Every time I am in Kolkata, Food is the second most important item on the itinerary after work. In fact, visiting Kolkata, the city of born foodies, and if you don’t enjoy food, is like visiting a temple and not paying homage to the presiding deity. So, as usual, here comes out a Food Story during my short visit to the city early this week. The story has both Fruity and Mughlai shades with a touch of British Era. Here it goes….
I landed quite late in the evening and was booked in the iconic The Oberoi Grand. The hotel is about more than 100 years old which upholds the old aura of the colonial times yet modernized. Having checked-in, I realized it was 10 in the night. Having got late, had already aborted plans to meet Prof Aloke Kumar. Was damn hungry and wondering, should I eat or skip. I don’t eat dinner in routine but was feeling very hungry. Was also concerned that eating at this time may addd up to my weight. In this confusion, decided to go to my room first and then decide. Reached my room, opened the door and switched on the lights. Ola !!
Sitting pretty on the table right there were a platter of Fruit Tarts and a Basket of Fruits !! The platter said Welcome written in chocolate sauce. In hospitality industry, they pamper the regular guests and today for the first time this much needed pampering impressed me a lot. These attractive offerings sorted my problem of hunger and the consequent guilt I would have had having eaten anything else. I quickly changed and set out to satisfy my hunger. Hey wait ! How can you not click pictures of these beauties before even touching them ? So the ritual of taking pictures followed.
Then was was the time to enjoy these tarts, one by one. Three of them, topped with Peech, Pappaya and Kiwi slices, sat on a carpet of velvet sauce. The sugary crust was more of a cookie than a tart and housed a sweet and savoury cream topped with fruit slices. It was a deadly combo of a crust, cream and soft fruits. Each bite gave you a blend of flavours of sugar, salt, tang and fruity pulp and juice on to your palate and pampered your taste buds. Having enjoyed the Fruit Tarts, now was the time to turn your eyes to the Fruit Basket. Sitting atop two Bananas and two Apples, was a bunch of reasonably large sized Red Grapes. I thought of having a couple of them before moving to the apple. However, the Grapes were so fresh, juicy, sweet and tangy that I couldn’t stop before the entire bunch was gone. By this time my hunger had gone and was feeling quite satisfied and guiltless. I didn’t want anything else so let the Apples and Bananas rest there till next morning. Having just fruits for dinner was a great idea though.
Next day, post the morning interviews and an important meeting, just before lunch, I had meetings with Sandeep Mehrotra and then with Prof Aloke Kumar. The meetings ended with Prof Aloke presenting me with a caricature of mine done by a local cartoonist, Soumyadip Sinha (one can find details on my Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rajesh.tara.9?fref=ts or on Twitter @rajesh_tara). It almost two in the afternoon and obviously was the time to have lunch. I convinced both of them to walk down to Anadi Cabin, an old time, hole-in-the-wall eatery which serves wonderful Moghlai Paranthas (Mutton Keema filled) and Kosha Mangshu (Bengali Mutton Curry). Having reached there, we found, much to my disappointment, it was shut and that they open up after around 230 pm. What a weird time to open for lunch? At that point, we decided upon the second nearby option, yet another iconic place, Aminia, an old time restaurant chain established way back in 1929, serving traditional Mughlai Cuisine of Eastern India. A short walk and there we were. The place was almost full with diners and the moment you enter, the ambience and the aroma tells you that you are in a traditional place which has a history of its own and you are sure to have a great food experience.
We ordered Mutton Pasanda Kebabs (Sandeep strongly suggested) , Khamiri Roti, Mutton Biryani and Phirni. It may sound foolish to order a Khamiri Roti with a Kebab and I also thought so but then decided to go by the strong recommendation. Surely, it turned out to be an amazing combo. A plate of Pasanda Kebabs consisted of two pieces of kebabs which looked insufficient to last with a large sized Roti. The kebabs emitted a rich aroma of spices and the meat. The fluffy Khamiri Roti also has the aroma of freshly baked dough. Kebabs were soft, had consistency of both minced meat and yet had little chunks of meat rolled into a paste type kebabs. I am told it’s their speciality and you don’t get it anywhere else. One bite in the mouth tells you it’s soft, delicious, very flavourful blend of Mughalai Masala and was in fact a delight to savour with Khamiri Roti.
The Special Awadhi Biryani, on its arrival, gives out a rich blend of aroma of rice, spices and the meat. Had two reasonably large Mutton pieces and Aloo. True to Kolkata style Biryani, the meat was soft, succulent and juicy. Was cooked in flavourful spices and was a delight to savour. Meat came easily off the bone. The flavours of spices and the meat had also coated the Aloo and each grain of rice. The Biryani and specially the meat was a delight to enjoy. Thankfully, the Biryani, besides thee meat, had more than two pieces of Aloo which avoided a fight amongst three of us because all of us wanted Aloo more than the meat. A true Bengali trait.
Phirni served in an earthen bowl was cold and set. The temperature was just right. The upper layer, dusted with crushed pista, formed the crust while below it was the flavourful paste. Phirni too was quite flavourful, mildly sweet and had delicate flavours of sweetness, milk, rice paste and kewra, besides others.
It was a greatly satisfying and enjoyable Mughlai lunch for three of us and the pocket was set back by a little less that 1K.
A large sized wall clock adorns one of the walls of the restaurant. Prof Aloke told me this clock from Madison Clock Company dates back to around 1850s. This antique piece was working and gave the right time. I did click few pics of the clock. Alas, couldn’t touch it or have a picture with it for it was placed quite high. Maybe that’s the reason that it’s still working because the management has kept it away from the invasions of people like me.
I had a wonderful experience of hospitality, guiltless fruity dinner, a wonderful Mughlai lunch and a touch of history of colonial era – a real #MagicofFlavours.