The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Kolkata Street Food Festival at Park Plaza, 29th May-14th June

The city loves its street food. So when a hotel wishes to pay a tribute to that love by organizing a festival it evokes interest. Being a discerning consumer and proponent of street food, it did the same to me when the management of Park Plaza hotel invited me to a preview of their ‘The Kolkata Street Food Festival’ at K19, the all day dining restaurant. I couldn't make it then, so I decided to check it out later on with two blogger friends (make that three as it includes a blogger couple). That’s why it is coming up late in the day on this blog.

An honest view first- It’s not easy to organize a street food festival in a manner that satisfies the guests who are well-exposed to street food. There are places across the city known for the best in each food- like the best Doi Phuchka, the best rolls, the best Fish Fry and so on. Selecting which foods to feature, making them in a way that they retain their well-known taste (or comes reasonably close to it) and serving them in the right fashion is quite a challenge.

I turned up late in the evening and saw Indrajit of A Bong Petuk’sDiary and Anindya-Madhushree of Pikturenama waiting for me and having a hearty chat over tea. K19 is a goodlooking restaurant which has a large space with neatly spread out tables. One side is the open kitchen and buffet table in front of it. Some counters (like dessert) are at the centre. I noticed that live counters have been set up to make various items right in front of the guest and customize them to his/ her taste.

We were served Fish Kobiraji, followed by Moglai Parota (Paratha). The Kobiraji was right at the crust, but the core was a put-off as, leave alone a fillet, the fish had to be fished out at times. The Moglai also failed in the filling, but a little surprisingly the accompanying dry potato curry was perfect.

Moglai Parota and Fish Kobiraji 

Telebhaja followed- Beguni, Aloor Chop and Phuluri. The Beguni wasn’t bad, but I wished the slice of the eggplant was thicker. I do not like Phuluri, so gave it a miss. Jhalmuri was being made in a counter with most of the usual ingredients.

Telebhaja platter

Live Telebhaja counter

Jhalmuri counter

We decided to move on to the phuchka counter. It was a large counter serving a wide range- phuchka, alur dom, palang pakora, dahi vada, raj kachori and a lot more. Madhushree found out one item called fried idli. I haven’t heard of anything like this available on the streets. She tried the palang pakora which was made chaat style. I took a bite of it and liked it. Though I see palang pakora fried at telebhaja stalls on the streets and served with just a sprinkling of rock salt, this palang pakora chaat was new. I didn’t feel like having phuchka as even a few of it can fill one up and I had a lot of other things to explore. So I asked the guy at the counter whether he could make me churmur but he asked me back what it was. Disappointed, I asked for dahi vada. He again made it chaat style, with tiny pieces of raw onion and tomato and garnished with coriander leaves. I haven’t ever seen davi vada made that way, but I must say I loved the tangy-sweet taste. Indrajit took the raj kachori, and though the size was that of a baby kachori, it wasn’t bad. The chutneys could be used a little more generously but.

Palang Pakora

Davi Vada chaat style

Phuchka and chaat counter

At this juncture the F&B Manager Mr Anukam Tiwary met us and told us about the festival and guided us to the main course (of the festival). There is no dinner buffet as such, but one can have the chaats at the phuchka-chaat counter separately, at Rs 325 (plus taxes). Rest of the long range of items of The Kolkata Street Food Festival is part of their regular dinner buffet which is priced hat 1250 plus taxes.  However if one wishes, he/ she can take the festival items a la carte as well.  About merging it with the dinner buffet, it does offer the diner a much wider array of choices in starters during the time of the festival, but my opinion would be to keep a separate buffet of the festival dishes, otherwise the idea of a festival gets diluted.

We moved on to the main course.  There were mutton stew, hakka chowmein and rolls among others. I, Anindya and Indrajit ordered chicken roll. Meanwhile I sampled the mutton stew a bit. The mutton was stiff and the gravy didn’t taste like stew. The rolls arrived. The filling was decent, but the paratha was dry, as it was deliberately cooked with less oil probably to give the guests a healthier option. So I wondered “Is it diet roll?”. My take- When you are making chicken roll street style, make it the way they do it on the streets. Of course healthiness is a factor and to take care of that, fry the paratha using the right amount of oil, instead of vanaspati which is widely used on the street and is unhealthy (also makes the roll sticky if used generously).

Mutton Stew

Chicken Roll

We decided to give a last try to one dish- paw bhaji and ordered it. There was a paw bhaji counter set up in the open kitchen. It arrived and Indrajit tried it first. He missed the absence of a dollop of butter between the paws and I agreed. Though it is not common, many places known for good paw bhaji put it in the dish. As it is a premium restaurant, it could be expected that street food would be prepared with all the indulgence as seen in the best of the places on the streets.  He tried the bhaji and didn’t look happy. I and Anindya took half a teaspoonful each. It tasted more sweet and far less spicy. The spices seemed to have been burnt. We gave a feedback to a chef and she happily noted it and thanked us for sharing the same. On her recommendation we took the dessert- plain vanilla ice cream topped with choco chips. All of us liked it and our dinner ended on a relatively happy note.

Paw Bhaji

Bloggers (L to R) Madhushree, Indrajit and Anindya

The Kolkata Street Food Festival
29th May to 14th June
7 pm onwards

Park Plaza Kolkata Ballygunge
17 Garcha First Lane (adjacent to Pantaloons Gariahat, a few metres ahead of Mirch Masala)
Kolkata 700019
 Tel: 033 4040 9999
Mob: 84200 33700

Toll free phone no: 1800 1800 333

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