky, you might even be seated at a former bookcase, now turned on its back and given legs! And dont miss the vintage car in the middle of the restaurant which doubles up as the buffet bar.

On to the food. There’s not much of a choice here. Skip the buffet. Skip everything on the menu. Just ask for the Tarami which is a seven-odd course meal covering various Kashmiri specialties such as the lamb roganjosh, haaq (spinach), tabak maaz (lamb cooked in milk and then deep fried!) and the goshtaba (miced lamb meatballs), which by far is my favourite part of the Tarami. I am told that the traditional tarami involved in the wazwan style of cooking in Kashmir consists of 36 courses (!) and is a part of any momentous occassion or event. Of course, that is reduced for our light-speed lifestyles and restaurant economics.

These are flavours that one would not get in other restaurants. The brittleness of the skin of the tabak maaz, contrasting with the milk-cooked insides is simply to die for. Add to that, an old favourite- that of the lamb roganjosh. But to top it all, the goshtaba. Succulent meatballs, in a heady soupy gravy, the goshtaba is simply put- one of the best things that could happen to a lamb.

The Tarami is followed by a firni and- because the powers that be at Chor Bizzare care for your digestive tracts- a cup of qawah- a traditional green tea consumed in the Himalayan regions. The heady brew provides the perfect finish to the rather copious quantities of food you will have just consumed.

Its a pity though- that Chor Bizzare doesnt have more branches.

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 9
Ease of access 5
Service 5
Quality of food 8
Value for money 7
Would I go back there? Everytime, everyday
Meal for two INR 1500 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • No need to try anything else- just the Tarami
  • Valet parking is available at both outlets