The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
Relishing roadside khichudi at Chitta babu's, Dacres Lane

Friday, August 28, 2015

Raksha Bandhan gift packs at Yauatcha

The colourful macaroons at Yauatcha, the fine dining oriental cuisine den at Quest, is one of its charms. And now they are waiting nicely packed in boxes for the brothers to be picked up this Rakhi/ Raksha Bandhan as the gift to sisters. Presenting a pack of delicious macaroons to celebrate the love and bond, especially to a sister with a sweet tooth, sounds like a good and new idea that stands out among numerous gifting options.

A box of six macaroons costs Rs 350. They come in vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, chocolate and more flavours.



There’s more- Yauatcha starts gift vouchers at denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. So now it’s easy to send anyone to the restaurant to savor its delicacies as per own liking.

Both are available from 11.30 am to 11.30 pm. Call 922 22 22800 for enquiry.


#RakshaBandhan #RakshaBandhangifts #Rakhi #Rakhigifts #YauatchaRakshaBandhanSpecial #Yauatchagiftvoucher

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tea Treasures- the tea festival at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata

The approach to tea at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata is different from other star hotels. The way tea is served at its tea lounge reflects it (read this post). Its aim is to promote tea tourism in the city as it loves its tea and the beverage is an integral part of its rich history and heritage. World’s oldest tea auction house is from this city.

To mark the essence of tea and to revive the tea culture in India, it organized Tea Treasures, a three-day tea festival at its premises over 16th to 18th August. The festival was dedicated to tea lovers and tea connoisseurs and offered a platform to tea producers, tea marketers, tea shops, tea tourism operators and tea joints in the city.

Mr. Rakesh Mitra, General Manager, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group summed it up as, “The Great Eastern Hotel, way back, during the colonial era was a major hub for tea trading, and various activities related to tea. With the aim of bringing forth the legacy of tea trading to people and sensitizing them about tea auctions, tea tourism, tea tasting and significance of tea in the Indian market, we have organized the festival.  Top tea trading companies, tea estates and tea auctioneers have associated with us to discuss about the different nitty-gritties of tea. We would dedicate the festival, in the years to come, to all tea lovers, tea traders and the entire tea industry, bringing all of them under one umbrella and present Indian tea to the rest of the world.”

The festival comprised of talk on various aspects of tea by experts, panel discussions, tea tasting sessions, tea workshop, tea auction and celebrity chats over tea (coinciding with trailer launch/ film release) with an exhibition with various stalls by tea brands, tea estates, tea joints/ boutiques, cafes, bakery, tea tourism players and associated products. An interesting proposition for those who love their tea and wish to explore it.

I attended the second day’s tea tasting session at the tea lounge in the evening. Mr Ravi Suchanti, Vice Chairman and MD of J Thomas & Company, world’s oldest and largest tea auctioneer (from Kolkata), with twenty seven years of tea tasting experience behind him, conducted the highly interactive session participated by distinguished people and a few bloggers. Tables with five varieties of tea and their leaves in multiple sets were placed at a distance for each audience member to taste the tea as guided by the speaker. We tasted the teas by themselves and adding milk and sugar. He spoke passionately and engagingly about the growing and manufacturing of tea, throwing in interesting insights. For example, no two teas will have the same quality even if they are plucked at the same time from the same bush. The quality is comprised of texture, mineral content, flavour and taste.



Few excerpts from the talk:

1. There are a few months between the first flush and the second flush tea. Compared to first flush, second flush is yellow, has more absorbed resources in leaves, mellower in flavour and smoother in taste.

2. Darjeeling tea, being hill tea, gets harder treatment in production than, say, valley tea like Assam tea.

3. There are  three stages of tea production-
     a. Rolling or withering- When tea leaves are plucked, they contain 77% moisture. It is         
     brought down significantly by three stages of rolling
     b. Fermenting or oxidation
     c. Drying- Air is pushed in. The leaves, still green, turn dark.    
  
4. The time for brewing tea is an individual choice. It should ideally be 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong a brew one wants. But for green tea, which is a self-drinking tea as he called it because it doesn’t need milk or sugar, the brewing time shouldn’t be more than 2-3 minutes, and the water should not be boiling but about to boil to get the best of the tea.
Post the talk Mr Suchanti took questions from the audience. Such a session was for the first time for him, but he handled it with ease.

 Mr Ravi Suchanti in the session

I took a walkthrough of the exhibition happening in a banquet on the ground floor.  The Assam 1860 stall reflected the new age approach with which James Warren Tea Ltd.,  is marketing this new tea brand which is their first consumer product. This one hundred fifty years old tea company has so far supplied tea to businesses like hotels & restaurants and tea brands. The Assam 1860 tea cart is travelling across the city to make people taste it on the streets. They are also signing up corporates to serve freshly made hot tea daily to their employees. Read its review in this post.

Also dropped in at the stall of Melete- a new start-up by home baker Anjee Bhatia from New Alipore offering handmade chocolates, chocolate cakes and truffles, brownies and savouries (pizza cup, quiche, ramekins etc). She started as a home baker like many others in the city and now has a workshop to cater to the increasing orders. As I like brownies, it was nice to see a variety of it in the stall. Melete doesn’t have a retail outlet yet, it takes orders. It also customizes desserts for its customers. Those interested may visit www.melete.co.in.

The Melete stall (Anjee at the left)

The handmade chocolates at Melete

Zee Bangla Cinema used the platform to talk about their new venture Zee Bangla Cinema Originals, which is a series of full-length movies made for television. They are unlike telefilms and have higher production value like a feature film. All the movies are premiering on television and censored for a big screen release later. ZBC launched the trailer of Bonolata, the upcoming film by young director Rik. Saw television director Anindya Sarkar talking about his film Choturanga which has been premiered on 23rd August. Rajorshi Dey, Programming Head spoke about the initiative and Rik’s film. Saw director duo Sudeshna Roy-Abhijit Guha who came on stage later for the launch which I couldn’t check out.  

There was a discussion on the movie Natoker Moto, the film on well-known theatre actress late Keya Chakraborty’s life directed by theatre director Debesh Chattopadhyay on 18th August. The director and cast were present. 

Tea auctions by J Thomas were also held as part of the festival to bring an experience of it to the visitors.

Such a festival paves the way to make the city a tea tourism destination and nurtures the tea culture that’s part of the city’s heritage.


#Tea #Teaculture  #Teafestival #Teaauction #Teatourism #Teamarketing

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dinner at Tung Fong



Rocky and Mayur have ventured out to explore food from all parts of India and curate videos on Askme.com. I'm contributing my part by relishing my favorite dishes at  Tung Fong and sharing my views with you all!

You can also upload your video review on AskMe and stand a chance to meet Rocky and Mayur.

We were at a fix on where to go for our office anniversary dinner. Last two years it has been Arsalan. This year we wanted a change of taste. We wanted to go to some place which is easy to reach by public transport after a hard day’s work. After exploring a lot of options- including a popular new gen Mughlai stop near Deshapriya Park and a relatively new multicuisine restaurant  at Park Street, we zeroed in on two names on Park Street- the just-opened Barbecue Nation near Camac Street crossing and Tung Fong near Free School Street crossing. The scale finally tilted to Tung Fong as we’ve been to the other one a couple of times in the last few years and it didn’t mean anything new to us.

Tung Fong is a leading name in the Chinese cuisine in Kolkata, run by Ms Monica Liu who also helms the popular Chinese restaurants Beijing and Kim Ling in Chinatown at Tangra and Mandarin at Southern Avenue.



As we were waiting for some of our colleagues, I went in with one to keep a table. The waiting area is adequate and nicely done.  It is a spacious restaurant (and bar) decorated classic style.

Butter Fried Chicken, Chili/ Garlic Pepper Fish and Tung Fong Fried Prawn were ordered as starters. Butter Fried Chicken was chicken fingers fried in thin batter and served with sautéed vegetables. The tender fingers made for a good start and went well with the sweet chili sauce and green chili sauce kept on the table, but the chicken was a tad too salty. The fish dish was better- succulent fish encased in a crisp coat of crumbs. The prawn topped the charts. Juicy prawn in a super crunchy crust.

Butter Fried Chicken

Tung Fong Fried Prawn

All were ordered again on popular feedback. The chicken this time was perfect. The fish was softer, not crunchy and tasted even better. The prawn was equally good. My recommendation goes for all three. Starter is definitely a strength of this place.

We took fresh lime soda, whisky and vodka to go with the starters (and not the other way round). Drinks complement the food in our office outings.

Soup came next. The Non-veg Thai Soup tasted average to me. I found it a little too sour for my palate. The shredded chicken in it was also not much appealing.

We came pretty early for dinner, at eight-ish. The occupancy was not high then and it was pretty calm. Saw a few young couples, a young group and one/ two families. The occupancy was rising with time as more families were coming in. The buzz went up a bit, thanks to the little ones. Nevertheless, this is definitely one place where you can have a dinner with friends or family with peace of mind.

Time for mains. We ordered vegetable fried rice (for an odd man out in the whole group of meat lovers), mixed fried rice and mixed rice noodles. As sides we chose Shanghai Fish, Szechwan Chicken and Smoked Lamb. I opted for the mixed fried rice and found it good. Nothing special. Tried the Szechwan Chicken to go with it first.  Tender chicken pieces in a thick, tangy gravy. The chicken tasted good, but the gravy was a wee bit too sour for me. I had expected it to be a little more pungent.

 Mixed Fried Rice and Szechwan Chicken

Took the Shanghai Fish next. The fish was soft and tasty, but the gravy tasted a bit suspiciously similar to the chicken’s. This is one phenomenon I have found in quite a few Chinese restaurants in the city. The smoked lamb was a disappointment! It was very dry and nothing to talk on the taste front.

We rounded off with a yummy hot choco brownie on a bed of ice cream.

A pleasing dinner! Would like to come back especially for the tempting starters.


#AskmeFood #TungFongKolkata #Chinesefoodkolkata #Chineserestaurant #KolkataChinese #ParkStreet #ParkStreetfood


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Sunday, August 09, 2015

The perfect black tea to start the day with

I have always preferred milk tea to black tea. Black tea meant lemon tea to me. But of late I had been noticing that milk tea hadn’t left me feeling good. So I switched to black tea sometime back and fell in love with the form in little time. Not only that, I brought down the sugar in it, which added to the pleasure. Tea has a world of its own and exploring it in its different varieties is not possible with milk, I felt.

The comparison between Darjeeling tea and Assam tea, the two names closest to the mind of people in Bengal is a bit like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The basic difference, as all of us know, is that Darjeeling tea is about the flavour, while Assam is known for its strong brew. Each has its very own characteristics and superiority compared to teas produced anywhere in the world, hence has its own base of followers. And I believe since tea drinking, or for any drinking for that matter, is a personal choice, we shouldn’t compare greats and be content with our preferred tea- Assam or Darjeeling.  

I have always liked my tea strong. The kind made with a lot of milk and sugar and little tea has never been my thing. That’s why I don’t generally like the tea from a roadside tea stall. Hence my case rests with Assam tea.

Few days back I heard from James Warren Tea Ltd., a 150-year old co. making Assam tea. They wanted their new tea to be reviewed on this blog. It is a family-owned business with tea estates as old as the company, located in the south bank of Upper Assam. They say they are blessed with the finest tea gardens in the world. Two noticeable characteristics about their tea are that they make it single-origin and it is unblended, so one always gets the virgin taste. Also to retain maximum quality in the cup, they claim to do minimal processing of the tea.

I received a nice looking box packed with tea bags and a pack of tea.



I first tasted it in the morning, from a tea bag. I gave a full three minutes to the brewing. It came out perfect deep brown, with a light fragrance. And the first two sips told me it was a robust and full-bodied brew, just the kind I look for in my tea. It can give one the perfect pick-me-up during the day. They aptly call it ‘Tea as it should be’.



Those who prefer to take their tea with milk, and like it strong, should love it too. It makes good iced tea too and a recipe was given in the box. It is available on the brand’s website/ Facebook page.

Interesting to note, Assam 1860 doesn’t believe in the middlemen. So they have cut them out in the market and their 20000-strong team strives hard to bring the tea directly to the consumers, thereby keeping it fresher than other teas and affordable too.

The brand has a presence in social media including an active Facebook page, which I found pleasant to read.

Looking forward to continuing with the Assam 1860 experience.

#assam1860, #chaibaggan, #teaasitshouldbe, #India #AssamTea #BlackTea #KolkataTea #Lovefortea


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Saturday, August 01, 2015

A new recruit and a welcome development at Mohun Bagan

Have been feeling like coming back on football after the ISL final post, especially Mohun Bagan, but things were not falling in place.  I was keenly following its I-League journey and was ecstatic after the historic league win, still couldn’t make it to a post.

Of late, liked Mohun Bagan’s new defender recruit- Gustavo Silva Conceicao, the six feet plus 29-year old robust stopper back from Brazil, who has played for Flamengo, a top league club in the country. The pictures of his first day practice at his new club ground earlier this week released on the Mohun Bagan Facebook page generate hope that in the upcoming Calcutta Football League (CFL) he will be the nightmare of the opponent in the defence. Cheers to his remark in the Times of India interview that in terms of fan base he finds Mohun Bagan on a par with Flamengo and that’s one of the main reasons that made him decide in favour of the club.
  
 Gustavo Silva in practice as eager supporters look on

Gustavo Silva

More cheers to the new development- re-start of merchandise sale after years.  Famous clubs all over the world have it for ages, and it’s a pity that possibly no big club in Bengal has sustained it. So far I’m aware, Mohun Bagan pioneered it here, but couldn’t continue. East Bengal followed but met the same fate. Hope this one continues forever. The severely cash-strapped club desperately needs additional revenue sources, and if judiciously and smartly planned and implemented, merchandise can become a significant revenue earner for the club thanks to its massive fan base. Enquiries are already pouring in on its FB page on whether they are being sold online, whether there are outlets in the city etc.

Currently four products are available- T-shirt (Rs 350), coffee mug (Rs 200), key ring (Rs 35) and wrist band (Rs 30)- only from the club tent. The t-shirt definitely looks tempting.

All merchandise

The Mohun Bagan t-shirt up for grabs

Hope the fans lap them up and add style to their fandom.

Looking like some smart moves are being made by the club management of late. The merchandise followed the well implemented ‘VIP stand seats for sale’ at Salt Lake Stadium in the last I-League. The ticket included a sumptuous treat including fish fry and sandesh. Looking forward to the same this CFL apart from some good football.

Pictures are acknowledged to the Mohun Bagan Facebook page.

#MohunBagan #KolkataFootball # GustavoSilva #MohunBaganmerchandise


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Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Great Kabab Festival at Casa Kitchen till 2nd August

Kebab sounds like a good starter to a hearty meal and connotes meat, fish or poultry only, and never anything vegetarian to me. But when Casa Kitchen sent an invite to sample their kababs in The Great Kabab Festival, their monsoon event, I was not in two minds as I am pretty open-minded as a foodie and wished to explore the vegetarian side to kababs. Kabab is a popular segment among vegetarians and I wanted to have a taste of it. I have a fond old memory of vegetarian kababs at a Marwari friend’s wedding and they didn’t really feel like vegetarian.

As it happened last time in the summer food festival of Casa Kitchen (Read this post), it was an exclusive bloggers’ review of the festival in the evening, and Mr Shantanu Lahiri, Chief Advisor to the hotel Casa Fortuna (where Casa Kitchen is housed) and Mr Swarup Ghosh, GM, Casa Fortuna greeted me. Indrajit had turned up first as usual.

The Great Kabab Festival pitches the popular pairing of kabab & beer, which is a foodie’s favourite in monsoon. The restaurant has a high street location and watching the rain sitting next to the glass wall overlooking the busy AJC Bose Road in the afternoon sounds tempting. To make it even more so, they have an offer where you get a beer on order of every 2 plates of kabab. The festival started 1oth July and will continue to tickle the taste buds of the gourmet till 2nd August. After two successful years, it has been stretched over three weeks this year.

There are 12 kababs on the menu- two varieties in paneer, two in potato, two in vegetables, two in peas and one each in mushroom and American corn. I liked the fact that a mushroom variety is kept on the menu for foodies who wish to explore beyond the familiar. I feel the F&B circuit of Kolkata is not kind to the fondness for mushroom, so it’s always a challenge to find mushroom dishes in the restaurants.

There were a special mustard chutney (milder than mustard sauce) and a yoghurt-based coriander chutney to go with the kebabs. And the kababs were being served on clay plates on a bed of salad set on a designer handi (earthen pot) which looked nice.

I was offered a mocktail called Zed Garden. Sweet and a little tangy, good to start with. We started with Peri Peri Paneer Tikka. It is supposed to be fiery hot as peri peri is a chili from south China notorious for its hotness. So the idea was not to use it in actual but to make the dish spicy and hot so as to justify the name. When the festival had started the dish was like that, but it was modified later as the customers found it too hot for comfort. I and Indrajit found it a little less spicy for our taste though and told it to Shantanu and Swarup. Now it’s a dilemma for every restaurant- whether to make such a dish in a way that suits majority guests’ taste or while doing that, also keep a provision to tailor it to an individual guest’s taste which is different from the majority.

 Peri Peri Paneer Tikka

It was followed by Hare Mattar Ki Tikki. Mashed green peas flavoured with chef’s special spices and tawa-grilled with desi ghee. The fine combination of spices mixed with good amount of ghee, elevated by the innovative fusion of cheese at the centre hit the right spot for my palate.  I also liked the Kale Chane Ki Kabab (Mashed dry peas stuffed with herbs and grilled on tawa, tikki syle) that came next, though I’m not fond of this variant of pea. Swarup shared the experimentation that went behind it. First they tried to make it on skewers using generous amount of ghee. It came off as it was so soft. So it had to be pan grilled. Initially the size was larger, which was brought down on guests’ feedback.

 Hare Mattar Ki Tikki

 Kale Chane Ki Kabab

Peshawari Paneer Tikka was served next. Marinated with cheese and stuffed with pineapple. As paneer doesn’t appeal to me, I found it better than Peri Peri Paneer Tikka thanks to the cheese.

 Peshawari Paneer Tikka 

My drink was finished. Took a next one- a tangy orange drink called Tropical Summer on house recommendation and my preference for the taste. Good one, and the sips in between helped register the variety of tastes that followed.  

 Tropical Summer

I was looking forward to the mushroom kabab and it was served next. Named Badshahi Khumb, it’s char-grilled button mushroom stuffed with cheese and Indian herbs. The filling had raw onion pieces mixed with chili and the dish was baked with cheese, so the cheese embracing it at places was visible. Loved the succulent mushroom with mildly spiced filling which paired brilliantly with the cheese. Easily the highlight of the evening for me and goes as my top recommendation. Little wonder it is the second most ordered dish (after Peri Peri Paneer Tikka) in the ongoing festival.

 Badshahi Khumb. Photo courtesy Casa Kitchen.

Vegetable Shami Kabab and Chilli Makai Sheek Kabab arrived. The first one is exotic minced vegetable patty, tawa-grilled and stuffed with cheese. It was good. I was waiting for the corn kabab as well, as mushroom and corn are the only two things I look forward to in vegetarian food (if at all) on dining out. The Chilli Makai Sheek Kabab was minced American corn and chili flavoured with dry herbs. It was tiny bits of corn grilled in minced vegetables. It tasted average to me. I felt the taste of corn didn’t quite come out.

 Chilli Makai Sheekh Kabab. Photo courtesy Casa Kitchen.

My pick: Badshahi Khumb, Hare Mattar Ki Tikki and Kale Chane Ki Kabab. The kababs cost Rs 340-365 each plate (six pieces on an average) without taxes.

We wrapped up with a good chocolate mousse with molten chocolate at the bottom as its USP.

By the way, Casa Kitchen makes an excellent Dal Makhni which, as Indrajit vouched for, is amongst the best in town. Will talk about it another day.

So if you like kababs in its vegetarian variety or would like to explore it, plan a visit to Casa Kitchen in the next few days.


The Great Kabab Festival
10th  July to 2nd August
12:15pm – 3:15 pm & 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Cost for two- Rs 900  approx+ tax

Casa Kitchen
234/1 AJC Bose Road
Kolkata 700020
For table reservations call 033 40218050 or 8017088003.

#vegkebabKolkata #Goodvegfood #VegfoodKolkata #Monsoonfood

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Ask Me Foodies Meet-up

Ask Me is the newbie in online local search space. It differentiates itself by marrying deals, classified ads and e-commerce along with a dial-in service on a single web platform called www.askme.com. It calls itself “A disruptive new age consumer brand” which “Helps users to have access to hyper-local information 24X7”.

As food is no. 1 search category on Ask Me and happens to be a wonderfully interactive topic, to create buzz the Ask Me team has been holding meet-ups with local foodies in various cities, starting with and Jaipur. The Kolkata leg, which was the thirteenth in the series, was held on 12th July at The Corner Courtyard. A large bunch of foodies (food bloggers, Zomato reviewers, members of Facebook group Kolkata Foodies etc) gathered to attend it on the Sunday afternoon.

To make it effective, the event was designed with was more of a mix of interaction and interesting contests than one-sided brand talk. The innovative décor of the venue (recreating an old house with courtyard, where it was actually held, decorated with bookracks and nice wall pieces, with old world charm all over it) helped make it informal and let the audience feel at ease. Randeep Kaur, Senior Manager Marketing (who sent out email invitations herself) helmed the presentation and she kept joking about making the ‘boring’ presentation ‘short’. Well, boring it was not; on the contrary, colourful and informative in a precise manner.


Let’s see what’s in Ask Me for a visitor. It’s primarily a local search service, so you can search for anything like contact details of mobile phone and electronic goods dealers, salons, professional institutes, restaurants and clinics. To engage with its target audience, it has built communities of popular topics- Fashion, travel, wellness, education, gadgets and weddings. They are packed with useful information and interactivity. For example the Fashion community lets a member create lookbooks, upload blogs, images, contextual videos; Travel talks about Bollywood travel destinations, i.e. locations where popular Hindi movies were shot, travel deals; Education has expert hangouts and Wedding has planning tools. It is also a deal aggregator, so you can find select deals from various sources featuring. Visit the site to find out more.  

The site lists more than 2 lakh restaurants & food joints and is present in more than 150
cities in with over 5.5 million listings. They claimed that there are many cities which were yet to have a Zomato and footprint.

To hook foodies they have soft launched a Food Ambassador programme (It’s not yet launched online). Here a foodie can write 10 fresh reviews and get a meal voucher for two and refer foodie friends to get bonus vouchers. He/ she can keep writing and getting meal/ shopping/ movie/ spa vouchers. Cool, no?

There are two ongoing series on the site-

In the Food section, there is 1000 Best places to Eat- Food experts Rocky and Mayur visit various restaurants and food joints across the country to pick names for the list of 1000.  A member can upload a video review of a restaurant. If it is liked by them, the member gets a chance to meet them.

The travel section has none other than Vir Sanghvi helming The Great Indian Safari where he brings to you choicest travel destinations in and abroad which appeals to various travel needs (annual vacations to weekend gateways) and all members in the family.

The audience got served a constant supply of a no. of finger foods (mostly veg though) and mocktails during the meet, including thin crust pizza slices and chicken satay which I liked.

The cheerful emcee engaged the audience in between sessions. The topic of favourite street food and its location expectedly fetched the highest response and it had to be wrapped up as it seemed endless. I was a little amused as some of the names weren’t street food/ drink, like Doodh Cola at Balwant Singh’s Dhaba or kochuri at Putiram.


Big reviewer on Zomato and food blogger Rajdeep talks as another big reviewer Rounak looks on


Presentation over, chef Chayan and Surojit from the restaurant took us through a session on food plating which showed how to present food in a house party. It was followed by two rounds of a food plating contest participated by audience members.

Food plating session on

Food plating contest- round 1

Food plating contest- round 2

A plate in the contest

Another interesting contest came up next where a participant had to taste a soup just prepared by the chefs and list out its ingredients. Those with most no. correct entries won.

It ended with a small buffet with live pasta (vegetarian again!) and cakes (cheesecake and chocolate cake). I, like many, loved the cheesecake and polished off a few. It just flew off the plate whenever it was refilled.

 The cheesecake

Overall an engaging meet-up where I met new foodies and foodie friends and had a good time over food. Looking forward to the online experience.

#Askme  #AskmeFoodiesMeetup



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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Iftaari at The Lalit Great Eastern

Eid Mubarak!

It was a long-standing wish to be invited to an iftar party. So when The Lalit Great Eastern invited to Iftaari- its special iftar dinner buffet, I was happy that the wish was finally going to be fulfilled in style.

It was a dinner hosted every Friday during Ramadan which concluded yesterday. The venue was Alfresco, the all day multicuisine restaurant at lobby level. What makes the long-shaped Alfresco stand out among other five star restaurants in Kolkata is its ceiling made of glass, which makes for a comfortable seating in a daylit environment. It was a bloggers’ only invitation, and as usual I saw Indrajit Lahiri had turned up first.

An extensive spread was laid out in a long U-shape. It had welcome drink (Rooh Afza Thandai and Malaidar Mango Lassi), dry fruits, assortment of sprout, cut fruits, salads (including Fattoush Salad, Aragula and Feta with Citrus Dressing, Moroccan Beef Salad with Papaya-Bean Sprouts & Sweet Chili Dressing and Lamb Sheekh Kebab in Cucumber Cups), starters (Crispy Chilly Vegetables, Cheese Balls, Mutton Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka) a mezze bar, soups, chaats, breads, main course and dessert. Chaats included Palak Patta Chaat, and Aloo Anar Ki Chaat besides common ones. There was a live counter dishing out Haleem with Sheermal, Pao Bhaji (Keema & Veg), Ghoogni (Lamb Chunks & Veg) and Jalebi with Hot Kesaria Milk. The entire spread was made by selectively mixing some items from various cuisines off the restaurant’s dinner buffet menu with special iftar preparations.

We went to the soup table and started with Yakhni Gosht Shorba with bread from the bread counter displaying a wide range including sweet and savoury varieties. The thin soup was delicious and set my palate for a long haul. The Arabian Chick Pea Soup, which is a lentil soup, didn’t score much with me.

The bread counter

We were served the assortment of chops after this. It aimed to recreate the experience of the friend treats dotting the roads during Ramadan. There were Pyaji, Alur Chop, Dal-er Dawra, Dim-er Chop and Meat Ball Chop. The Pyaji was rightly made and the Dal-er Bawra was decent. The Alur Chop and Dim-er Chop didn’t taste bad, but they were nowhere close to the street variety (which is indeed a challenge to match up in a five star setting).

Pyaji, Dal-er Bawra and Alur Chop

Meat Ball Chop and Dim-er Chop

We moved to the live counter. Started with ghhogni- the lamb variety, to have a taste of the famous Bengali mangsher ghhogni. I must say they got it right. A non-spicy, homely variety with generous lamb chunks. It was followed by haleem. Now this was an entirely different experience from what I have had so far in Mughlai restaurants of the city. A mash of mutton and several varieties of dal- pungent and extremely oily and spicy. It was bliss taking it in small spoonfuls with sheermal as my nose was sweating. Haleem was definitely high on my list of expectations from an iftar dinner and this one was one of the highlights of this dining experience. Sous chef Anirban Sinha met us at the table. He shared that this was made Lucknow-style, and they made it by cooking the dals and meat chunks for as long as twelve hours, as a result of which the meat and the dals get mixed form a mash.

Haleem with Sheermal

By the way, the haleem had a vegetarian variant, and Anirban insisted we try it. Honestly speaking, we did it with apprehension but was pretty impressed once we had two spoonfuls each. We never knew veg haleem existed anywhere. This is cooked for a shorter period and had some definition, unlike the mash that the mutton variant was.

Next I picked up pao bhaji (keema version). It was low on spiciness, hence I didn’t take it beyond a two-three spoonfuls.

Time for mains. Went to the mains counter and was surprised to see biriyani in only vegetarian variety. The only non-veg rice preparation was Khichada. It was the dry kind of khichdi that you get on a certain day in the week in mughlai restaurants. I am not fond of it as dry khichdi is not my kind, though it was well made here. I took Nihari and Afgani Meatballs in Herb-roasted Tomato Sauce (Chicken). The second one’s taste didn’t appeal to me, more for the tomato sauce. The Nihari tasted great, with sizeable mutton pieces in thick, generous gravy. Polished off the first serving with butter naan (Roghani Naan and Peshwari Naan were available) and had a repeat. The soft and succulent meat came off the bones easily and I savoured the bone marrow (a rare indulgence) from a few pieces. Just one point here, it was not the popular form of Nihari found in Kolkata, for instance in one of the best names like Sufia.

Front: Afgani Meatballs in Herb-roasted Tomato Sauce and Khichada. Back: Nihari

Nihari

I was almost full with provision for a small serving of dessert. But the dessert counter made me change my mind. A brilliantly curated range including Anjeer Halwa, Phirnee, Semiya Kheer, Khubani Ka Meetha, Dry Fruit and Fresh Cherry Tart and Baklava. The last dish was a pleasant surprise to Indrajit and Anindya, my blogger friends, as it was not available in Kolkata. Baklava is a well-known middle eastern pastry made with a think, flaky, open crust filled with nuts and honey. The Phirnee was low on sweetness and consistency, the Semiya Kheer was okay, but I was bowled over by Khubani Ka Meetha (A dry jelly-like preparation with khubani) and quickly finished a second helping. The Anjeer Halwa soaked with ghee and studded with dry fruits drew the perfect end to a hearty meal.


Semiya Kheer 

 Anjeer Halwa

The dinner buffet cost Rs 1550 plus taxes and made a strong case for it on value for money aspect apart from the merit of the offering. Trust The Lalit Great Eastern to come up with more such offerings in future.

It was nice meeting fellow bloggers Poorna Banerjee, Anindya Sundar Basu and Manjari Chowdhury (apart from Indrajit) and have a relaxed chat.  This has become a routine affair in the past few months thanks to preview and review invitations pouring in from restaurants, seeking out food bloggers’ take.


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