The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Restaurant Week India at Serafina

Restaurant Week is a unique international event aimed at bringing fine dining closer to a larger section of diners. Restaurant Week India, which started in 2010, is the largest and the most popular pan-India culinary event, where customers have the choice to dine at some of India’s finest restaurants at a fraction of a la carte rates. It is a celebration of the culinary landscape in each city – a time for more and more foodies to explore and appreciate the finest restaurants. It kickstarted in Mumbai and after its huge popularity moved to Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and finally Kolkata as of September 2015. It is a bi-annual event.

Restaurant Week India has started on 22nd April and will go on till 1st May. Twelve of Kolkata’s fine dining restaurants are participating in it. In each of them, a person can enjoy a set three-course menu with plenty of vegetarian or non-vegetarian options at a special price of Rs 900 plus taxes.

I and blogger Indrajit Lahiri were invited by Serafina, the famous Italian restaurant chain of New York, located at Quest, to sample their Restaurant Week menu.

The restaurant has a classy décor with wooden furniture and walls designed in a mix of brick theme and cream colour. We chose one of the two-seater tables lining the glass wall overlooking the outside. There is a neatly fenced dining area outside as well, with chairs and tables placed under canopies, simulating a European café experience.


Our table


We quenched our thirst with Twisted Orange Mojito recommended by the service staff. A herb-infused, refreshing fruit-based mocktail- ideal for the scorching weather now.

Twisted Orange Mojito

The set meal comprised of a starter, a main course dish and a dessert per person. As we were two, we ordered two different meals.

I and Indrajit chose Calamari and Assortiti Crostini Platter respectively for the starters from the special Restaurant Week menu. The former is part of their regular menu and the latter was one of the two signature appetizers created for the event. The crisp, thin batter-fried Calamari (Squid preparation in Italian cuisine) went well with the spicy tomato dip which resembled Bengali homemade chicken curry.

Calamari

The Assortiti Crostini Platter had four types of crostini (crisp baked bread with topping). I tried the one with ham and another with chicken. The ham was of top quality. The service staff said they were very particular about sourcing quality ingredients and use imported perma ham only. The creamy chicken mince mixed with a bit of mustard was yummy with oregano sprinkled by me on the top. Their regular menu has each of the four options separately.

Assortiti Crostini Platter

I walked to the other side of the entrance as we were waiting for the main course. There is a large open kitchen and bar counter adjacent to each other there. For those who come to enjoy drinks, there are high chairs and tables.




In mains, I chose Lasagne al Forno despite being a veg dish (since I wanted pasta and didn’t like to go for spaghetti which was the only staple in non-veg) and he picked Belgium Grilled Pork Chops from the two signature options. The Lasagne was a pretty big portion for one person. This spicy dish was tasty with a crunchy top and abundant veggies cooked with generous amount of cream and sauce between the pasta sheets.

 Lasagne al Forno

 The Belgium Grilled Pork Chops bowled us over! We were given toothed knives to cut the meat off the rib bone (It takes some effort; mind it, which will increase as much as the meat is allowed to get cold).The perfectly cooked pork with the belly fat lining was brilliant with the sweet and tangy sauce. It went well with the equally well-made mashed potato (with a thick, tasty sauce) and broccoli served with it. We were almost full by now.

 Belgium Grilled Pork Chops

I had quickly picked tiramisu and Indrajit had chosen Gelati Sorbetti for the dessert. The service staff said tiramisu was their specialty. When we tasted it, we knew the claim was justified. The tiramisu with cheese cream dripping from the top gave the palate the expected flourish, created by the cream and the soaked coffee and liqueur. Serafina was noted among the best tiramisu places by us. The gelato-sorbet combo served in an almond shell was equally good. The gelato paired well with the refreshing sorbet which had the perfectly mushy consistency with concentrated fruit juice- perfect for the weather.

 Tiramisu

 Gelati Sorbetti 

An epic meal after long! Serafina is strongly recommended as an option among the participating eateries in Restaurant Week Kolkata. Otherwise, for Italian, it is easily the go-to place in the premium segment.


#RestaurantWeekIndia #Serafina #ItalianCuisineKolkata #Tiramisu #PorkChop



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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The political circus: Rezzakism

Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the veteran politician of West Bengal, has never been known to measure his words. His verbal ‘gems’, often at the expense of his own partymen, have been widely circulated in the media when he was with CPI(M) and entertained many. As it is common knowledge, he had been expelled by CPI(M), formed his own political outfit (Bharatiya Nyaybichar Party) and got expelled from it (!) before joining Trinamool Congress earlier this year with which he had great enmity as a communist. He kept a low profile since then.

But his remarks in an interview with ABP Ananda on 20th April showed his return to ‘true form’.  It happened when the interviewer asked for his opinion on actors joining politics. There is a common chord among all who were at the receiving end of his bouncers and no prizes for guessing it- all of them are actors. Two of them are MPs from his own party- Dev and Moon Moon Sen and the other one is a candidate in the ongoing assembly elections from Howrah district for BJP- Roopa Ganguly. Rezzak was certainly back to the form with a bang, considering he has just been censured by the election commission for violating the code of conduct the verbal way. By the way, the interviewer was quite embarrassed as he was a well-known actor too- Dhritiman Chattopadhyay.

The nature of the remarks varies but. While he dismissed Dev as ungentlemanlike, Moon Moon’s effectiveness as a politician was questioned. But the fiercest and the most vulgar one was reserved for Roopa. He took a dig at her smoking habit and her multiple partners (who he said he knew), and compared her to "Draupadi'- a role which brought Roopa national fame on television.

We’ll soon know the outcome. But here is the immediate thought. Due to his strong political acumen and mass following, he used to get away with all this careless talk while he was in CPI(M). But Trinamool is no CPI(M) who will hold discussions at the highest state level and wait for the ‘recommendation’ of the concerned committee entrusted to decide his fate. Here everything is decided by the supremo and she can even make her once-trusted second-in-command redundant.

He also hadn’t taken note of the fact that it was his party chief who had reportedly handpicked Dev to fight the election. Before that, Dev had no direct connection with Trinamool. So Rezzak’s bouncer hits two persons- his target and his party chief and amounts to ridiculing her political wisom. Even Moon Moon Sen must have been the captain’s pick as her selection as a candidate for assembly election had no backstory. So the outcome of his remark is expected from the top and shouldn’t take a long while.
  
About his remarks on Roopa, I condemn them in the first place. But honestly speaking, I don’t find it out of place coming from the member of a party where a well-known sitting MLA and ex-minister questioned the character of the Park Street rape victim and another woman MP put a ‘perspective’ to the said rape to kind of justify it and even said that it was the result of a disagreement between a woman and her customers. Only that this time it is politically sensitive and wrongly timed (the election is going on and an evidence like television footage can be brought to the notice of the election commission). Last heard, Rezzak has showed no repentance for the remarks. I am not sure whether the outcome of this can come from the same place as the one of the other remarks, because Roopa is one of the harshest critics of Mamata Bandopadhyay.


#PoliticalCircus #AbdurRezzak #BengalPolitics #AssemblyElectionsBengal2016


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Monday, April 18, 2016

Metiaburj Dawaat at ITC Sonar, 16th to 23rd April

Which place is the origin of the famous ‘Kolkata biryani’?

Well, it is one of the least discussed parts of the city- Metiabruz. However, this place has the distinction of having been the home of the last nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, since 1856 when he was exiled from Lucknow by the British. The nawab spent more than the last three decades his life here.

The nawab brought with him a large entourage. His team of bawarchis guarded the true culinary treasures of Lucknow which came with the Nawab. However, the recipes for tikias, kebabs, biryanis and kulfis soon started accommodating the locally available ingredients and as a result emerged a cuisine which is familiar in texture yet unique in flavour which this city can call its own. It was in this period that potato was added to the biryani but there is a many a story explaining the reason for that. If you are interested, you may check out this post published earlier this month on this blog.

Under the name Kitchens of India, where ITC Hotels showcase India’s wealth of unique, undiscovered, royal and forgotten cuisines, ITC Sonar is holding a food festival showcasing the above-mentioned royal cuisine, so aptly and interestingly named Metiaburj Dawaat at Eden Pavilion till 23rd April 2016. “The festival is in keeping with our ethos to celebrate the indigenous offerings of this region, part of our initiative towards Responsible Luxury.”, said Atul Bhalla, General Manager, ITC Sonar.

I was invited along with other bloggers and mediapersons to sample the spread a few days ago at the dinner.

We met the chief guest Mr Shahanshah Mirza, who happens to be the great-great-grandson of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. I arrived in time and found the soft-spoken, tall and fair Mr Mirza talking to the bloggers about the cuisine and answering their queries at the other table.

Our welcome drink was Aam Panna, the local summer drink made of raw mango and spices.

 Aam Panna

The dinner started off with Murgh Reshmi Kebab and Paneer Tikka. The reshmi kebab was unusually subtle but tender and good in taste. It’ll be much appreciated by those who want their kebabs less spicy. I’m not an admirer of paneer dishes. The tikka tasted  good and was rightly spiced.

 Murgh Reshmi Kebab

Paneer Tikka

I also sampled and liked the Veg Jalfrezi- rich, dry and spicy with a dash of sweetness.

 Veg Jalfrezi

The main course had Paneer Champ, Aloo Dum, Dal Fry, Machhi Tikka Butter Masala, Chicken Chap, Gosht Tikka and Mughlai Parantha. The staples were all biryani- Aloo Chana Dal Biryani for the vegetarians and Gosht Matiabruz Biryani for people like us. They were accompanied with Dahi Pudina Ghol, Subz Raita, Burrhani Raita and Dahi Ka Salad.

The Machhi Tikka Butter Masala was rather dry. The tikka was rightly done, but the thick and dryish gravy didn’t appeal to my palate. The Ghost Tikka (actually tikia) claimed my attention right from the first moment thanks to the tantalizing aroma of ghee. The first bite told me that it was different from the tikia we are familiar with. All I felt was succulent minced lamb masterly marinated and tawa-cooked. A masterpiece indeed! The ordinary tikia feels of dal first and meat has a secondary presence. Chana dal probably has been used for binding this one, for it was quite brittle and serving it in full was a bit of a challenge.

Machhi Tikka


 Gosht Tikka

The tikia partnered well with the Mughlai Parantha. Some of us bloggers asked executive sous chef Gaurav Lavania (one of the two men at the helm of the kitchen) why it didn’t have a stuffing. Gaurav’s answer was a revelation- The Mughlai Paratha popular among the Bengalis is, in fact, a creation of them. The original Mughlai Parantha is flat like any other parantha. Lachchha was used in this one and it was cooked in ghee.  

Mughlai Parantha and Ghost Tikka

At this time, we met Chef Manzoor Alam, the other one supervising the food. Manzoor was born and raised in Metiabruz and comes from a family of bawarchis. So he has grown up seeing all this food being cooked at home. I asked the chef which dish demanded most of his effort. He quickly answered- Ghost Tikia (Gosht Tikka). Because first the lamb mince is marinated with poppy seed, onion, green chilli and spices for four to five hours. Then it is fried on the tawa with ghee for about forty minutes. I told him that his effort resulted in a wonderful dish.

The Gosht Matiabruz Biryani came next and it too had a distracting aroma of ghee and basmati rice. It looked moist- a little different texture compared to the familiar version of biryani. The first spoonful in the mouth felt, to put it simply and precisely, divine! Chunks of succulent lamb cooked on dum with basmati rice, potato and egg, fried onion slices and spiked with cardamom mace powder. It had a subtle taste with a delicate balance of spices and a moist feel- the hallmark of excellent biryani. The entire dining experience was elevated! Blogger friend Sammya Brata said the taste was similar to the biryani he ate in Metiabruz. The sips of Dahi Pudina Ghol in between perfectly complimented the spoonfuls of biryani. 

 Gosht Matiabruz Biryani

I took a reluctant bite or two off the Chicken Chap. It seemed good too. But by that time I was at a different sensory orbit thanks to the tikia and the biryani, so couldn’t do justice to it.

Mughlai Parantha and Chicken Chap

We rounded it off with Phirnee, Lachchha and Zarda Pulao.

 Phirnee (Middle), Lachchha (Right) and Zarda Pulao (Left)

Mr Shahanshah Mirza

Chef Manzoor Alam (L) and Sous chef Gaurav Lavania (R)

It was a pleasure to meet and have a brief chat with Riju Basu, a senior journalist in Anandabazar Patrika, who I have been friends with on Facebook for long. I consider him one of the best food writers in contemporary Bengali media.  

Venue: Eden Pavilion
Period: 16th April to 23rd April 2016
Time: Dinner buffet only (7:30 pm to 11:45 pm)
Pocket pinch:
Rs 2250 + taxes with a glass of select premium beverage per guest
Rs 1950 + taxes with a glass of soft beverage per guest


#KOIMetiaburj #MughlaiCuisineKolkata #AwadhiCuisine #KolkataBiryani #ITCSonar



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Friday, April 15, 2016

Wall Street Bar- the new gastro-pub

If you are particular about good food coming with your favourite drinks, head for a gastro-pub. It essentially means a pub which offers food of high quality. The idea of gastro-pub originated in London in 1991 with the new owners of The Eagle Pub putting together a restaurant menu in it. The unique concept reinvigorated both the pub culture and the dining scene in Britain over time.

It will be a good idea if your place of choice happens to be Wall Street Bar- the new den in the city pubbing scene, as I found out being part of a bloggers’ meet last Saturday afternoon hosted by the young and enthusiastic Aayush Karel, one of the three partners of Wall Street Bar.


Since the name has world’s most renowned financial district in it, the owners have chosen a high street location at the heart of the city (It’s at 10A Shakespeare Sarani, right opposite Axis Bank) and given it a swish look and feel with cozy and wooden décor, dim lighting and smart one liners with matching graphics adorning the walls and large LED screens beaming satellite channels. The 2000 square feet dining area seats 50 people and there are a few tables seating two each laid outside the main door opposite walls showcasing cool collectibles (which you can buy too) for couples who want a quiet ambience.



The wall in the area outside the main door showcasing collectible items


The gastro-pub recently launched its new food and beverage menu with the inclusion of a sizable non-veg segment. It serves Chinese, Continental and Italian cuisines and, a welcome addition, Burmese cuisine (specializing in Italian and Burmese).

We chose our drinks first. I picked from the house cocktails- a Vanilla and Rosemary Martini. Friends and blogger couple Anindya and Madhushree chose their poison from house cocktails as well- Wall Street Special (an elegant cocktail made with multiple spirits) and W-special Kafir Tea (A house special- Kafir lime-flavoured tea with four white spirits) respectively. The Martini (vodka-based) was smooth with the vanilla and rosemary adding different flavours. Madhushree said that hers was quite strong and Anindya liked his Wall Street Special.

 Vanilla and Rosemary Martini

The house cocktails- (L to R) W-special Kafir Tea, Wall Street Special and Vanilla and Rosemary Martini

Wall Street Bar serves drinks in style. There are shot glasses with Batman and Superman logos. Also, for example, the Gandhoraj Basil Mojito is served in a unique dispenser if it’s a large order. The large bar counter with pairs of tall cosy chairs facing each other in front of it is well-stocked with a wide range of dark and white spirits including in-demand international brands. They serve mocktails too.

Shot glasses- Batman vs Superman

Gandhoraj Basil Mojito Dispenser


The gastronomic side now. We started off with veg Khow Suey (Burmese noodle soup). It was served with crisp rice noodles which were to be dunked into the yellow soup and four condiments- peanuts, ginger and fried onion slivers apart from lemon and tomato slices. The condiments are also to be put into it in proportion and finally the lemon is to be squeezed for a few drops into the soup and it’s ready! The flavoursome soup brought pep to the beginning. It also has chicken and prawn versions.

 Khow Suey

I liked the Buffalo Nut in Chilly Plum Sauce (Water chestnut tossed in a sweet and spicy plum sauce) for its balanced spicy and tangy taste. The cheese fondue served with garlic bread cubes and crudités (including broccoli, baby corn and bell pepper) was scrumptious and could be one’s perfect comfort food any day. Prick the bread or a piece of veggie with the needle given, dip it into the off-white fondue, put it into your mouth and close your eyes and relish. It is available in three flavours. The Baked Mushroom (Mushroom stuffed with ricotta, baked and served with a three-cheese medley) should be lapped up by any mushroom lover. The perfect baking and the abundance of cheese complimented each other.

Buffalo Nut in Chilly Plum Sauce

Cheese Fondue (served bread cubes and crudités) 

The dipping Cheese Fondue

Baked Mushroom

The Ginger Chicken Strip with a crisp and crunchy crust was delicious and went well with sweet chili sauce and tartar sauce. A safe choice with drinks. The Bhetki Cupcake was an innovative savoury dish. It’s bhetki fish marinated in Thai spices and baked in a cupcake mould with chives cream frosting on top (served with a thin lemon slice atop the cream). It didn’t disappoint. The only feedback from us to the chef was to do away with the lemon bit as it was adding extra sourness to the dish.

 Ginger Chicken Strip

 Bhetki Cupcake

The superstar of the afternoon came at the end. The Bhuna Masala Chicken Wings served with burnt garlic rice bowled me over! It’s simply chicken wings cooked in bhuna masala. The two pieces of chicken in thick spicy gravy tasted sublime. The garlic fried rice perfectly complimented the chicken and had a nice smoky flavour. If you’ve nibbled some snacks and downed a drink or two, it can fill you up.

 Bhuna Masala Chicken Wings served with burnt garlic rice

They also serve pizzas and sizzlers, and pasta with a sauce of choice.

Chef Dipak Kumar Majumdar helms the kitchen. The soft-spoken, young gentleman began his career with The Park, Kolkata. Then he settled down in Mumbai and worked with various renowned restaurants.

 Aayush Karel (right) and chef Deepak

Good food and drinks aside, the gastro-pub has on offer special nights like Karaoke Nights on Wednesdays, Live Band on Thursdays, Ladies Night Out on Fridays, Switch Night underground music on Saturdays and Standup Comedy Nights on Sundays. The experience is enhanced with the music covering Hip Hop, Bollywood, EDM, House Music, Unplugged and Deep House music. The eatery offers happy hours from Sunday to Friday from 3 pm to 8 pm.

Enough reasons to check it out at the earliest opportunity, right?

It’s a premium den and the pocket pinch would be Rs 1600 plus taxes for two. It’s open from 1 pm to 12 at night.


#GastroPub #WallStreetBar #BurmeseCuisine #FineDiningKolkata #HighStreetPub



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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Poila Boishakh-special menu at Goldbrick

The first day of the Bengali New Year (Poila Boishakh) creates a craving for a sumptuous, true blue Bengali meal. And dining out seems to be the only option for most of the homes since whipping up an elaborate Bengali meal calls for significant efforts and time which we wish to avoid.

Like many other restaurants, Goldbrick, the Indian specialty restaurant at Mukti World, Ballygunge is offering a traditional Bengali meal on Poila Boishakh, which it has named Eso Hey Boishakh.

Last week, I was invited along with other bloggers for sampling the menu. It’s after long that I had an elaborate Bengali meal, complete with all the familiar categories of food. The restaurant gave their own names to the dishes to create a more Bengali feel.

We started off with Aam Pora Sharbat (named Pather Panchali by them, a summer drink with raw burnt mango). It was served in a burnt clay tumbler. The taste was average.

In starters, there were chicken fried in Bengal gram batter (Telebhaja-style) named Ghare Baire here, and vegetable chop from Kharagpur railway station (named Parash Pathar). The chicken gave the meal a flying start with the mustard sauce and salad. The chop wasn’t up to the mark, with no traces of beetroot and carrot, two essential ingredients of a vegetable chop.

Chicken fried in Bengal gram batter and vegetable chop (left)

I started the mains with luchi and chholar dal. The white, fluffy luchis were tempting and went off well with the dal, complete with slices of coconut and slit dry red chilli. The dal was runny, though, while my kind would be thick with a dash of spiciness. There was Chhanar Dalna too, which I didn’t taste.

Luchi

 Narkel Diye Chholar Dal

 Chhanar Dalna

Ghee Bhat (Hot, white Basmati rice with a tablespoon of ghee on top) followed, with Beguni (Bengal gram batter fry of eggplant) and Jhuri Aloo Bhaja (A crisp fry of potato slivers). They were served on a banana leaf placed on a burnt clay plate and bowls of the same material. The traditional Bengali marriage reception menu in my childhood years used to start with eggplant cut long and fried without batter (preceded by lal shaak). This beguni was a batter-fried version of that. The Aloo Bhaja was fried with curry leaves and peanuts (as is the style adopted by the caterers these days) for added flavour as mentioned by the sous chef Sudip Talukdar.

Rice, Beguni (bottom) and Jhuri Aloo Bhaja (right)

The Shukto (Bengali bitter appetizer in a light gravy flavoured with radhuni spices) was decent with the rice.  I missed a dal to go with the rice but (Thick Sona Moog-er Dal to be precise).

Shukto

Doi Katla (Curd-infused fish curry) and Shukno Lanka Murgir Jhol arrived. The fish curry was decent. I liked the pungent home style chicken curry more. It may not be right for the children but.

 Doi Katla

Kawsha Mangsho was meant to be the star of the menu. It was dry and thickly spiced as desired and tasted good. But it’s best to go with luchi, and not rice.

 Kawsha Mangsho

We wrapped up with Kacha Aamer Chutney (A pre-dessert dish of raw mango slices in a watery sweet and sour sauce), masala papad and rosogolla. The chutney deserves a special mention and I took two more helpings of it. It’s the chutney of the season and had the perfect balance of sour and sweet flavours with the right tang coming out of the spices (mainly ground cumin).

 Rosogolla, made in-house

Sous chef  Sudip Talukdar (left) and a service staff dressed traditional Bengali-style for the occasion with the spread 

Special offer: With each order for one, you get a ‘Buy one, get one’ voucher for movie tickets from London Paris, the multiplex in Mukti World, valid from 22nd April to 22nd May 2016.

Date: 14th April 2016
Time: Lunch- 12-3.30 pm, dinner- 7-11.30 pm.
Pocket pinch: Rs 799 for one (all inclusive)


#PoilaBoishakhMenu #BengaliCuisine #Goldbrick



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